Josette Nouguier and Jean-Louis Marsaud examine the EC proposal for a directive on floods.

Between 1998 and 2004 Europe suffered over 100 major flood events with disastrous consequences, in particular the catastrophic flooding on the Danube and the Elbe during the summer of 2002. The serious floods of 2005 confirmed the need for the EU to take appropriate action.

The proposal for a directive on the assessment and management of floods was submitted on 18 January 2006. The aim is to help member states prevent and limit the consequences of floods. This initiative reflects a risk approach which fully meets the concerns of insurers to limit the risks associated with floods, and their impact on infrastructure and property, in the ultimate interest of their customers. Key points include:

• Preliminary flood risk assessment of river basins and coastal areas, and the development of international cooperation in this field; • Preparation of flood risk maps where real risks of flood damage exist; and• Development of flood risk management plans for those zones, focused on prevention of damage, protection of river basins and public preparedness.

For European insurers represented by the Comité Européen des Assurances (CEA), prevention measures are essential to counter two trends which indicate an increased flood risk and greater economic impact of floods in Europe. Firstly, the scale and frequency of floods are likely to increase as a result of climate change, inappropriate river management and unsupervised construction in flood risk areas.

Secondly, the economic damage from floods is expected to rise, because of the increasing number of people and economic assets located in flood risk zones.

CEA is willing to contribute fully to ongoing reflections, in particular via the experience of its members in the field of flood risk mapping. Public/private partnerships (PPP) could play an important role in maintaining and extending the availability of insurance for natural catastrophes on European markets and in reducing the need to seek community support via instruments such as the EU Solidarity Fund (which was set up to intervene mainly in cases of major natural disasters with serious repercussions on living conditions, the natural environment or the economy in one or more regions of a member state).

In addition, it would be very useful to improve sharing and access to geographical data available at government level for insurers and other stakeholders. Here again, PPPs must be improved, as in the example of the HORA project in Austria (a PPP set up to create a natural disaster zoning system).