Implementation of flood plans needs improvement, warns ECA

21 Nov 18

European Union flood-related actions suffer because of “weaknesses” in allocating money to match member states’ risk management plans, auditors have warned.

The European Court of Auditors carried out a review on flood prevention, protection and preparedness under the EU Floods Directive, to see if they were employed effectively, by visiting river basin projects in member states.

But it found that although the directive, from 2007, had led to progress in assessing the risk of floods, the planning and implementation of flood protection plans needed to be improved.

Phil Wynn Owen, the ECA member leading the audit, said: “Floods can cause injury, loss of life, considerable economic costs, damage to the environmental and cultural heritage.

“We found that the EU’s Floods Directive of 2007 had positive effects overall, but implementation plans suffered from weaknesses in allocating funding.”

The sources of financing were only partially identified and secured in the member states’ flood risk management plans, funding for cross-border investment was limited, and money was “generally not allocated in line with the priorities”, the report said.

This means that was not always enough money allocated to meet fund priorities set out in the countries’ flood risk management plans. It also found low insurance cover against floods.

At one river basin in Italy, the ECA estimated a gap of €1.1bn between planned spending and the available financing.

It said the commission only co-finances flood measures prioritised in accordance with future flood risk management plans and based on a “good-quality cost-benefit analysis” and a criterion considering the cross-border impact of projects.

The priorities are set out by the member states in their flood risk management plans.

The report added that most member states used cost-benefit analysis in order to achieve the best value for money from flood-related projects.

But the ECA also said that two-thirds of the countries did not focus their plans on green projects, which are most cost-efficient. Member states also did not factor in the impact of climate change, it added.

Wynn Owen told the media: “Flood events have become more frequent in Europe. In recent years, the trend shows that more than twice as many flash floods of medium to large magnitude have been registered as in the late 1980s.”

The damage caused by flooding could rise to €20bn a year by the 2020s, €46bn by the 2050s and €98bn by the 2080s, the report said.

The report called on the Commission to look at how far member states have examined the feasibility of implementing significant green measures when allocating funds.

The member states visited – Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands – had all started to implement flood risk management plans, the auditors said.

The ECA set out a total of eight recommendations for the Commission. Wynn Owen said the bloc had accepted or partially accepted six of them and is due to report to the European Parliament and the Council by next month about all water legislation, including the floods directive.

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