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New EU aid fund targets billion euro disasters

New EU aid fund targets billion euro disasters
BRUSSELS - A one billion euro disaster fund set up in the wake of central European floods this August will only be used for major catastrophes, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The EU\'s 15 member states would be eligible for aid from the fund if they suffered a disaster which cost more than either 0.5 percent of GDP or one billion euros ($970 million), or which hit a substantial part of the regional or national population. \"We can\'t define what a catastrophe is in advance,\" said Michel Barnier, European regional policy commissioner. Europe had experienced seven catastrophes with damage of more than a billion euros since 1987, he said. \"I think it would be possible that climate change or other phenomena could mean that the whole of Europe might be affected by genuine catastrophes, and if that were to happen perhaps we would have to handle matters differently. \"But for the moment I think one billion (euros) is a substantial amount of money,\" he said. The Commission proposed creating the fund after floods raged across Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia this summer, killing dozens of people and causing damage of about 20 billion euros. With no central disaster fund in place, it could not react to calls for help from the region. The Commission hopes the fund will be operational from November this year. Immediately after a natural, technological or environmental disaster, the fund would reinforce infrastructure such as communication networks, roads and water supply and sewage. Money from the fund would also be available to provide first aid and temporary accommodation, to shore up dams and to clean up damaged natural areas. Insured damage would not be eligible. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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