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The ESDN Quarterly Reports provide in-depth documentation of a selected topic on a quarterly basis. The current ESDN Quarterly Report is displayed below. For previous ESDN Quarterly Reports click here.
ESDN Quarterly Report May 2006, updated in late June 2006
The EU SDS process
by Ursula Kopp
This report gives a basic introduction to the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS) process launched in 2001, its connections to the related Cardiff and Lisbon processes and the revision of the EU SDS between 2004 and 2006. Since the renewed EU SDS has been adopted by the Brussels European Council at June 15-16, 2006, this updated report also summarizes some key features of the renewed EU SDS mainly focussing on those parts in which the EU SDS refers explicitly to policy making at the Member State (MS) level. Reactions of important stakeholder groups and links to relevant documents and events (such as public hearings on the EU SDS) are provided at the end of the report.
Following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the European Commission made a few attempts to foster the integration of environmental concerns into other policy fields. In 1993, for example, the Commission issued an internal communication on mechanisms to ensure the integration of the environment into the definition and implementation of policies, legislative acts and funding schemes. In 1997, when environmental policy integration (EPI) was enshrined as legal requirement in Article 6 of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Commission reviewed its 1993 communication and suggested new steps towards EPI in another communication.
In 1998, the various EPI activities at the EU level were consolidated in the
so-called “Cardiff Process”. The Cardiff European Council invited
all relevant Council formations to establish strategies for the integration
of environmental concerns into their sectoral policies, starting with energy,
agriculture and transport. The process was later extended to the sectors of
industry, internal market and development, fisheries, general affairs and financial
European Council 1998 and Cologne
European Council 1999)
At the 2001 Gothenburg European Council, the European Commission presented its communication “A sustainable Europe for a better world” as the proposal for “a European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development”. It was a delayed response to the request of the Helsinki European Council in December 1999. Since some member states objected to parts of the proposal, the Council members “welcomed” the draft but did not approve it as official EU strategy. Instead, they included 14 modestly ambitious paragraphs on SD in Europe in the Presidency Conclusions. Among public administrators, these paragraphs are widely regarded as temporary EU SDS.
In the run-up to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the EU SDS was complemented by a communication on the external dimension of sustainable development (COM(2002)82 final of 13 February 2002) at the Barcelona Summit in early 2002.
In March 2000, the European heads of state launched the so-called Lisbon Process at the Lisbon European Council. A key objective of this process is that the European Union should become "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustaining growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion" by 2010. Since various actors criticized the Lisbon Process repeatedly for its focus on growth and employment and the weak linkage to the EU SDS, the European heads of state complemented it with an environmental dimension at the Gothenburg European Council, and it reaffirmed that the Lisbon Strategy should be seen in the wider context of SD. However, in the 2004 mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy for economic, social and environmental renewal, the focus on growth and employment was reiterated.
The link of the EU SDS and the Lisbon Strategy was also a major issue of a public consultation on the EU SDS launched by the European Commission in July 2004 (for further details see below). The consultation showed that “Most contributions voice concerns about the way the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Lisbon Strategy complement each other. Many contributions indicate that the two strategies could not be in harmony, while others stress the need to bring them more into line with each other.“ (Summary of the Public Consultation for the Review of the European Sustainable Development Strategy 2001, SEC (2005) 451 of 31 March 2005)
The review of the EU SDS is a lengthy process that began in early 2004 and that is expected to be finalized with the adoption of the renewed EU SDS at the Brussels European Council in June 2006.
The key purpose of the 2004 public consultation on the EU SDS was to prepare the review of the strategy. It was open for three months for stakeholders from all over the world and provided the following two options:
In total, the Commission received around 1100 responses from the EU and third countries. Among them were 153 organisations with various backgrounds (such as environmental and social NGOs, think tanks, associations, companies, ministries, national, local and regional agencies). A look at the regional coverage of the predominantly very detailed responses from organisations shows that 70% came from six EU Member State, namely the United Kingdom (19%), Germany (17.2%), Italy (13.8%), Belgium (7.5%), France (6.3%) and Austria (6%).
