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The European Union approach to flood risk management and improving societal resilience: lessons from the implementation of the Floods Directive in six European countries

Sally J Priest, Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University, UK
Cathy Suykens, Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Helena F.M.W. Van Rijswick, Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Thomas Schellenberger, University François Rabelais, France
Susana Goytia, Luleċ University of Technology, Sweden
Zbigniew W Kundzewicz, Institute of Agriculture and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland; Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
Willemijn J van Doorn-Hoekveld, Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Jean-Christophe Beyers, Institute for Environmental and Energy Law, KU Leuven, Belgium
Stephen Homewood, Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University, UK

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08913-210450

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Abstract

Diversity in flood risk management approaches is often considered to be a strength. However, in some national settings, and especially for transboundary rivers, variability and incompatibility of approaches can reduce the effectiveness of flood risk management. Placed in the context of increasing flood risks, as well as the potential for flooding to undermine the European Union’s sustainable development goals, a desire to increase societal resilience to flooding has prompted the introduction of a common European Framework. We provide a legal and policy analysis of the implementation of the Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) in six countries: Belgium (Flemish region), England, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden. Evaluation criteria from existing legal and policy literature frame the study of the Directive and its effect on enhancing or constraining societal resilience by using an adaptive governance approach. These criteria are initially used to analyze the key components of the EU approach, before providing insight of the implementation of the Directive at a national level. Similarities and differences in the legal translation of European goals into existing flood risk management are analyzed alongside their relative influence on policy and practice. The research highlights that the effect of the Floods Directive on increasing societal resilience has been nationally variable, in part because of its focus on procedural obligations, rather than on more substantive requirements. Analysis shows that despite a focus on transboundary river basin management, existing traditions of flood risk management have overridden objectives to harmonize flood risk management in some cases. The Directive could be strengthened by requiring more stringent cooperation and providing the competent authorities in international river basin districts with more power. Despite some shortcomings in directly affecting flood risk outcomes, the Directive has positively stimulated discussion and flood risk management planning in countries that were perhaps lagging behind.

Key words

adaptive governance; Floods Directive; legal analysis; policy analysis; societal resilience

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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