After three years of collaborative and intense work, the Steering Group members of the EU-funded Programme for Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Floods in the Western Balkans and TurkeyIPA FLOODS met at the European Commission Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations DG ECHO headquarters in Brussels on 18 January 2018, in order to share lessons learned, discuss the way forward and the sustainability of the results achieved.

The meeting audience included the Programme Focal Points in the Beneficiaries, representatives from DG ECHO and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Bank and the partners of IPA FLOODS implementing Consortium (Italian Civil Protection Department, DPC; German Federal Agency for Technical Relief, THW; National Protection and Rescue Directorate of the Republic of Croatia, DUZS; Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, URSZR; Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB; CIMA Research Foundation, Italy; Studiare Sviluppo Srl, Italy).

IPA FLOODS Steering Group Members at ERCC

IPA FLOODS Steering Group Members at ERCC

IPA FLOODS built upon the results of the previously conducted IPA Civil Protection Cooperation Programme I (2010-2013) and II (2013-2015), and represented a key initiative in the Region. It was indeed an important step within the capacity building process started under the Bled Initiative (2008); the added value of the Programme was scaling up the process by encompassing both disaster prevention and preparedness for response as well as by upgrading operational capacities in the Beneficiaries.

Since the IPA FLOODS start in January 2015, the Beneficiaries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia – only for IPA FLOODS Lot 1, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) pursued responsively all Programme objectives with a proactive and enthusiastic attitude. The main Programme results are developed six multinational civil protection modules for response to floods: Flood Rescue using Boats, Flood Containment and High Capacity Pumping module. These Modules are equipped, trained and exercised at both management and operational level. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures were drafted for all national flood response teams and multinational civil protection modules, including arrangements for rapid border-crossing and Host Nation Support. A tailored capacity building programme on approximation to the EU Floods Directive and a road-map for future actions in flood risk management was one of the main achievements of the Programme related to disaster prevention.

In addition to these satisfactory results, there are some worth-mentioning additional successes acknowledged by all Programme stakeholders: by bringing together experts and practitioners from different countries in the Region jointly with experts from the partners of the implementing Consortium, IPA FLOODS increased reciprocal knowledge and reinforced trustful relations at operational, head-quarters and institutional levels. These trustful relations are crucial for sharing the knowledge and joining capacities in dealing with disasters and shall be maintained in the future. We could already see practical implementation of these achievements: some Beneficiaries like Albania and Kosovo* had already the occasion to deploy their teams in real emergencies (e.g. Albanian floods in November 2016 and in December 2017). The meeting audience recognized that all these successes couldn’t be reached without the productive cooperation of all the parties involved and the highly consultative and participative approach to Programme implementation adopted by the implementing Consortium that contributed to ensure the adequate enhancement of existing capacities and resources along with the ownership of the results by the Beneficiaries. Indeed IPA FLOODS progress was ensured by a number of key aspects, including but not limited to the relevance of the programme to the regional context and the subsequent support at the institutional level, the Beneficiaries’ solution-oriented approach in contributing the necessary resources in Programme activities and taking advantage from the stream of benefits produced, as well as the complementing leadership of Consortium partners over the IPA FLOODS portfolio of activities and the excellent relations among the Consortium experts.

During the debate on all activities carried out, the Beneficiaries’ representatives praised the opportunities for cooperation and most of all the improved capacities and expertise provided by IPA FLOODS; they confirmed that their expectations were fairly met and requested that this process is continued in the near future. Indeed there is a need to continue investing in additional flood response capacities in the Region, especially increasing the capacities of the Beneficiaries in logistics and transportation of heavy flood response materials as well as arrangements for deployment of the multinational civil protection modules and their interoperability. Certainly the sustainability of the Programme results depends on the EU funding but also the capabilities of the Beneficiaries to keep the developed modules under IPA FLOODS operational. DG ECHO will work closely with DG NEAR in securing the funds for continuation taking into account other relevant programmes in the region. Lastly DG ECHO encouraged the Beneficiaries to use the existing opportunities under the UCPM, especially taking part in modules and full scale exercises and modules basic courses.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence