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Thursday, 1 December 2016 - Brussels
Situation in Italy after the earthquakes

European Parliament resolution of 1 December 2016 on the situation in Italy after the earthquakes (2016/2988(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 174, 175 (third paragraph) and 212 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU) 2016/369 of 15 March 2016 on the provision of emergency support within the Union(2),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 of 11 November 2002 establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund(3) and to Regulation (EU) No 661/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014(4) amending that regulation,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 375/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 establishing the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps (‘EU Aid Volunteers initiative’)(5),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 of 20 June 1996 concerning humanitarian aid(6),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 11 April 2011 on Further Developing Risk Assessment for Disaster Management within the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 28 November 2008 calling for civil protection capabilities to be enhanced by a European mutual assistance system building on the civil protection modular approach (16474/08),

–  having regard to the Commission report entitled ‘The European Union Solidarity Fund – Annual Report 2014’ (COM(2015)0502),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2007 on the regional impact of earthquakes(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2008 on stepping up the Union’s disaster response capacity(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 October 2009(9) on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on mobilisation of the European Union Solidarity Fund: Italy, the Abruzzo earthquake,

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2013 on the European Union Solidarity Fund, implementation and application(10),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 28 November 2013 on the European Union Solidarity Fund(11),

–  having regard to the questions to the Commission on the situation in Italy after the earthquakes (O-000139/2016 – B8-1812/2016, O-000140/2016 – B8-1813/2016 and O‑000141/2016 – B8-1814/2016),

–  having regard to Special Report No 24/2012 of the Court of Auditors entitled ‘The European Union Solidarity Fund’s response to the 2009 Abruzzi earthquake: the relevance and cost of operations’,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas after the devastating earthquake that hit central Italy on 24 August 2016, three more major quakes, together with a flurry of tremors, struck the central Italian regions, on 26 October 2016 with magnitudes of 5.5 and 6.1, and on 30 October 2016 with a magnitude of 6.5;

B.  whereas quakes and aftershocks have continued to batter central Italy over the past months; whereas the most recent earthquake on 30 October 2016 was the strongest tremor to hit the country in more than three decades, involving the total flattening of entire villages, bringing large numbers of inhabitants of the affected areas to the brink of despair, and provoking various indirect forms of damage in the surrounding areas;

C.  whereas in the recent quakes more than 400 people are reported to have been injured and 290 to have died;

D.  whereas the devastating earthquakes are piling up in a ‘domino effect’ and have led to up to 100 000 inhabitants being displaced;

E.  whereas the impact of the latest quakes has destroyed towns, seriously damaged local and regional infrastructure, ruined historical and cultural heritage, damaged economic activities, especially those of SMEs, agriculture, the landscape and the potential of the tourism and hospitality industries;

F.  whereas the territories concerned suffer from a deformation that extends over an area of about 130 square kilometres, with a maximum displacement of at least 70 centimetres, and whereas unpredictable hydrogeological effects could lead, in severe winter weather conditions, to further natural catastrophes such as floods and landslips and cumulative damage;

G.  whereas some territories in the European Union are more vulnerable and at high seismic risk; whereas they may even be exposed to repeated natural catastrophes of various kinds, some of them less than a year apart, recent cases having occurred in Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus;

H.  whereas sustainable reconstruction efforts need to be properly coordinated in order to remedy the economic and social losses, and whereas particular attention should also be paid to the invaluable Italian cultural heritage, promoting international and European projects aimed at protecting historical buildings and sites;

I.  whereas the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up under Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 in response to the disastrous flooding that hit central Europe in the summer of 2002;

J.  whereas various Union instruments, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds or the civil protection mechanism and financial instrument, may be used to strengthen preventive measures to address earthquakes and rehabilitation measures;

K.  whereas the 2014 reform of the EUSF introduced the possibility for Member States to request advance payments, the granting of which is decided upon by the Commission, if sufficient resources are available; whereas, however, the amount of the advance cannot exceed 10 % of the anticipated total amount of the financial contribution from the EUSF and is capped at EUR 30 million;

L.  whereas the Member State affected must submit an application for assistance from the EUSF to the Commission no later than 12 weeks after the first effects of the disaster become clear; whereas the beneficiary state is responsible for using the grant and auditing the way it is spent, but the Commission may carry out on-the-spot checks on operations financed by the EUSF;

M.  whereas the reconstruction process must take into account past experiences, and whereas the need to be carried out with the utmost rapidity, adequate resources, bureaucratic simplification and transparency should be the basis for sustainable reconstruction, as well as the need to provide security and stability for affected residents in order to ensure that they can continue to live in these regions;

N.  whereas prevention should constitute an increasingly important stage in disaster management and be given greater social importance, and also requires a careful action programme on information dissemination, awareness and education;

O.  whereas current disaster prevention measures need to be reinforced in accordance with Parliament’s previous proposals with a view to consolidating the strategy for the prevention of natural and man-made disasters at EU level;

1.  Expresses its deepest solidarity and empathy with all the individuals affected by the earthquakes and their families, and with the Italian national, regional and local authorities involved in relief efforts following the disaster;

