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EU disaster response fund ‘strained at the limits’ by climate fuelled crises

Locals are evacuated on an excavator from a flooded area, in the aftermath of Storm Daniel, in Larissa, Greece.
Locals are evacuated on an excavator from a flooded area, in the aftermath of Storm Daniel, in Larissa, Greece. Copyright REUTERS/Elias Marcou
Copyright REUTERS/Elias Marcou
By Euronews Green with Reuters
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Requests for emergency assistance have gone up by 400 per cent in the last two years.

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The EU urgently needs more funding to respond to climate change-fuelled crises, the European Commission has warned. 

Its emergency aid reserve was exhausted in both 2021 and 2022 and natural disasters have increased this year.

Europe is emerging from another summer of extreme weather and the impacts of climate change. 

Devastating floods in Slovenia killed at least six people, Greece was battered by deadly wildfires and storms while record-breaking drought ravaged farms in Spain.

Requests for help are on the rise

The European Union's emergency response centre coordinates the delivery of assistance to crisis-hit countries. 

In 2018, the disaster hub responded to 20 requests for help. By 2022, that number had jumped to more than 230 requests and increasingly climate-related weather events are the cause. 

Requests for emergency assistance have gone up by 400 per cent in the last two years.

In July and August this year alone, the emergency response centre was called upon 12 times, in response to wildfires, floods and emergencies in Ukraine, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said.

REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
Flames and smoke rise from a tree line as a wildfire burns at the Dadia National Park on the region of Evros, Greece.REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

Governments are reluctant to chip in more money

The EU's solidarity and emergency aid reserve, which helps European countries in an emergency, has a maximum annual budget of €1.2 billion. 

The Commission wants to add an extra €2.5 billion to the reserve in 2024-2027 as part of an ongoing review of the EU's seven-year budget. 

EU countries and lawmakers would need to negotiate and approve the extra cash, but there is reluctance among governments to chip in more money.

"The EU civic protection mechanism, Europe's disaster response system, is already working at full operational level," Lenarcic told a meeting of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

"Resources are strained at the limits. Soon, we might not be able to help when needed," he said.

Is the current budget for disasters enough?

With disasters on the rise, Lenarcic said the EU's current budget is too small.

"We need more financial reinforcement," Lenarcic said, adding that bigger investments are also needed to prevent disasters, for example, through sustainable forest management to limit fires and cut the CO2 emissions causing climate change.

Greek member of the EU Parliament (MEP) Vangelis Meimarakis urged the EU to do more to aid countries hit by worsening extreme weather.

"All Greek MEPs call upon you, regardless of their political group, to carry out powerful steps to help," he said.

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