Towards a Community programme for flood risk management
Given the risks to health, property and the environment, the Commission analyses the measures already taken and proposes an action programme on flood prevention, protection and mitigation.
Commission Communication of 12 July 2004 "Flood risk management - flood prevention, protection and mitigation" [COM(2004) 472 final - Official Journal C 49, 28 February 2006].
The situation with regard to flooding
Between 1998 and 2002, Europe suffered over 100 major floods, including the catastrophic floods along the Danube and Elbe rivers in 2002. These floods had a disastrous impact on the people affected, in terms of their health (some 700 fatalities since 1998), their social situation (displacement of about half a million people) and their economic situation (at least EUR 25 billion in insured economic losses). These floods also had severe environmental consequences (risks of contamination when waste water treatment plants are affected or chemicals are involved, destruction of biodiversity, etc.).
The Commission indicates that river and coastal floods vary considerably in size and duration and that the root causes of floods (rainfall, storms or major variations in sea level) are natural phenomena and essentially uncontrollable. However, it also points out that the damage resulting from floods is very much influenced by human actions (clearing of forests, straightening of rivers, and extensive building in high-risk areas, etc.).
Lastly, the Commission considers that the frequency of flooding will increase (as a result of climate change and the growing increase in the number of people and economic assets in flood risk zones), calling for concerted action at EU level.
Action undertaken and in progress
The EU already has a number of instruments for flood prevention and management:
- in the research area, with the 5th and 6th research framework programmes;
- in the regional policy area, in particular with the Structural Funds, e.g. the INTERREG initiative and the Cohesion Fund;
- with the EU solidarity fund, which grants rapid financial assistance;
- in the field of the common agricultural policy, the reform of which focuses, in particular, on rural development;
- in the environmental field, the Water Framework Directive will help to mitigate the effects of floods, even if this is not one of its main objectives, and the establishment of the monitoring and information centre (MIC) will serve to improve the preparedness of the national protection authorities.
For their part, several Member States have drawn up flood protection plans and strategies and flood risk maps. Their level of involvement and the type of initiatives they take depend however on the type of flood risk (river, coastal, etc.) to which the country is exposed and the degree of risk.
In addition, international cooperation is being established for river basins such as the Rhine, Oder, Meuse, Danube, Saar, Moselle and Elbe: the countries bordering these rivers have established bodies to ensure a coordinated approach to flood risk management and cross-border protection plans.
Towards a European action programme
The Commission proposes that the Member States should cooperate with it to draw up and implement a coordinated action programme for flood prevention, protection and mitigation.
This action plan would include in particular:
- improving cooperation and coordination between Member States through the development and implementation of flood risk management plans for each adversely affected river basin and coastal zone;
- development and implementation of flood risk maps by the Member States;
- improving information exchange, sharing of experiences, and the coordinated development and promotion of best practices; these measures would in particular fall within the area of responsibility of the Commission;
- developing stronger linkages between the research community and the authorities responsible for flood management;
- improving coordination between the relevant Community policies;
- increasing awareness of flood risks through wider stakeholder participation and more effective communication.
Lastly, in an annex, the communication sets out guidelines concerning the essential features of the flood risk management plans and flood risk maps to be drawn up by the Member States.