Risk-based governance against national obstacles? Comparative dynamics of Europeanization in Dutch, French, and German flooding policies

R. Paul*, F. Bouder, M. Wesseling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Comparative studies have recently highlighted obstacles related to continental European countries' proclivity for adopting risk-based governance. However, so far, the interface between risk-based policy-making in the EU and potential policy change in reluctant member states has been underexplored. We compare flooding policies in the Netherlands with those in France and Germany to establish the extent to and conditions under which EU-level risk-based policies can transform national governance approaches. Drawing on the concept of Europeanization, we compare national adaptation pressures stemming from the EU floods directive, investigate adaptation dynamics, and account for transformations towards risk-based thinking. We find that Europeanization enabled a mainstreaming of risk-based flooding policies in France and Germany, as national actors used the EU as a venue to entice a desired policy rationalization and centralization. By contrast, and somewhat unexpectedly, the Netherlands partially retrenched from EU procedures because the directive's reporting mechanisms were considered to breach The Hague's aspirational policy approach. Overall, the paper identifies a strong potential for even soft' EU policies to ease national reluctance to risk-based governance approaches, but it also indicates limits where member states use risk-based techniques within an aspirational protection framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1062
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number8
Early online date12 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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