Prime Minister, dear Kyriakos,
Thank you very much for coming here, to Strasbourg. I am simply appalled by the recent disasters that struck Greece and its people. You have shown me the pictures. It is unspeakable. For the first time, we see that your country faced the most dramatic wildfires that the EU has ever seen. Never before has such a vast area been destroyed by the wildfires. Then, floods have devastated large regions of Greece. For example, the plains of Thessaly. The pictures from Larissa are heartbreaking. Let me assure you that our thoughts are with all women, men and children who are courageously withstanding these disasters. And we mourn the lives lost.
Europe stands at the side of the Greek people. And I want Greece and the Greek people to know that we are with them. Our Union is a Union of solidarity. It was therefore very important for us to be able to meet here today – Kyriakos, many thanks for coming – and to discuss this solidarity together with your Ministers and our Commissioners. We spoke about the best ways to help the Greek people. A lot of investment will be necessary to rebuild. But right now a lot of immediate support and help is also necessary to restore the livelihoods. My main message is that the Commission will be inventive, quick and flexible: We will mobilise all EU resources that can be deployed. Let me focus on five important funding streams that could be mobilised.
First, we should use unspent cohesion money from the last period, which would otherwise be lost – so this is fresh money –, and frontload parts of the current cohesion funds. Second, the same goes for the European Social Fund+, that could be mobilised. Here too, these funds would be lost and can be disbursed this year. So, part of the money that can immediately go to Greek citizens to support will also be European money. The third element is the Common Agricultural Policy that can play an important role. Here are two unused funds from the previous Greek rural development programme, but we also look into funds under the current Greek CAP strategic plan. And we will examine the agricultural reserve for next year. If we look at those funds, they could, for example, help restore forests or farming infrastructure. A lot needs to be done. Altogether, this could allow Greece to mobilise up to EUR 2.25 billion.
In addition, the Commission stands ready to assess a Greek request for support under the Solidarity Fund. Here it is important that the Member States agree on our proposal to top up the Solidarity Fund. If this happens, next year, we could make available up to EUR 400 million.
Finally, Greece could consider using some of the resources of NextGenerationEU. Of course, in NextGenerationEU, we all have to show utmost flexibility because the revision was just submitted. So, we will work with it.
My services will work closely on all these options with the Greek authorities. We have decided to form a Task Force that will start its work immediately, today. Together we will find the best possible ways to help the Greek people. The Greek people can count on Europe for fast support, maximal flexibility. And we stand by your side not only in this acute moment but also to rebuild and reconstruct.
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