ECONOMY

EU to approve 90-mln-euro aid

Greece stands to receive almost 90 million euros from the European Union Solidarity Fund to repair the damage caused by last August’s fires in the Peloponnese, with Brussels set to decide the issue today. The funds amount to 89.7 million euros and will be applied to fund the emergency measures taken even before the flames were put out, the initial measures for the management of the tragedy, such as the temporary housing of people, the cleanup of the devastated areas and the repair of key infrastructures. The total cost of the destruction is estimated at over 2 billion euros. The Solidarity Fund is one of the poorest in the EU structure, mainly because the rich member states in the north never accepted the need for adequate funding for what are mainly problems facing the countries of the south, such as forest fires and even earthquakes. The main reason for its existence is the economic and symbolic contribution of the bloc in meeting the most urgent needs, although the procedure for the disbursement of funds is quite time-consuming. Nevertheless the European Commission has for some time decided to hand Greece a sum of «about 90 million euros.» In the longer term, it will probably prove more important that the European Commission has allowed Greece to transfer funds within the existing Third Community Support Framework, as well as the extension by an additional year of the deadline for the absorption of community resources allocated for specific projects and regions damaged by forest fires in the summer of 2007, plus the transfer of funds between projects in the same investment program. The regions for which an extension of up to the end of 2009 was given for the absorption of funds are: Western Greece, the Peloponnese, Attica and Central Greece. The extension applies to the operational programs «Roads, Ports, Urban Development,» and «Railways, Airports and Public Transport.» However, it will have to be shown that every project in those regions for which an extension has been requested has indeed been damaged by the forest fires in such a way that absorption by the end of 2008 has become impossible. At a procedural level, the 89.7 million euros of the Solidarity Fund will be released as soon as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers give their approval and the relevant funding agreement is signed by the Commission and the Greek government.