Due to increasing flood risk, and recent flooding events, flood risk management is rising on the political agenda in many European countries. In addition, the introduction of the Floods Directive in 2007 requires all EU Member States to analyse flood risk in their country and develop integrated flood risk management plans. Yet, countries have a lot of freedom regarding the goals they strive for and the strategies and measures they employ to meet those goals. Also the STAR-FLOOD countries differ in the strategies they adopt. In Table 2.1 the relative importance of each of the five flood risk management strategies within the STAR-FLOOD countries is introduced.
Table 2.1: Overview of relative importance of flood risk management strategies in six EU countries (in 2015)
Belgium consists of three political regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. These regions have developed their own policy and planning independently in the last 25 years. After the 1953 and 1976 floods, flood risk governance in Belgium focussed mainly on risk prevention and flood defence. In more recent years mitigation measures were introduced. Due to the country’s institutional complexity, there is a wide range of instruments available in each of the regions.
Although the discourse in France focusses on the prevention strategy through the implementation of the risk prevention plan, the French policy is in fact mainly dominated by two strategies: defence and recovery. In 2002 France introduced its Action Programme for flood prevention (PAPI), which introduced the principle of integrated flood risk management at the local level. Within this action programme, flood defence remains dominant in financial terms, but other strategies are taking into account.
Due to historical events and dramatic experiences, Poland has a preference for technical infrastructure solutions to flood risk management. Poland mainly focusses on flood defences, supported by flood preparation and risk prevention. Due to pressure from the EU in relation to the implementation of the Floods Directive, Poland has also started to look at mitigation and recovery plans although implementation of this new approach has only just begun.
In the Netherlands flood protection has been a precondition for settlement in low-lying areas since the Middle Ages. After the 1953 floods the protection strategy gained even more momentum by implementation of the (first) Delta programme. The coastline was shortened and the height of the dikes and dunes were increased. In recent years flood risk mitigation and flood preparation have moved higher on the agenda.
Flood risk management also has a long history in England. Moreover, a diversified and holistic flood risk management approach has been in place for a long time, with all five strategies established for ca. 65 years. Within this approach a variety of measures have been consistently applied and in recent years new innovations and measures have been added. Examples include the uptake of property-level measures and community flood action plans to enhance strategies of mitigation, preparation and response. Now England has a relatively encompassing flood risk management approach, which gives different strategies more or less the same level of importance.
Sweden, in contrast with the other countries, does not have a national adaptation or flood risk strategy. Sweden addresses flood risk management mainly through a series of environmental policies. As the effects of flooding are primarily felt at the local level, most flood risk management measures are also taken at the local level. For example, emergency management and flood prepraration are organised by municipalities. Relatively little is organised at the national level. There is flood insurance available and included in the household or building insurance, implying that flood recovery is of importance. In recent years flood defence has moved higher on the agenda.
 Dark blue designates the relatively high importance of a strategy within a country and light blue the relatively low importance of a strategy. The designations are given at the national policy scale, there may be regional and local variations. The designation is based on analysis of many scientific and policy document and many stakeholder interviews per country (see WP3 reports in §8.2.1). Still, it is somewhat arbitrary in which category a strategy falls.