Italy has become the first member state to seek assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund due to the coronavirus crisis, the European Commission announced on Monday.
Italy has yet to detail the financial aid it expects but will do so in the coming weeks, according to a press release.
"Italy is currently the Member State that is hardest-hit by the coronavirus crisis, and is the first country to apply for help from the EU Solidarity Fund in this context," said Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira.
Since 1 April, EU member states may draw on the Fund to finance expenses that will either provide immediate assistance to the affected population or cover the prevention and monitoring of health risks. The condition is that expenses must have been at least €1.5 billion or 0.3% of Gross National Income from the outset of the crisis. States who are in the midst of accession negotiations can apply as well.
The EU Solidarity Fund was originally conceived in 2002 to help regions affected by major natural disasters. Following the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), its scope was expanded to cover major health crises.
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"Thanks to its extended scope, now also including public health emergencies, the Fund is part of the tools the Commission has rapidly put in place to alleviate the burden on Member States' budgets, as a concrete demonstration of European solidarity in these difficult times," Ferreira said.
The Commission will wait until 24 June and assess all the applications for assistance it receives by this date. "This ensures that the available resources are being distributed in a fair and equitable manner among all Member States that are hardest-hit by this health emergency," according to the Commission.
"For 2020, the Fund has €800 million at its disposal to provide financial aid to the EU countries worst affected by this crisis," the Commission said.
The Brussels Times