€25m in storm damage not enough to qualify for EU funding
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€25m in storm damage not enough to qualify for EU funding

Bill from February's storm would need to be more than twice as high to qualify

The storm caused widespread devastation. Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

The storm caused widespread devastation. Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

Updated at 5.35pm 

Last February's storm which rampaged across Malta cost the country €25 million, a government study found.

The storm, described as the worst to hit Malta since October 1982, saw record gusts of wind hit the country, damaged electricity networks and forced over a dozen people to be evacuated from their homes.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had then announced that the government would seek funding from the European Union to support those affected.

Does the storm damage qualify for EU funding?

Dr Muscat's hopes of EU funding have however been dashed by EU rules. 

Although the storm was one of the most devastating in recent history, the EU Solidarity Fund - created to help communities recover from such events - can only be mobilised if damage amounts to 0.6% of gross national income.

In Malta's case, that would amount to €62.4m - more than twice the cost of damage caused by February's storm. 

That information was revealed by the European Commission on Friday in response to a question asked by MEP Francis Zammit Dimech. 

"The Commission has discussed with the Maltese authorities all possible options to use the EUSF for the damage caused by the storm of February 2019," it told Dr Zammit Dimech.

"After having assessed the damage, the Maltese authorities concluded that it is considerably below the threshold and informed the Commission that they would not apply for EUSF assistance". 

Dr Zammit Dimech was disappointed by the news and suggested that the EUSF needed to be reassessed to ensure it was useful for small countries such as Malta.

Will farmers still receive assistance?

However, the government said on Friday that it would not be eligible for funds, adding the damage would have had to reach €62 million (0.6% of the Gross National Income or 1.5% of the gross domestic product) for the country to be eligible.

Parliamentary secretariat for EU Funds Aaron Farrugia and parliamentary secretary for agriculture Clint Camilleri said the government would be initiating the process to assist farmers who suffered from structural damages during the storm.

Farmers would still be helped, the two politicians said, through locally-sourced funds. 

Farmers had said they suffered a huge level of damage to their crops and structures due to the strong winds. They told Times of Malta they suffered losses amounting to tens of thousands of euros each.

The government said it was committed to finding an adequate solution and was considering aid for damage which affected agricultural produce, Dr Farrugia and Mr Camilleri said.

This would be the first time the government would be directly aiding farmers after storm damages, he said.

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