Simon Harris to press EU on lowering flood fund threshold

‘About €1bn in damages would have to be incurred in Ireland’s case’

Minister of State Simon Harris: “Perhaps these thresholds need to be looked at.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister of State Simon Harris: “Perhaps these thresholds need to be looked at.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Minister of State Simon Harris is to press the EU to amend the thresholds that apply to funding from the EU Solidarity Fund.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Brussels today where he is to attend a meeting of euro zone ministers for finance, Mr Harris said he planned to raise the issue informally with ministers.

“I’m conscious that for member states to access the fund the damage threshold for member states is 0.6 per cent of gross national income. That would roughly mean that about €1 billion in damages would have to be incurred in Ireland’s case.”

Mr Harris said thresholds for regional funding were equally high, particularly for small countries.

“Perhaps these thresholds need to be looked at,” he said.

The EU Solidarity Fund is an emergency fund established after floods in central Europe in 2002. While Ireland secured €19 million from the fund in 2009, the size of the fund was reduced in the EU’s 2014-2020 budget cycle.

This week Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella requesting a meeting to discuss the flooding crisis.

Cross-party

A cross-party group of TDs and MEPs yesterday attended a meeting with senior commission officials from the EU’s environment division in Brussels.

The meeting, organised by Independent MEP Luke Ming Flanagan, was also attended by Marian Harkin and Mairead McGuinness. All are MEPs for the Midlands North West constituency. TDs Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice and Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen were also at the two-hour meeting.

A joint statement released by the office of Mr Flanagan said the meeting had been “constructive, frank and informative and clearly indicated the flexibility allowed under EU regulations to take actions”.

Ms Harkin said the meeting had dispelled the “myth” that Brussels was to blame for exacerbating the flooding.