A Commission staff working document, issued in March 2005, gives a very detailed Summary of the Public Consultation for the Review of the European Sustainable Development Strategy 2001 (SEC (2005) 451 of 31 March 2005).
In order to prepare the review of the EU SDS, the new Commission consulted not only the public, but it also asked the European Economic and Social Committee for its exploratory opinion. The committee issued its statement in April 2004.
Based on the results of the public consultation and on the work of the European Economic and Social Committee, the Commission presented the communication “The 2005 Review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy: Initial stock-taking and future orientations” In February 2005.
In May 2005, the Commission published a “Draft Declaration on Guiding Principles for Sustainable Development”. The Guiding Principles were adopted by the Brussels European Council in June 2005. The “Guiding Principles for Sustainable Development” serve as a conceptual basis for the renewed EU SDS, and they will most be part of the strategy document.
In December 2005, the European Commission finally presented its draft for the renewed EU SDS entitled “On the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy - A platform for action”. It describes some achievements of the last few years and “sets out further concrete actions for the coming years.”
The final phase of the revision of the EU SDS falls into the Austrian EU presidency. For revising the Commission’s “Platform for action”, the Austrian Presidency worked closely together with the “Friends of the Presidency Group”, a group that consists of representatives from all Member States and the European Commission and that can be brought to life whenever a Presidency needs help with a specific issue. The Austrian Presidency also tried to stimulate a broad political discussion, for example by involving all major Council formations in the review process. Between March and early June 2006, ten Council formations (for details see the box below) reported to the FoP group on the following three issues :
The statements of the ten Council formations are working documents for the FoP that are not disclosed to the public.
In the first half of 2006, a number of stakeholder organisations and expert groups issued statements and studies related to the review of the EU SDS. A selection is listed here. Further contributions to the review of the EU SDS by various organisations can be found at the European Commission´s website:
The review of the EU SDS was subject of several public hearings and informative events. A selection of events that took place in 2006 are listed here. The links to the events provide further information on the revision of the EU SDS.
The following part of the Quarterly Report was updated after the adoption of the renewed EU SDS by the Brussels European Council at June 15-16, 2006, summarizes those key features of the renewed EU SDS which refer explicitly to policy making in the Member States and lists reactions of important stakeholder groups.
After an intensive negotiation process under the Austrian Presidency the Brussels European Council adopted the renewed EU SDS on June 15-16, 2006. Paragraph 17 of the Presidency Conclusions states, “While positive achievements have been made since the Gothenburg European Council, many challenges remain. The European Council therefore adopts an ambitious and comprehensive renewed EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (doc. 10117/06). The implementation of this Strategy will be closely monitored and followed up by the European Council on a regular basis.”
With the renewed EU SDS the EU sets itself the overall goal to “identify and develop actions to enable the EU to achieve continuous improvement of quality of life both for current and for future generations, through the creation of sustainable communities able to manage and use resources efficiently and to tap the ecological and social innovation potential of the economy, ensuring prosperity, environmental protection and social cohesion.” (p. 3).
In order to achieve this overall goal, the EU SDS states four key objectives, ten policy guiding principles, and seven key challenges. Moreover it addresses the linkage between the EU SDS and the Lisbon Strategy, and cross cutting issues such as education and research, communication of SD, financial policies, and follow-up and monitoring mechanisms.
The policy guiding principles stated in the renewed EU SDS are the following (p. 4-5):
These principles are not new. They have been proposed by a European Commission’s Communication in May 2005 which has been adopted by the European Council in June 2005. However, since the EU SDS is supposed to be a comprehensive EU document on SD, it reiterates the principles.
