EU aid package ready for Slovenia
The European Commission has put together a package of financial aid for Slovenia to help the country deal with the massive damage caused by flooding and offered what EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said was "maximum flexibility" concerning bureaucratic procedures.
Slovenia will get EUR 400 million from the EU Solidarity Fund, EUR 100 million this year and EUR 300 million in 2024, von der Leyen announced after visiting flood-struck areas of Slovenia on 9 August together with Prime Minister Robert Golob.
This is just one part of a package of EU aid that Slovenia can draw on. Another EUR 2.7 billion is available in Next Generation EU loans that Slovenia has not yet drawn, and existing cohesion funds totalling EUR 3.3 billion can be reprogrammed to help the relief effort.
"We have a good package of immediate, mid-term and long-term support for the reconstruction and recovery of Slovenia," von der Leyen said.
She noted that time was of the essence and Slovenia must make a request and produce a preliminary assessment of the damage as soon as possible so that the funds could be disbursed.
The request for Next Generation funds must be made until the end of August and von der Leyen said it was agreed to immediately create a task force of Slovenia and the Commission to "immediately work on the administrative requirements to make sure these EUR 2.7 billion are available to Slovenia for investment."
As for cohesion funds, von der Leyen said a lot of the EUR 3.3 billion that Slovenia has at its disposal had already been dedicated to specific projects but "I am convinced that many of these projects no longer exist."
In general, she said the Commission would show "maximum flexibility", both in the reprogramming of cohesion funds and in the disbursement of Recovery and Resilience Facility funds, where Slovenia is projected to get EUR 1.49 billion in grants and EUR 705 million in loans.
Golob welcomed the flexibility in the reprogramming of the cohesion funds. "If we cannot divert the funds to reconstruction, they mean nothing to us," he said.
"The aid will be quick and effective, we will not leave anyone behind," he said as he praised solidarity between member states and described the EU as "the best thing that has happened to Slovenia and Europe in the last hundred years."
The financial aid comes on top of immediate assistance in machinery and manpower that many member states have already provided under the bloc's Civil Protection Mechanism, including heavy-lifting helicopters, modular bridges, excavators and bulldozers, and teams of relief workers.
In an address to the National Assembly, von der Leyen praised Slovenians' solidarity, courage and kindness. "Your response has been outstanding. An entire country has mobilised at incredible speed, preventing an even greater loss of life," she said.
She also said Slovenia had always been among the first to offer aid when disaster struck in neighbouring countries and was also a leading contributor to the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. "Now I want to assure you that all of Europe is with you in this time of need."
According to von der Leyen, Europe will also be at Slovenia's side in the coming weeks and months for the recovery and reconstruction. "I have no doubt that, with Europe's support, Slovenia will recover fast and once again stand strong at the heart of Europe."