Von der Leyen to the flooded Italy

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, boarded a helicopter yesterday.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 22:57
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Von der Leyen to the flooded Italy

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, boarded a helicopter yesterday. This time in Italy and alongside Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to see firsthand 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 billions of euros in damages; a disaster for which the EU promised to activate European funds "urgently".

"I am here to send a very clear message: Europe is with you", assured Von der Leyen when he landed at Bologna airport after a flight in which he was "heartbroken" to see the "deep scars ” caused by the mud in the territory. "It has been very hard, although also very useful in identifying the problems that will have to be faced", he indicated. The German said that she had been "impressed" by the hundreds of volunteers who have arrived from all over Italy to thread the needle and help the affected population, but also by the information that the regional president, Stefano, had given her. "He told me that it is a prosperous region from an economic point of view and that it has an important cultural history", he stressed.

Because of all this, Von der Leyen already made it clear that Rome will be able to turn to European cohesion funds due to damage to crops, a particularly affected sector, 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, therefore, can be used.

European aid has already been implemented thanks to the EU's 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 devastated territory after having already visited it on Sunday, after returning from the G-7 in Hiroshima, to see first-hand the effects of rains that in a few hours caused all the rivers to overflow and flooded about twenty localities.

Yesterday there were still more than 20,000 people who had not been able to return home – 36,000 were evacuated – and more than 600 roads were still closed due to the risk of landslides. Another problem is the accumulation of garbage in the streets, from furniture to broken 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 the most was the reaction of the people. Here you will find a people who are very proud and who do not give up. It is our responsibility to live up to it,” Meloni declared before returning to Rome and letting Von der Leyen visit the affected population of Cesena with regional president and European Affairs Minister 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 disaster. 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 turn to culture to be able to finance it: it will increase the price of tickets to national museums by one euro in order to safeguard the cultural assets affected by the water, a measure that will be in effect between June 15 and on September 15.