On 11 November 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Kostas Papadakis of the Non-attached Members posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“Over the past few days, a number of areas in Crete, including the Lasithi Plateau, Kastelli Minoa Pediada, Hersonissos and dozens of villages in Rethimno, have once again been affected by flooding, causing extensive damage to houses, shops, crops, livestock and the road network. It has also put people’s lives at risk.
The recurrent floods are a result of the absence of flood protection and rainwater remediation projects by the EU and successive Greek governments — projects which, even if eligible for funding, are not implemented because, once completed, they do not generate the expected returns for businesses.
Residents complain that there is a lack of planning for flood protection for projects such as the airport in Kastelli and the section of Motorway 90 in Hersonissos, and that rivers have been filled to make way for hotels. This goes to show that capitalist development for the benefit of businesses is destroying entire areas, exposing popular needs.
In view of this:
1. Will the Commission activate the Solidarity Fund to provide immediate and full compensation to affected low-income households and the self-employed, as well as to farmers, and remove the unfavourable conditions attached to the fund?
2. How does the Commission justify the fact that, after years of recourse to the NSRF, there is now proof that, in practice, other than the plans of large businesses, flood protection and other vital projects, as well as public infrastructure, are not a priority in Crete and elsewhere?”
On 2 February 2021, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) can only be mobilised following an application from a Member State affected by a natural disaster, in this case Greece, to be submitted within 12 weeks of the first occurrence of damage.
It needs to demonstrate that the total direct damage exceeds either 0.6% of the Greek gross national income or 1.5% of the average gross domestic product of the affected region(s). Aid from the fund can cover part of the public expenditure only; private damage is not eligible.
Support for environmental and risk management projects has been a key priority for Greece under cohesion policy. 2014-2020 programmes have earmarked EUR 391 million for climate-change adaptation and risk prevention measures.
Part of this allocation (EUR 8 million) is directly available under the regional programme ‘Crete’ for the reinforcement of civil protection and prevention of natural disasters. Additional amounts from the national programme ‘Infrastructures’ may also be used for such actions.
Greece is implementing the Floods Directive and prepared Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) — corresponding measures are prioritised by the Member State.
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the common market Organisation may also support preventive actions to reduce possible consequences of natural disasters, adverse climatic and catastrophic events and for the restoration of the agricultural production potential damaged by such events.
They may also provide financial support for risk management tools. The Greek Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 provides EUR 40 million for such preventive actions.”
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