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Flood Risk Management In Europe: European flood regulation

By D.L.T. Hegger, M.H. Bakker, C. Green, Peter Driessen, B. Delvaux, H.F.M.W. van Rijswick, C. Suykens, J-C. Beyers, K. Deketelaere, W. van Doorn-Hoekveld and C. Dieperink


In Europe, water management is moving from flood defense to a risk management approach, which takes both the probability and the potential consequences of flooding into account. In this report, we will look at Directives and (non-)EU- initiatives in place to deal with flood risk in Europe indirectly and directly. Emphasis will lie on the two Directives most specifically aimed at floods: the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD) – how are they related and how they have been or are implemented in the Member States (MSs)?\ud In February 1995, the Netherlands and France took the initiative for a discussion on streamlining the water legislation of the European Union (EU) which resulted in the creation of the WFD in 2000. The WFD provided a new system for the protection and improvement of Europe’s water environment – its rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwaters. Its main innovation is the requirement that water be managed in an integrated way, with river basin management as leading managing unit. Since flood protection is not explicitly addressed in the WFD, the need to clarify the role of the WFD in flood protection was put on the European agenda as early as 2003, and in 2007, the FD became a fact. The FD is to be implemented in coordination with the WFD, notably by coordinating Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) and River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs).\ud Both the WFD and the FD reflect a shift in EU-governance. Instead of the more traditional top-down legalistic approach they emphasise the importance of more bottom up initiatives from the actors who have to implement the Directives. Combined with the expanded freedom and flexibility for national and local governments, with this new approach, the FD is the first Water Directive in EU law that does not offer an equal minimum level of protection for EU citizens. While both Directives are meant to harmonise European legislation, much flexibility on objectives and measures in the FD is left to the MSs, justified by the nature of flooding and the subsidiarity principle. This creates multi-actor, multi-level and multi-sector challenges addressed in report D1.1.2 (Hegger et al. 2013). For instance, the FD sets out general obligations for transboundary cooperation, but at the national level, the scope and distributions of duties, rights and powers of the various organizations involved should be set out in law. Other challenges identified in the literature are concrete issues related to mandatory flood risks assessments, flood risk maps, and Flood Risk Management plans, but also the involvement of the public and stakeholders, the science-policy interface, uncertainties related to climate change predictions and effects, the coordination with the WFD, the lack of safety standards, the lack of possibilities for EU citizens to rely on substantive provisions before the administrative courts and finally, transboundary aspects such as issues of scale, mismatches between national policies, the assessment of transboundary effects and division of costs related to this.\ud In sum, this report has clarified the development, content and implementation of the current European flood risk governance policies, possible synergies between the two most important Directives linked to floods, and identified topics and questions for more in-depth questions relevant for the next work packages, pertaining to, in no particular order, a) the level of implementation and level of ambition as well as the competent authorities in the case study countries; b) the transboundary nature of floods; c) synergies and conflicts between FD and WFD and other issues not mentioned in these Directives; d) the degree of harmonization, for instance when it comes to flood safety standards and e) the subsidiarity principle – is this conform the requirements set out in the FD? Because while current European flood regulation specified in the WFD and FD provides several potential opportunities for improving flood risk governance, it is not self-evident that all of these opportunities will materialise in all MSs

Topics: Milieukunde, Rechtsgeleerdheid, Milieukunde, Europe, Water Framework Directive, Floods Directive, Flood Risk Management, Flood risk regulation, Transboundary floods
Publisher: STAR-FLOOD consortium
Year: 2013
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