Flooding, coupled with poor flood defences, has left three dead, one missing and caused incalculable damage to property in Thessalia. Karditsa, in particular, has been covered in mud and stones as rivers have burst their banks. There has also been widespread damage to roads, problems with the electricity and water supply and some villages remain cut off. The Mouzakiou Health Centre, Karditsa Hospital and the Municipal Library, where more than 3000 paintings lie covered in mud, have all been affected. Rural and livestock infrastructure has also been hit hard. The disaster has greatly affected thousands of people elsewhere in Thessalia (in Farsala, Almyros and villages in the municipality of Farkadona) and in the rest of Greece, including Phthiotis, Aetolia-Acarnania and Eptanisa (Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada and Ithaki).
The disaster has unfortunately revealed the inadequate flood defences and infrastructure in place as a result of the outdated policies of successive Greek governments and the EU.
On 22 September 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Kostas Papadakis of the Non-attached Members, posed a written question to the Commission. Greek representative enquired how the Commission views the demands to “use the EU Solidarity Fund to fully compensate low-income households and self-employed people in these areas, without having to meet its unfavourable terms and conditions”, “fully compensate farmers for the destruction the floods have caused to their produce and livestock and “immediately improve anti-flood defences both in the affected areas and in areas affected by fire, as well as in forests in mountainous areas”.
This parliamentary question was responded to on 02 December, by the Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira, on behalf of the European Commission. Commissioner Ferreira answered “in the event of severe natural disasters, the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) may help cover the costs of emergency and recovery operations” and “private damage is not eligible”. She added, “the EUSF is not a rapid response instrument, its application and budgetary process can take several months to complete”.
Commissioner Ferreira further explained that “the immediate assistance with response to disaster situations can be received through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, in the form of mobilised additional response capacities” and “the EUSF can only be mobilised following an application from Greece, to be submitted within 12 weeks of the occurrence of the disaster, demonstrating that the total direct damage exceeds either 0.6% of Greek gross national income or 1.5% of the average gross domestic product of the affected regions”.
The Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner further clarified that “The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) may support investments for the prevention and restoration of the damage to forests and the agricultural production potential damaged by natural disasters and other catastrophic events” and that “it may also support risk management tools covering farmers’ economic losses” and reported that “The Greek Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 provides for preventive actions to forests and agricultural land, restoration of forests but not for restoration of agricultural production potential or risk management measures”.
Finally, Commissioner Ferreira declared that “in the 2014-2020 period, Greece’s programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund have earmarked EUR 300 million to reinforce civil protection and for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters” and “investments may include the preparation of Flood Risk Management Plans per river basin: anti-flood measures and the construction of flood protection works in urban and suburban areas”.
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/greece-karditsa-neochori-village-1196793/