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EU Sues Greece for Failing to Revise Flood Risk Plans

Greece Flood Risk
At least 16 people died from the floods caused by Storm Daniel in September 2023. Credit: Amna

The European Commission is taking Greece to the EU’s top court for failing to revise its flood risk management plans, a key tool for EU countries to prepare themselves against floods.

The action comes five months after the worst rains in Greece flooded its fertile Thessaly plain, devastating crops and livestock and raising questions about the Mediterranean country’s ability to deal with an increasingly erratic climate.

Under EU rules, countries need to update once in six years their flood management plans, under the commission’s Water Framework Directive, a set of measures aimed to help them mitigate the risks of floods on human lives, the environment and economic activities.

“Compliance with the Floods Directive is critical for preparedness and management of floods. Under the Floods Directive, Member States must also update and report their flood risk management plans every six years.

“These plans are key to fulfil the objectives of the Floods Directive, that is to reduce and manage the risks that floods pose to human health, the environment, cultural heritage, and economic activity. Greece has so far not reviewed, adopted nor reported its flood risk management plans,” the European Commission says.

The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Greece in February 2023. This was followed, in November 2023, by a reasoned opinion calling on Greece to comply with its obligations and complete the review of its plans.

“However, the relevant plans have still not been finalized. The Commission considers that efforts by the Greek authorities have, to date, been insufficient and is therefore referring Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union,” it adds.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court of the European Union, may impose a sanction, which may consist of a one-time payment if compliance is achieved before the judgement or a daily penalty to encourage the member state in question to promptly rectify the infringement following the court’s ruling.

Greece’s flood risk exposed by Storm Daniel in September

Storm Daniel which hit Greece in early September 2023 left 16 people dead in Thessaly, central Greece. Whole towns were submerged for weeks and agriculture in the region regarded as the bread-basket of Greece, was devastated.

The government promised to urgently repair the damage and compensate farmers who lost their crops and animals. However, months later not much has been achieved.

Farmer unions have been demonstrating for much of February calling among other things their full compensation for the floods.

Thousands of Greek farmers arrived, many driving their tractors, in Athens after farmers’ unions who have been in negotiations with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government for weeks said the measures announced so far don’t go far enough to satisfy their concerns.

The floods and the farmers’ protests that followed were some of the most serious challenges faced by the government which took pride in its ability in crisis management.

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