EU Solidarity Fund:
supporting disaster recovery 2002-2022

The EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was established in 2002 as a reaction to the severe floods that had occurred in Central Europe that summer. Since then, it has become one of the main EU instruments for post-disaster recovery and a tangible expression of EU solidarity with the affected Member States and countries involved in negotiations with the view of joining the EU.
The EU Solidarity Fund is one of the most concrete expressions of EU solidarity. It provides longer-term financial support to Member States hit by natural disasters and brings relief to citizens and regions suffering from the consequences. It also reminds us about the importance of investing in prevention and climate mitigation, in line with the priorities of the European Green Deal.” 
                                                                  - Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira
The purpose of the Fund is to provide financial assistance for the recovery from natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, or storms. Following a disaster, the EUSF intervention must be requested by the affected State, which has to submit a formal application to the Commission, within 12 weeks of the date of the first damage. Next, the Commission assesses the application and, if accepted, proposes an amount of aid to the European Parliament and the Council, who have to approve it before it can be paid out. Once the appropriations become available in the EU budget, the Commission adopts a decision awarding the aid to the affected State. After the decision is adopted, the aid is paid out immediately in a single instalment.
As of 1st April 2020, the scope of the EUSF has been extended to encompass major public health emergencies. Eligibility is determined at national level based on specific thresholds. The amendment was part of the overall package proposed by the Commission to tackle the effects of the coronavirus crisis, also known as Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII).

1. Supported countries

Between 2002 and the end of 2022, the Fund mobilised over EUR  8.2 billion for interventions in 127 disaster events (107 natural disasters and 20 health emergencies) in 24 Member States (plus the UK) and 3 accession countries (Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia).
Italy is by far the biggest beneficiary of the Fund with more than EUR 3 billion received so far. The devastating earthquake that occurred in Central Italy in 2016 registered a record high EUSF contribution of EUR 1.2 billion.
Recently, Croatia suffered two devastating series of earthquakes: the first one in March 2020 hit the city of Zagreb and its surroundings, and the second one in December 2020 – January 2021 that mostly affected the city of Petrinja and the area of Sisak-Moslavina county. The estimated damage of the two series of earthquakes amounts to more than EUR 17 billion. The EUSF paid EUR 683.7 million to Croatia regarding the Zagreb earthquake and EUR 319.2 million for the second series of earthquakes. The total EUSF assistance for the two series of earthquakes amounts to more than EUR 1 billion. This was the second highest amount paid by the Fund in absolute terms and the highest in relative terms.

2. Types of disasters

2.1 Natural disasters
The EUSF is designed to support recovery efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters. The graph below shows a snapshot of the types of disasters that have occurred in the period considered. Floods are by far the most frequently occurring type of disaster affecting European countries, followed by storms and other adverse weather conditions, wildfires, and earthquakes. Even though earthquakes are not the most frequent cases, they are the most devastating ones and therefore require the highest financial support from the Fund.
2.2 Health emergencies
Since 1 April 2020, Member States and countries involved in EU negotiations can apply for support from the EU Solidarity Fund in case of a major public health emergency. The EUSF assistance aims to help the population and to complement the efforts of the affected countries. The Fund can cover part of the public expenditure concerning first response measures, such as the provision of medical assistance and the purchase of medical equipment. Furthermore, the aid can be used to support vulnerable groups, measures to contain the spread of the disease, and to strengthen preparedness.
By 24 June 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission received 22 major public health emergency applications – 19 from Member States and 3 from accession countries. 20 applications were accepted, and these countries received assistance from the Fund.

3. Scale of the disasters

The EUSF Regulation establishes three categories of disasters eligible for support: major, regional, and neighbouring country disaster. The categorisation of disasters depends on the extent of the economic damage caused to the affected area in relation to the relative wealth of the State, as reflected by a threshold.
The threshold for "major disasters" is specific to each eligible State: it represents either 0.6 % of the affected State’s GNI, or EUR 3 billion in 2011 prices, whichever is lower. Regarding “regional disasters”, the total direct damage must exceed 1.5% of regional GDP (at NUTS2 level). For outermost regions, the threshold is lowered to 1% of regional GDP. Assistance from the Fund may also be used in case of a neighbouring country” disaster that is any natural disaster in an eligible State that is also a major natural disaster in another neighbouring eligible State country.

