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First voting Plenary session, first financial aid to Italy from the new MEPs

The new European legislature started with a multi-million aid to Italy. The European Parliament was in Strasbourg this week for the first Plenary session after the summer break. It was the first time that the new MEPs were called to adopt legislative texts, and on Wednesday (18 September) the Parliament gave the green light to the financial assistance for the EU Member States hit by natural disasters.

Italy will receive €277.2 million from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) to restore its territories severely damaged following heavy rains, strong winds, floods and landslides in the autumn of 2018. The financial aid is very important for Italians, since reconstruction is required almost everywhere in the country.

Last year extreme weather plagued 15 regions out of 20 (Friuli Venezia Giulia, the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano, Liguria, Lombardy, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Campania, Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia and Veneto. To a lesser extent, Valle d’Aosta and Abruzzo were damaged, too). All these regions will now receive support from the European Union.

Given the situation it is not a surprise if Italy is the main beneficiary of the overall EU contribution. The European Parliament approved a financial package of total €293.5 million for Italy, Austria and Romania. As said the biggest quota (€277.2 million, or 95% of the total amount) have been granted to Italy, while the remaining resources have been granted to Austria and Romania (€8.1 million and €8.2 million respectively).

Solidarity from the European Parliament

The European Parliament made proof of great solidarity. The financial package was approved by by 645 votes to 18, with 30 abstentions. The legislative proposal doesn’t need the vote of the Council of the EU. Member States already agreed to mobilise the European Union Solidarity Fund, so the European money are immediately available. Here we have a tangible and concrete example of the importance of the European Parliament, and a visible demonstration of what the directly-elected institution of the EU does for citizens.

“Thanks to the final decision of the European Parliament, Italy can immediately benefit from as much as € 227.2 million from the European Fund against natural disasters”, stressed an happy Paolo De Castro, rapporteur of the provision for the S&D group at the European Parliament’s Budgets Committee. “In just two months of legislative activity we have made the proposal operational, showing that Europe is in solidarity with our territories, our citizens and of the areas most affected by these kind of disasters”.

Financial aid as part of the EP on budget

In order to allow the financial aid to be disbursed the European Parliament had to vote the amending budget proposal for 2019. In fact every contribution granted by the EU through its EUSF changes the financial exercise of the European Union. The European Union Solidarity Fund is mobilised in case of emergency, and emergencies cannot be foreseen in advance. As a consequence, these kind of expenditure are not listed in the spending program that the EU institution must produce every year for the following year.

EU budget is composed by ordinary payments. There are resources set aside in case of extraordinary expenditure, but every time this extraordinary payments must be proposed and approved, and an amending budget proposal is required. As already seen on this blog, the European Parliament has also the power of approving and controlling the common budget.

From the first Plenary setting a good news for Italy. This exactly was Italians need to feed their low trust in the European project. Now it is up to the national authorities make a good use of the EU money. Whatever will happen from now on, it won’t be responsibility of Europe.

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