Greece under scrutiny for failing to implement EU floods directive


Sept 22, 2023. Posted by  Balkan Periscope - Hellas


As Central Greece starts to recover from the deadly floods caused by Storm Daniel, authorities are coming under scrutiny for their lack of preparation and failure to implement EU directives on flood management.

By Annita Elissaiou | EURACTIV

Storm Daniel was the deadliest tropical-like storm that hit Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean earlier this month, leaving 17 dead behind and causing massive damage to infrastructure and agricultural production. 

A prosecutor’s investigation has been initiated to determine the adequacy of prevention measures taken by local authorities. 

It comes amid accusations of intervention in a nearby river dyke, prompting discussions about flooding by intention. 

Regional and local authorities had allegedly requested a dyke of river Kalentzis to be broken to divert its waters and minimise the flooding in bigger cities.

If confirmed, the move came at a high cost for the nearby villages, which were swept underwater by the floods. 

Regional and local government bodies have blamed each other for taking the decision. 

The investigation will determine who is at fault, but the situation again highlights Greece’s lack of preparedness.


EU directives ignored

As the waters withdraw and the extent of the damage becomes visible, the government and local authorities are urged to improve their defences against extreme weather phenomena caused by climate change. 

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a set of measures to relieve and restore the Thessaly region after the floods.

Amongst the measures, which mainly concern compensation for the affected population, is the creation of a new water management body in Thessaly that will be responsible for conducting studies and completing works in the region, ensuring the management of its rivers and the protection of its crops.

Greece has been lagging in implementing EU legislation for the effective management of rivers and tackling flooding risks. 

Under the EU’s Water Framework Directive, adopted in 2000, every EU country is expected to adopt a river basin management plan and report to the European Commission every six years. The same applies to the Floods Directive, adopted in 2007, whose purpose is to help reduce and manage the risks of flooding across Europe. 

The European Commission is closely following the implementation of the Floods Directive, a Commission spokesperson told Euractiv. 

The spokesperson said Greece has failed to revise the necessary documents on time, which led to the Commission opening an infringement procedure in February.

The value of water management

The lack of resilience to floods is a water management issue, says Claire Baffert, Senior Water Policy Officer at WWF. 

Human activity and interventions on rivers have affected and degraded freshwater ecosystems, raising the need for more EU action for their restoration, she told Euractiv. 

The Water Framework Directive has effectively prevented degradation but is poorly implemented. 

“There is a lack of implementation on behalf of Member States and enforcement on behalf of the Commission,” Baffert said.

“The Water Framework Directive is still very relevant, but it needs to be better implemented, and measures which prioritise water retention in the landscape, such as floodplain restoration, need to be taken urgently,” she added.