4. Applications and budget per year

The Fund operates in a highly unpredictable environment in terms of the occurrence and magnitude of disaster events per year. If looking at frequency, the peak years were 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2014 (with at least 10 events annually). In 2020, there was a peak in applications due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
From 2002 to the end of 2021, 178 applications (including health emergencies) were made to the Fund; 127 were successful, 47 rejected and 4 withdrawn.
The chart below shows the amount of EUSF support provided by year of disaster occurrence to the affected Member States.

5. Examples of support

2021: Volcano eruption in La Palma, Spain

Between September and December 2021, a volcanic eruption took place on the island of la Palma in the Canary Islands creating severe damages. The lava covered more than a thousand hectares, cut off several key roads and destroyed over 3,000 buildings and several towns nearby. Around 7,000 people from the local population affected by the eruption had to be evacuated and supplied with safety equipment to protect them against harmful gases which the volcano released during the eruption. The total damage caused by the disaster exceeded EUR 1 billion. Spain received EUR 9.4 million from EUSF for emergency and recovery operations on the island of La Palma.
Source: Local authority

2021: Deadly floods in Western Europe

During the summer of 2021, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, and Luxembourg were hit by deadly floods with devastating consequences. The floods were induced by extreme weather events and the total damages in the affected five countries reached the amount of EUR 35.5 billion in total. At least 243 people lost their lives and thousands had to be evacuated from their homes. The local infrastructure suffered serious damages and the tourist industry also experienced a great financial loss as the floods came in the middle of the tourist season. EUR 707.7 million were mobilised from the EUSF to support the recovery and reconstruction of these countries after the disaster.

2020-21: Earthquakes in Croatia

Croatia has suffered two series of devastating earthquakes. The first in March 2020 hit the city of Zagreb and its surroundings, and the second in December 2020 – January 2021, which mostly hit the city of Petrinja and the area of the Sisak-Moslavina county. The total combined estimated damage of the two series of earthquakes amounted to more than EUR 17 billion. The situation was dramatic, as around 26 000 buildings were damaged in the catastrophe. Neighbouring countries such as Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, and Italy swiftly dispatched emergency equipment in the affected areas. The earthquakes destroyed much of the infrastructure and left many people homeless. Croatia received assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund twice. The total assistance for the two series of earthquakes amounts to EUR 1 billion which was paid to help Croatia’s recovery and reconstruction after the disasters.
Damage to housing complexes in the historical centre of Petrinja

2020: Storm Alex in France

In October 2020, an extratropical cyclone hit the Mediterranean and brought exceptionally intense rainfall. The extreme weather event caused flooding in the French alpine valleys in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur. The heavy rainfall caused landslides, debris flows, flash floods, and erosions. Infrastructure networks suffered severe damage and several towns were cut-off due to the collapse of bridges and main roads. Hundreds of houses were impacted, several people went missing and at least 15 lost their lives. It was reported as the worst flooding in the South of France for the last 120 years. France received EUR 59.3 million from EUSF for recovery after the disaster.
Dans la vallée de la Vésubie, le cours d’eau a causé d’importants dégâts (Valery HACHE/AFP)

2020: Flash floods in Poland

In June 2020, the voivodeships of Podlaskie, Masovia (including Warsaw), the Holy Cross Province and the Lesser Poland region of Poland faced violent storms, heavy rain, and floods, one after the other. Over 400 people had to be evacuated and 14,000 temporarily lost access to electricity. 1,300 homes and over 240 roads were damaged. The local agriculture also suffered great losses as about 9 000 hectares of crop area was affected. The EU Solidarity Fund supported the affected region with EUR 7 million.

