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Brussels, 25 April 2007

Environment: European Parliament and Council reach agreement on the new Floods Directive

The European Parliament today adopted a set of compromise amendments agreed with the EU Council of Ministers on the proposal for a directive on the assessment and management of flood risks. The directive was proposed by the Commission in 2006[1] in order to prevent and limit floods and their damaging effects on human health, the environment, infrastructure and property. Since 1998, floods in Europe have caused some 700 deaths, the displacement of about half a million people and at least €25 billion in insured economic losses. The new directive will require Member States to identify the river basins and associated coastal areas which are subject to flood risk. They will have to draw up flood risk maps and management plans for those zones.

Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas said: “We very much welcome the fact that Parliament and Council have agreed so rapidly on the Floods Directive. This directive makes flood management a key part of river basin management. It will place more emphasis on non-structural measures like using natural flood plains as retention areas for water during floods. Flood risk and the associated economic damage are likely to increase in Europe in the coming decades. Even if we are successful in limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, climate change will have serious impacts in Europe and elsewhere. The best way to reduce the costs of adapting to climate change is to take early action. The Flood Directive will help the European Union to do so”.

A three-stage process

Flood risk and the associated economic damage need to be limited. If river basins are not managed properly, more and more people will be living and working in flood plains. This in turn will reduce the capacity of flood plains to absorb flood waters. Although floods are a natural phenomenon, and cannot be entirely prevented, a coherent, long-term strategy for flood risk management can reverse the trend towards increased damage from floods. Moreover, climate change is expected to lead to more intense rainfall and to a rise in sea levels. As a consequence, floods risks are likely to increase in Europe in the coming decades.

The Commission reacted to the dramatic floods of 2002 by calling in 2004 for EU legislation on flood risk management. [2]

The Directive adopted by Council and Parliament will require that Member States take a long-term planning approach to reducing flood risks in three stages:

  1. Member States will by 2011 undertake a preliminary flood risk assessment of their river basins and associated coastal zones.
  2. Where real risks of flood damage exist, they must by 2013 develop flood hazard maps and flood risk maps.
  3. Finally, by 2015 flood risk management plans must be drawn up for these zones. These plans are to include measures to reduce the probability of flooding and its potential consequences. They will address all phases of the flood risk management cycle but focus particularly on prevention (i.e. preventing damage caused by floods by avoiding construction of houses and industries in present and future flood-prone areas or by adapting future developments to the risk of flooding), protection (by taking measures to reduce the likelihood of floods and/or the impact of floods in a specific location such as restoring flood plains and wetlands) and preparedness (e.g. providing instructions to the public on what to do in the event of flooding).

In the case of international river basins, Member States must coordinate so that problems are not passed on from one area to another. All stakeholders must be given the opportunity to participate actively in the development and updating of the flood risk management plans. Risk assessments, maps and plans must furthermore be made available to the public. These three steps are to be repeated in a six-year cycle to ensure that long-term developments are taken into account.

The Directive creates an EU framework for flood risk management that builds on and is closely coordinated and synchronised with the 2000 Water Framework Directive,[3] the cornerstone of EU water protection policy.
The proposal and accompanying documents, as well as other information on EU water policy, can be found at:

[1] COM(2006)15 final of 18.01.2006. Commission's Communication on the Common position COM(2006)775 of 6.12.2006.

[2] COM(2004)472 final of 12.07.2004.

[3] Directive 2000/60/EC

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