The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, got on a helicopter yesterday. This time in Italy and together with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, to see first-hand the extent of the devastation caused by the catastrophic floods in the Emilia-Romagna region last week, which have caused the death of 15 people and thousands of of millions of euros in damages, for which he promised to activate European funds "urgently".
"I am here to send a very clear message: Europe is with you," Von der Leyen assured upon landing at Bologna airport, after a flight where he was "heartbroken" by seeing the "deep scars" caused by the mud on the territory. “It's been very hard, but also very helpful in identifying the problems that need to be addressed,” he said. The German woman said she was "impressed" by the hundreds of volunteers who have come from all over Italy to roll up their sleeves and help the affected population, but also by the information that the regional president, Stefano Bonaccini, had transmitted to her. “He has told me that it is a prosperous region from an economic point of view and that it has an important cultural history,” she stressed.
For all these reasons, Von der Leyen has already made it clear that Rome will be able to resort to European cohesion funds due to damage to crops, a sector that is especially affected along with tourism. He also advanced that the European recovery fund after the pandemic has 6,000 million euros for the prevention of natural disasters such as these floods, which can be used.
Help from Europe has already materialized thanks to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to help clean up and control landslides. Up to nine EU countries have offered pumping equipment, reported yesterday Meloni, who returned to the affected territory after having already visited it on Sunday, back from the G-7 in Hiroshima, to see first-hand the effects of some rains that in a few hours caused the overflow of all the rivers and flooded some twenty towns.
Yesterday there were still more than 20,000 people who had not been able to return to their homes –36,000 were evacuated– and more than 600 roads were still blocked due to the risk of landslides. Another problem was the accumulation of garbage in the streets, from furniture to damaged electrical appliances, of more than 100,000 tons, the equivalent of what is collected in ten months.
“When I came here on Sunday what impressed me was the reaction of the people. Here you will find a town that feels very proud that does not resign itself. It is our responsibility to live up to it," Meloni declared, before returning to Rome, leaving Von der Leyen to visit the affected town of Cesena together with the regional president and the Minister for European Affairs, Raffaele Fitto.
Von der Leyen's visit came a few days after Italy approved allocating some 2,000 million euros to alleviate the situation in the areas destroyed by the catastrophe. Among the beneficiaries of these items will be agricultural companies, for which 175 million euros will be allocated, or those in the industrial sector, which will receive 700 million. Among other items, the Italian government will pull from culture to be able to finance it: it will increase the price of tickets in national museums by one euro in order to be able to safeguard cultural assets affected by water, a measure that will be in force between June 15 and on September 15.