Flooding is a major natural hazard affecting Albania, together with earthquakes and fires. Major floods hit the country in the last decade, with remarkable ones in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, which prompted EU assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) and Copernicus rapid mapping.
The February 2015 floods were particularly severe, triggered by heavy rain and snowmelt, and swamped more than 6000 hectares of land in the Vjosa River Basin. In the immediate response phase, the EUCPM coordinated in kind assistance from Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Belgium and Montenegro. Assistance came from the Italian NGO “Misericordia”, Dutch and Canadian Red Cross, and others from Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Turkey and Israel. EU, UN and WB jointly provided expertise for the post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA), which estimated damages, losses, and immediate needs to EUR 110 million. The EU mobilised EUR 14.9 Million under IPA 2013 for a flood recovery programme addressing three dimensions: Infrastructure and flood control (EUR 6 million), Agricultural damage recovery (EUR 6.4 million), Civil protection preparedness & disaster risk reduction (EUR 2.5 million).
The last component of the flood recovery programme (PRO-NEWS “Programme for Improving National Early Warning System and Flood Prevention”; EUR 2.3 million) was implemented by a Consortium led by the Italian Civil Protection Department. The project has reached completion and achieved several key results: prefectures` emergency plans harmonized and upgraded; flood hazards maps adopted for 270km of rivers with high flood risk; Albania integrated in the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS); automatic hydrometric and meteorological stations (AWS) rehabilitated and upgraded; national awareness raising enhanced through campaigns and tools; legal and institutional assistance to the National Emergencies Directorate (now the National Agency for Civil Protection) including support for preparing Albania membership to EUCPM.
Pro-news has contributed substantially to build up Albania capacities on flood prevention, early warning and preparedness, and align with the EU Floods Directive 2007/60/EC. As a follow up action building on Pro-news, the EU is financing the elaboration of flood risk maps and management plans in five river basins (Ishem, Erzen, Semani, Shkumbini, Vjosa) through the Western Balkans Investment Framework. The EU constantly stresses in its policy dialogue and annual reports the need for the Government of Albania to invest more in human and budgetary resources of the key national agencies for the water and civil protection sectors and in the sustainability of systems. This would enable Albania to increase its resilience to natural disasters, ensure continuous national capacity building commensurate to the country`s needs, and capture fully the benefits of EU funded supports at national and regional levels.