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A European Flood Action programme

Towards a legal instrument on flood risk management

Political mandate

During 2005 the Commission developed a proposal for a Directive on flood risk management, including extensive consultations with stakeholders and the public.

The starting point for the development of the legal instrument is the annex of the Commission’s Communication on Flood risk management, taking into account the principles of flexibility and subsidiarity which have been recalled in the Council conclusions as well. Opinions expressed by other EU institutions such as the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee where also taken into account.

At the EU Water Directors meeting in Amsterdam 2-3 December 2004 there was overall support for the 'package' approach, as well as emphasis that a possible legal instrument must not be the only deliverable of concerted European action on flood prevention/protection. Water Directors invited the Commission to further elaborate on the 'package' using as well the foreseen consultation process.

The development of flood risk management plans and of river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive and are both elements of integrated river basin management. Therefore, as envisaged by the Commission and confirmed in the Council conclusions, one of the guiding principles of the approach to be developed is that there is a strong linkage with the Water Framework Directive (WFD) .

Extensive consultation of stakeholders and the public

In the summer of 2005 an internet consultation on a draft Directive was undertaken and a number of stakeholder meetings were held in 2005.

One of the issues identified during the stakeholder consultation process was the need to start with a preliminary risk assessment in order to apply a risk-based approach and to identify those river basins and/or sub-basins where no further action has to be taken because there is no potential significant flood risks . This would allow for targeted action in ‘risk’ areas whilst avoiding action in ‘no significant risk’ areas. Secondly, the majority of Member States underlined the need for a flexible approaches which:

i. recognised the diversity of natural conditions across Europe ;

ii. was based - for inland waters - on an integrated approach to be applied within each river basin;

iii. took account of existing actions at national and international level and avoided duplication;

iv. was very closely co-ordinated with the implementation of the Water Framework Directive;

v. was based on a step-wise approach to the elaboration of flood-risk maps, and the development and implementation of flood management programmes.

A total of 261 replies to the internet consultation were received: 59.8% of them from organisations and institutions (including Member States), and the other 40.2% from individuals. The replies were from EU Member States and Candidate Countries, half of them from Germany , Romania and the United Kingdom .

The main conclusion that can be drawn from this consultation is that an overwhelming majority of respondents either completely agree or largely agree with the idea that the EU Flood Action Programme should include a legal instrument imposing an obligation to pursue an integrated and co-ordinated approach based on the principle of solidarity and shared responsibility.

A detailed account of the results can be found at: 

See also :