The seven key challenges stated in the EU SDS which account for about two thirds of the document are the following
The ESDN in the renewed EU SDS
This section highlights passages in which the EU SDS refers explicitly to policy making at the Member State (MS) level. It gives national and sub-national SD coordinators an overview of what the policy guiding principles, the key challenges and the cross-cutting issues outlined in the EU SDS may imply for their work.
Although all ten policy guiding principles outlined in the EU SDS are relevant for the MS, one addresses the MS level of governance explicitly. Under the heading of “better policy making”, the strategy states that “the principle that sustainable development is to be integrated into policy-making at all levels. This requires all levels of government to support, and to cooperate with, each other, taking into account the different institutional settings, cultures and specific circumstances in Member States.”
The quest for better policy-making implies that all policy decisions should undergo assessments considering all three plus the external dimensions of SD, and the costs of inaction. MS should make wide use of the tools impact assessment, ex-post-assessment of policy impact and public or stakeholder participation. Impact assessments should be conducted in particular when MS allocate public funds and develop strategies, programmes and projects.
Climate Change (p. 9)
This key challenge refers to Kyoto Protocol commitments of the EU and contains detailed aims regarding
It further states that the Commission and MS “will prioritise new actions
to systematically exploit cost-effective emission reduction options for cars
and aviation. In this context carbon sequestration and storage will be explored
as mitigation options”.
Sustainable Transport (p. 10-11)
Regarding environmental impact one key aim is the decoupling of economic growth
and the demand for transport.
Sustainable Consumption and Production (p. 12-13)
The Commission and MS will
MS should “support information campaigns with retailers and other organisations to promote sustainable products” (such as products from organic farming and fair trade and environmentally sound products).
Another aim in this field is to “achieve by 2010 an EU average level of Green Public Procurement (GPP) equal to that currently achieved by the best performing Member States” in a structured process and by promoting GPP at the local level.
In order to increase the EU global market share in the field of environmental technologies and eco-innovations the Commission and MS will “step up efforts to promote and disseminate social and eco-innovations and environmental technologies, inter alia through effective implementation of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP)”.
Conservation and management of natural resources (p. 13-14)
This chapter deals with renewable natural resources, resource efficiency, agriculture, water resource management, biodiversity, and the protection of nature. Concerning nature protection, the EU SDS is relatively detailed regarding the role of MS in the following two points:
Public health (p. 15-17)
This key challenge includes both human health issues as well as “high animal health and welfare standards in the EU and internationally”.
Concerning human health,
Social inclusion, demography and migration (p. 17-19)
This section of the EU SDS deals with migration and integration, with employment, poverty and modernisation of social protection. Some of the objectives and measures that address a direct involvement of the MS level of governance are the following:
By 2010 the labour market participation of women, older workers, young people, migrants and disabled persons shall be increased significantly. At the same time the negative effects of globalisation on employees as well as families shall be reduced. Regarding young people, the EU SDS strives to reduce the number of people leaving school early to 10%, and "at least 85% of 22 year olds should have completed upper secondary education”. By the end of 2007, every young unemployed should be offered adequate employment or training within six months (four months after 2010). The MS will “continue implementation of the European Pact for Youth” and will support structured dialogues between youth and governments. In the dialogues held so far, the European Youth Forum has played an important role (for a comment of the European Youth Forum on the renewed EU SDS, click here).
Based on new objectives for social protection and social inclusion (endorsed by the European Council in March 2006), MS and the Commission “will continue their cooperation using the open method of coordination (OMC)”. In this context, the EU and MS will also take measures to “rapidly and significantly reduce child poverty and will work towards giving all children equal opportunities, regardless of their social background, gender or disabilities”.
Taking into account the demographic change MS should analyse its implications “for land use and resource and energy consumption as well as mobility, and take them into account in planning and investment at all levels”.
Global poverty and sustainable development challenges (p. 20-21)
A key objective of this challenge is to “raise the volume of aid to 0,7% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015 with an intermediate target of 0,56% in 2010”, whereas MS who are far behind the target are given the freedom to aim at reduced, but clearly defined targets.
