by Staff Writers
Bratislava (AFP) June 13, 2013
Hungarian President Janos Ader on Thursday accused the European Union of failing to provide immediate aid to countries recently hit by deadly floods that have wrought devastation in central Europe.
"I wonder if we can expect the EU to act as quickly now as it did when the banks and the financial sector needed saving," Ader told journalists after meeting with his central European peers in Bratislava.
"At the moment, the EU has no tool to provide immediate help in case of natural disasters," he said, calling for changes for a more effective system.
"The impact of natural disasters on countries that are going through or recovering from a serious economic crisis could have grave political and social consequences," he added.
The Hungarian capital Budapest on Monday averted the worst of the floods as defences held firm on the Danube river despite water levels reaching a historic high.
Meanwhile, EU powerhouse Germany said Thursday it intends to set up a fund worth about eight billion euros ($11 billion) to help German victims of record floods, which killed some 21 people and forced thousands from their homes across the region.
Germany pledges 8bn-euro fund for flood victims
The accord came at a meeting between Merkel, who has visited water-logged zones four times since the flooding began this month, and premiers of Germany's 16 states on the disaster's impact.
"The federal government and the states will each provide half of the national fund amounting to up to eight billion euros," Merkel told reporters after the meeting.
She dismissed calls to introduce new taxes or special levies to raise money for the relief fund, but said it would require a supplementary budget for this year.
The Bundestag lower house of parliament is to sign off on the financing by July 5, the last session before the summer recess.
No official figure has yet been given for the cost of the damage in Germany from the floods which also deluged other central European countries. The death toll rose to 21 on Thursday after Romania reported two more dead from the flooding.
After the "worst-of-the-century" floods in 2002, a 6.5-billion-euro fund was set up.
Last week Merkel, who is campaigning for a third term in September elections, already pledged immediate aid of 100 million euros.
Reiner Haseloff, premier of Saxony-Anhalt state, which has been badly hit by the flooding, had suggested in the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung a temporary increase of a tax levied on all personal income and businesses to help reconstruct former East Germany.
Water levels continued to slowly fall in northern Germany on Thursday and dykes were holding, including in Lauenburg in Schleswig-Holstein and Hitzacker in Lower Saxony, both of which were visited by Merkel on Wednesday.
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