As part of the European initiatives to combat the economic and social effects of the pandemic throughout Europe, at the end of March, the Commission decided to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) adapting it to the current emergency situation.
The fund, created in 2002 for the management of the severe floods that hit Central Europe, will make up to €800 million available for 2020. The Commission’s proposal provided for an extension of the initial purpose of the fund covering natural emergencies to include major public health crises. All types of assistance to the population are included, ranging from medical and health measures and those taken to contain the spread of disease to socio-economic measures to support the most affected groups of the population.
According to the provisions of Regulation (EU) 2020/461, an amendment of the previous legislation, a State defined as “eligible”, i.e. a Member State or a country with which negotiations for accession to the Union are underway, may submit an application to the Commission requesting accession to the Solidarity Fund in the event of a major public health emergency. This application may be submitted up to June 24.
This will be followed by a phase of evaluation of all requests received. The Commission specifies that the assessment of the allocation of resources will not follow the “first come, first served” criterion, but will be carried out on a proportionality basis. The funds will therefore be distributed among the states requesting them, according to the specific needs dictated by the urgency of the situation and in line with the budget available.
After determining the amount and the beneficiaries, the Commission will then submit a financing proposal in a single package to the European Parliament and the Council to be approved.
Once approved, the funds will be made available to the beneficiary states through a grant allocation decision. The amount will then be paid immediately and in a single tranche and the beneficiary state will have one year from the date of disbursement to benefit from the funds made available. In addition, each state will be responsible for the implementation of the measures submitted to the Commission at the time of the application and for their monitoring and follow-up. A further phase of assessment by the Commission is foreseen where the implementation reports – regarding the expenditure on the use of the fund – to be submitted by each beneficiary state will be evaluated.
Italy was the first country to submit a preliminary application to access the fund. The prolonged impact of the pandemic on the Italian system has had a huge impact on various socio-economic sectors, generating consequences that require targeted interventions to restore normality as much as possible. However, the application submitted is still at a preliminary stage. In the coming weeks, Italy, as well as the other applicant countries, will have to provide more detailed information about the estimated costs incurred in the management of the emergency. In addition, all other sources of funding from European funds, and those from national and international tools, will have to be detailed.
It will, therefore, be necessary to wait until June 24 to have a clearer overall picture of the requests that will be submitted to the Commission. As regards the timing of actual access to the funds, it is estimated that the allocation of the €800 million from the Solidarity Fund for 2020 will not take place before the end of the summer.