As introduced in Chapter 2, all EU Member States have to implement Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks – or in short the Floods Directive. The Floods Directive requires the identification of areas at risk of flooding, making flood risk maps indicating the type and level of risk and developing flood risk management plans that describe the measures that are taken to deal with flood risk. For good practices concerning flood risk assessment we refer to the FLOODsite Best practice guide on flood risk assessment and management (FLOODsite, 2009)
The flood risk management plans for flood prone areas had to be finished by 22 December 2015. The plans should specify appropriate objectives for reducing the likelihood and adverse effects of flooding and measures to achieve these objectives. Strategies to be considered include prevention, protection and preparedness, as well as mitigation through sustainable land use practices, water retention and controlled flooding. This includes strategies that increase resistance against floods as well as strategies that increase the ability to absorb and recover from floods, thus promoting resilience. Furthermore, the measures should take into account the characteristics of the particular river basin. The Floods Directive offers the Member States a large amount of freedom to select the measures that fit well with their own situation.
Together with Working Group on floods of the Common Implementation Strategy of the Water Framework Directive the STAR-FLOOD partners organised an expert workshop on setting objectives, determining measures and prioritising them. The workshop took place in Brussels at 16 October 2013.
An important finding was that existing practices are so diverse that, in general, it does not seem to be feasible or desirable to be more prescriptive at the EU level. Another finding was that the Floods Directive in several countries fulfils an agenda setting purpose, fuelling debates on new flood risk management measures. Furthermore, the workshop pointed out that the progress in drafting the flood risk management plans differed strongly between Member States, and that tools need to be developed to predict (in advance) and demonstrate (afterwards) the effects of measures on goal achievement. Exchange of this knowledge among Member States is needed, in order to learn from each other and improve the future selection of measures. More concrete examples of how the objectives are set, and measures are developed and prioritised in different Members States can be found in the workshop report (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 2.1 in §8.2.1).
The EU Floods Directive also promotes legitimacy by reinforcing the rights of the public to access this information and to have a say in the planning process. A weak point in this respect is that it has no provision for access to justice. The implementation is carried out in strong coordination with the Water Framework Directive, notably by coordination of the flood risk management plans and river basin management plans and coordination of the public participation procedures.
In some countries, like the Netherlands, the impact of the Floods Directive is considered to be limited, as integrated plans were already in place before the introduction of the Directive and were also developed in parallel processes. In other countries, we found that the Floods Directive had a particularly strong and positive influence in reshaping flood risk management. Poland is good example of such a country although the process of implementation of the new approach is still at an early stage.
The Floods Directive, the Water Framework Directive, and other EU regulations have become a clear reference point for flood risk management and water management policies in Poland. Moreover, accession to the EU has brought inflow of funds resulting in a significant number of infrastructure investments. EU regulations initially also caused changes towards more environmentally friendly ‘softer’ management. However, after a recent change in government the focus shifted back to ‘hard’ infrastructural measures with less concern for the environment.
The Floods Directive created a more strategic and proactive perspective on flood risk management rather than being reactive and ad hoc after an event. As a result of a lack of a national flood strategy, the practical idea arose to repeat good practices from England (in terms of institutional design etc.). However, the English approach is difficult to copy to a complete different context. The implementation of basin-based water management (implemented in 1991) and the flood risk maps (resulting from the EU Floods Directive) serve as examples.
Other countries with relatively undeveloped flood risk management policies are advised to also seize the window of opportunity that the EU Floods Directive offers to analyse flood risks, develop an integrated strategy and learn during the implementation. Exchange in the Working Group on Floods under the Common Implementation Strategy may stimulate mutual learning (STAR-FLOOD Ddliverable 3.6, see §8.2.1).