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MEPs approved nearly €1.2 billion in EU aid on Wednesday to repair the damage caused by earthquakes in central Italy in 2016 and 2017.

Parliament voted to release €1,196,797,579 from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) by 658 votes to 6, with 26 abstentions.

 

Between late August 2016 and mid-January 2017, a series of earthquakes, of magnitudes ranging from 5.9 to 6.5 on the Richter scale, followed by many  aftershocks, affected vast areas of the Apennines chain in central Italy, in particular the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche and Umbria. They left 333 people dead and over 30,000 displaced and in need of assistance. Infrastructure was severely damaged and businesses, including farms and tourism firms, were significantly affected.

 

The EUSF money can be used to cover reconstruction, emergency and clean-up operations, and for the protection of landmarks. Italy is already the largest beneficiary of the Solidarity Fund, having received €1.3 billion since it was created 15 years ago.

 

Italy requested an advance payment of €30 million (the maximum possible amount) which was awarded by the EU Commission on 29 November 2016 and paid out in full.

 

Quotes

 

Rapporteur Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT): "Today, on the day of the State of the Union and debate on the future of Europe, our vote is a strong signal that Europe is alive and its heart beats in the centre: in the centre of Italy - where fathers, mothers and children today have a reason more to feel European, and to tell the story of a Europe where no one is left behind and where we help each other. The story of a family!"

 

Background

 

The EUSF was set up in 2002 in response to disastrous flooding in central Europe in the summer of that year. Since then, repair work after 76 disasters — including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought — in at least 24 EU countries has received EUSF aid totalling more than €5 billion.