Chios fire aid a no-go, says ministry

The Development Ministry on Tuesday night denied accusations that Greece missed out on European Union funds that would have helped it cover the cost of dealing with the aftermath of forest fires that ravaged Chios over the summer because it missed the deadline to apply for the aid.

The ministry’s denial was prompted by SYRIZA MEP Nikos Hountis publishing a response to the question he put to Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for regional policy.

Hahn said that any applications for financial help from the bloc’s Solidarity Fund, set up in 2002 to support disaster-stricken regions, have to be submitted within 10 weeks of the first recorded damage.

“The Commission has not received an application from Greece about the Chios fires,” Hahn told Hountis. The Austrian official said the deadline had expired on October 27.

SYRIZA said the government’s failure to submit an application had “irreparably exposed” the country’s “inept” coalition.

The fire destroyed 15,000 hectares of vegetation, including many of the island’s trademark mastic trees, in August but the ministry said the cost of the damage would have to be the equivalent of 0.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or the regional economy would have had to suffer long-term damage.

The ministry said neither of these criteria would have been met and that Greece had had previous applications for aid following fires in 2009 and 2010 turned down by the EU.

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