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European Court of Auditors Calls for Stronger Action on Floods

Report points to major challenges surrounding flood insurance and risk management.
  • Robert O'Connor
  • January 2019
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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 eighties.

European Court of Auditors

In the face of what it sees as the increased flood risk caused by climate change, the European Court of Auditors has called for a strengthening of the European Union's flood defenses.

The ECA's action came as it offered qualified praise for the EU's 2007 Floods Directive.

The ECA, which is the EU's external auditor, reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The ECA's reports also go to national parliaments, industry groups and other interested parties.

The flood directive “led to progress in assessing the risks of floods, but the planning and implementation of flood protection should now be improved,” the ECA said in a statement accompanying what it described as a special report on the issue.

In addition to risks posed by climate change, the ECA report pointed to “major challenges” surrounding flood insurance, risk management and the optimal use of spaces.

“Floods can cause injury, loss of life, considerable economic costs, damage to the environment and cultural heritage,” Phil Wynn Owen, the court member who was responsible for the report, said in a statement.

Climate change, the report said, has increased the severity of storms and brought higher sea levels.

“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 eighties,” the ECA said.

The ECA cited predictions from the European Environment Agency that “fluvial, pluvial and coastal” flooding will become more serious in Europe. The court also noted the expectation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that rainfall will become more intense in Europe.

“Research shows that damage caused by flooding could rise to €20 billion (US$22.7 billion) a year by the 2020s, €46 billion by the 2050s, and €98 billion by the 2080s,” the ECA said.

In recounting its visits to anti-flood projects in a number of EU member states, the ECA said such efforts should be based on “sound analysis.” The visits, the ACA said, occurred in Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.”

Central Europe was hit by severe flooding in 2002 and again in 2013. The 2013 floods caused serious damage in a number of countries, including Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland.


Robert O’Connor is London editor, BestWeek. He can be reached at

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