2.  Expresses its concern over the large number of displaced persons exposed to the harsh weather conditions of the forthcoming winter season; calls on the Commission, therefore, to identify all possible ways of providing help to the Italian authorities with a view to guaranteeing decent living conditions for the people deprived of their homes;

3.  Appreciates the unremitting efforts made by the rescue units, civil protection forces, volunteers, civil society organisations, and local, regional and national authorities in the devastated areas in order to save lives, contain the damage and guarantee common basic activities to maintain a decent standard of living;

4.  Underlines the serious economic and social effects of the successive earthquakes and the destruction left in their wake;

5.  Underlines the gravity of the situation on the ground, which is putting considerable and intense financial pressure on Italian national, regional and local public authorities;

6.  Welcomes the increased level of flexibility in the deficit calculation on spending related to the earthquakes that has been granted to Italy, in accordance with the Treaties, in order to cope with the current emergency efficiently and swiftly and with future interventions required to secure the areas affected; also calls on the Italian Government to ensure that all the extra resources provided are actually used for this specific purpose;

7.  In light of this exceptional and very serious situation, asks the Commission to consider having sustainable reconstruction and any anti-seismic investments, including those cofinanced through the ESI funds and allocated to Thematic Objective 5 (‘prevention, promotion of climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management’), excluded from the calculation of national deficits in the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact;

8.  Welcomes the solidarity expressed by the EU institutions, other Member States, European regions and international players, as exemplified by mutual assistance in emergency situations;

9.  Asks the Commission to consider extending the existing calculation of the Solidarity Fund, which is currently based on the effects of damage caused by a single catastrophic event, to a cumulative computation of the damage caused by several natural catastrophes in the same region in a year;

10.  Highlights the prediction problems associated with earthquake systems and the high seismicity of the Mediterranean area and South East Europe; calls on Member States to speed up research with a view to preventing damage, managing crises and minimising the scale of the impact of disasters in conjunction with actions under Horizon 2020; notes with concern that thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless in the past 15 years as a result of destructive earthquakes affecting Europe;

11.  Recalls the importance of complying with requirements for the construction of earthquake‑resistant buildings and infrastructure; urges national, regional and local authorities to step up efforts to make structures compliant with the earthquake standards in force and to pay due attention to this when issuing building permits;

12.  Stresses the importance of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism in fostering cooperation among national civil protection authorities across Europe in adverse situations and in minimising the effects of exceptional occurrences; calls on the Commission and the Member States to further simplify the procedures for the activation of the Mechanism in order to make it available rapidly and effectively in the immediate aftermath of a disaster;

13.  Takes note of the application presented for the European Solidarity Fund by the Italian Government, and calls on the Commission to undertake all necessary measures to analyse requests for assistance under the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) promptly, with a view to ensuring its swift mobilisation; stresses in this context the importance of advance payments being made available as soon as possible to the national authorities to enable them to respond to the urgent demands of the situation;

14.  Considers that the partial ‘budgetisation’ of the annual EUSF financial allocation provided for in the proposed Omnibus Regulation could help in the future to accelerate the mobilisation procedure with a view to providing an earlier and more effective response to people affected by a disaster; invites the Commission, moreover, in the context of possible future reforms, to analyse the feasibility of increasing the advance payments threshold and shortening the deadlines for processing applications;

15.  Stresses the importance of creating synergies among all available instruments, including the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), and of ensuring that resources are used effectively for reconstruction activities and all other necessary interventions, in full cooperation with the Italian national and regional authorities; calls on the Commission to be ready to adopt amendments to programmes and operational programmes to this end as soon as possible after the submission of a request for amendments by a Member State; underlines likewise the possibility of using the European Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) to sustain the rural areas and agricultural activities that have been impacted by the earthquakes;

16.  Underlines, moreover, the importance of optimising the use of existing EU funding to invest in preventing natural disasters and of guaranteeing the consolidation and long-term sustainable development of reconstruction projects, and reiterates the need to simplify the administrative procedures for coordination of the funds; stresses that, after receiving assistance under the EUSF, the Member States concerned should intensify their efforts to develop appropriate risk management strategies and strengthen their disaster prevention mechanisms;

17.  Takes note of the activation, on the request of the Italian Government, of the EU’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service, with the aim of providing satellite-based damage assessment for the affected areas; encourages cooperation between international research centres, and welcomes the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which can evaluate and measure centimetre-level ground movements through clouds by day and night, also for purposes of prevention and risk management;

18.  Emphasises the importance of public research and development (R&D) in preventing and managing disasters, and calls for increased coordination and cooperation between the R&D institutions of Member States, especially those facing similar risks; calls for enhanced early warning systems in Member States and the creation and strengthening of links between the various early warning systems;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Government of Italy, and the regional and local authorities of the areas affected.

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 70, 16.3.2016, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 311, 14.11.2002, p. 3.
(4) OJ L 189, 27.6.2014, p. 143.
(5) OJ L 122, 24.4.2014, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 163, 2.7.1996, p. 1.
(7) OJ C 282 E, 6.11.2008, p. 269
(8) OJ C 286 E, 27.11.2009, p. 15.
(9) OJ C 230 E, 26.8.2010, p. 13.
(10) OJ C 440, 30.12.2015, p. 13.
(11) OJ C 114, 15.4.2014, p. 48.

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