Ask EP By / March 3, 2023

The EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF)

Citizens often turn to the European Parliament to ask how the European Union (EU) financially support EU countries and candidate countries struck by natural disasters.

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Citizens often turn to the European Parliament to ask how the European Union (EU) financially support EU countries and candidate countries struck by natural disasters.

The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) enables the EU to provide effective support to an EU country, or to a candidate country to the EU, when dealing with the effects of a major natural disaster.

The Solidarity Fund was set up in 2002 to respond to major natural disasters following the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of that year. It is one of the main EU instruments for post-disaster recovery and a tangible expression of EU solidarity.

Twenty years of achievements

Between 2002 and the end of 2022, the Solidarity Fund mobilised over €8.2 billion for interventions in 127 disasters (107 natural disasters, including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought and 20 health emergencies) in 24 EU countries (plus the United Kingdom) and 3 candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro and Serbia).

Since April 2020, in the framework of the EU effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the scope of the Solidarity Fund was extended to cover major public health emergencies. This includes assistance to the population in the event of health crises and measures to limit the spread of an infectious disease.

Application process for aid

The Solidarity Fund is not a rapid response instrument for dealing with the immediate effects of a natural disaster. The EU can only grant financial aid to a country that requests it after an application and budgetary process which can take several months to complete.

The affected EU country or candidate country must send an application for aid within 12 weeks of the disaster, or the first action taken against it, depending on the type of event. The European Commission receives and assesses the application and – if the application is accepted – proposes an amount of aid to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (EU countries’ governments), who have to approve the sum before it can be paid out.

The country or region is then responsible for distribution of the aid and auditing the way it is spent. The aid can generally be used to rebuild infrastructure and shelter displaced populations, or in the event of a health emergency, to provide medical treatment and protect the general population from the spread of a disease.

Review of the Solidarity Fund

In a 2019 evaluation of the Solidarity Fund, the European Commission found it was effective and well-received by beneficiary countries, as well as complementary to related policies. However, European Commission reports draw attention to the long time countries and regions have to wait to receive funding, while industry experts warn that the Fund could run out of money should several disasters take place within a short period of time.

In an October 2021 resolution, the European Parliament explicitly called on the European Commission to propose a revision of the Solidarity Fund, to establish a more targeted, effective and timely rapid response mechanism for areas and regions prone to specific or recurrent natural disasters.

In an earlier resolution of May 2021, on the review of the EU Solidarity Fund, Parliament invited the European Commission to:

  • continue simplifying and speeding up the application procedure for EU countries, to ensure a faster response to disasters and emergencies;
  • better take into account disasters on a regional scale;
  • assess the specific impacts of drought and to address them in the future regulation;
  • focus, as far as possible, on the regions that are most at risk of major or regional natural disasters or major public health emergencies (for instance, isolated regions and regions that are prone to intense seismic or volcanic activity);
  • oblige beneficiary states to inform citizens about EU financial support.

Parliament also believes that a reassessment of the EU Solidarity Fund’s budget might be necessary in the future, to ensure that the budget is large enough to deal effectively with major and regional natural disasters and major public health emergencies.

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

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