The rising risk of flooding in Poland

2016-2017 earthquakes Italy - the biggest EUSF contribution

In August and October 2016 and later in January 2017, several series of heavy earthquakes affected wide areas of the Apennines chain in Central Italy, in the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche and Umbria. Over 300 citizens lost their lives and thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes. The serious and widespread damage mostly affected private and public buildings, infrastructure, businesses, farming and important cultural heritage. The disaster caused significant harm to the living conditions of the affected population. The earthquakes had very negative repercussions on the tourism sector which had thrived previously. The Italian authorities estimated the total direct damage at EUR 21.8 billion. An unprecedented amount of €1.2 billion were mobilised under the EU Solidarity Fund, the highest sum ever mobilised in a single instalment.

2015: Severe winter in Bulgaria

At the end of January and early February 2015, parts of Bulgaria suffered from heavy rainfall, snow, floods, and landslides. As a result, considerable damage was caused to public infrastructure, businesses, private homes, and assets. The South-East region of Bulgaria was the hardest hit by the events. In the city of Burgas alone, over 300 buildings were flooded. Many rivers in the area burst their banks and flooded agricultural land which caused the agricultural sector to suffer great losses. Gusty winds destroyed pine forests, caused power failures, and disrupted the communication networks; roads were blocked by fallen trees. Subsequently, Bulgaria received EUR 6.4 million from the EU Solidarity Fund.

2014 : Flooding in Serbia

In May 2014, the Republic of Serbia was struck by flooding along with much of South-Eastern Europe. Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were the worst affected by the flooding, with the former witnessing a record high level of rainfall for the past 120 years. The flood caused significant damages in public and private infrastructure in the districts of Kolubara, Mačva, Moravcki, Pomoravlje, and part of Belgrade. 60 casualties were recorded, and thousands of people had to be rescued from their homes. Thousands of houses and numerous coal mines, which normally generate over 60% of the electricity necessary for the whole country, got damaged. The damage in health and education facilities, the road and rail networks and the environment caused significant economic losses for Serbia. An EUSF grant of EUR 60 million was made available to contribute to disaster relief efforts.
AFP: The Serbian town of Krupanj was reportedly cut off for four days

2012: Earthquakes in Italy

In May 2012, two series of heavy earthquakes affected wide parts of Northern Italy and caused severe damage in many towns and villages in particular around the epicentre, mostly in the provinces of Modena and Ferrara in the region of Emilia-Romagna. The earthquakes caused 27 deaths, an estimated 350 people were injured and over 45,000 people had to be evacuated. There was serious and widespread damage to buildings, infrastructure, businesses, industrial facilities, agriculture and to the important cultural heritage sector. The Italian authorities estimated the total direct damage at EUR 13 billion. The EU Solidarity Fund supported the affected regions with EUR 670 million.

Source: IT report

2007: Forest fires in Greece

In August 2007, a large part of Greece was affected by forest fires, which were most intense and most widespread in the regions of Western Greece, the Peloponnese, Continental Greece, and Attica. The disaster caused major damage to different sectors of the economy, in particular to agriculture, and destroyed much of the local transport and telecommunications infrastructure, energy distribution, water and wastewater, and natural disaster prevention. The disaster also caused important damage to the natural environment, cultural heritage sites, schools, hospitals, and fire-fighting services. 65 people died in the Peloponnese, in Western Greece and in Evvoia as a result of the fires. Close to EUR 90 million were mobilised from the EUSF to support the recovery and reconstruction after the disaster.

6. Complementarity with EU investments in climate mitigation and risk prevention

The EUSF is a valuable instrument in the EU toolkit for interventions in disaster situations. It brings the added value of the EU to the post-disaster response in Member States and accession countries. However, it intervenes only when the disaster has happened. Therefore, it is important to invest in prevention and mitigation, in line with the European Green Deal. There are significant synergies between EUSF and the funds of Cohesion Policy (ERDF and Cohesion Fund). While EUSF addresses interventions in specific situations of natural disasters in the short to medium term, Cohesion Policy takes a more long-term perspective of strategic planning and investments for civil protection, preventive infrastructure, and preparedness, prevention and management of disaster risks.

7. More information