Education is considered as one of the main prerequisites for the responsible implementation of sustainable development. High quality education must be ensured on all levels, special attention should be devoted to teachers training. In the context of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) all MS should further develop their national action plans with regards to the ‘Education and training 2010’ work programme. Furthermore, MS should develop “education for sustainable development and targeted training for professions in key sectors such as construction, energy and transport”. Based on the Communication "i2010 - A European Information Society for Growth and Employment", the Commission and MS “should address issues such as equal opportunities, ICT skills and regional divides”.
Further research on the interplay between social, economic and ecological systems giving both short term answers and long-term visions for problems on regional and global scale, is needed. Methodologies and instruments for risk analysis, back- and forecasting and prevention systems need to be developed further.
It is also suggested that, “for better understanding of interlinkages between the three dimensions of SD”, the system of national income accounting could be extended by elements representing e.g. environmental expenditures, material flows, non-market work.
FINANCING AND ECONOMIC INSTRUMENTS (p. 24)
Regarding environmental tax reforms, the EU SDS encourages MS to “consider further steps to shift taxation from labour to resource and energy consumption and/or pollution”. This should help to increase employment and to reduce negative environmental impacts.
In order to ensure that EU funding supports sustainable developments in an optimum way, MS and the Commission should “co-ordinate to enhance complementarities and synergies between various strands of Community and other cofinancing mechanisms”. A roadmap for a reform of subsidies shall follow in 2008.
COMMUNICATION, MOBILISING ACTORS AND MULTIPLYING SUCCESS (p. 25-26)
An objective relevant for SD coordinators at the sub-national levels is the following: The EU wants to promote the “European Sustainable Cities & Towns Campaign which provides an exchange of good practice including the elaboration of quality criteria, indicators and instruments like impact assessment.” The best sustainable development initiatives taken by regional and local authorities will be awarded prizes on an annual basis.
At the national level, the Aalborg Charta should be adopted and implemented, and local and regional initiatives, such as LA 21 should further be promoted.
IMPLEMENTATION, MONITORING AND FOLLOW-UP (p. 26-29)
Starting in 2007, the European Commission will submit a progress report on the implementation of the SDS in the EU and the MS every two years. The bi-annual progress reports will also include “future priorities, orientations and actions“, and will be developed with regard to a set of SD indicators. A limited set of indicators for monitoring and for communication purposes should to be agreed on in 2007.
Regarding the implementation of National SD Strategies (NSDS), the EU SDS points out that MS should
The following agencies, stakeholder groups and NGOs have commented on the renewed EU SDS and its adoption by the Brussels European Council in mid June 2006 (for more information click on the provided links):
Renewed EU SDS for download (en)
Renewed EU SDS (adopted version June 9) in all EU languages
Commission´s website on Sustainable Development
Presidency Conclusions Brussels European Council 15/16 June 2006
The conclusions of all European Councils in Brussels can be found on the website
of the Council of the European Union:
All European Council summits since 1985, including presidency conclusions and
Motion for a Resolution on the revised sustainable development strategy
European Commission’s Communication in May 2005
Presidency Conclusions Brussels European Council 16/17 June 2005
The history of environmental intregration at the EU level
Article 6 of the Amsterdam Treaty
"Partnership for integration – A strategy for integrating Environment
into EU policies"
European Commission communication “A
sustainable Europe for a better world” as proposal for “a European
Union Strategy for Sustainable Development”
Presidency Conclusions Gothenburg European Council 2001
Communication on the external dimension of sustainable development (COM(2002)82
final of 13 February 2002)
Lisbon European Council (March 2000)
EurActiv.com - EU Policy News and Links - Section Sustainable Development
"Wie Nachhaltig ist die EU? - Überprüfung der EU-Strategie für
EEAC Network of European Environmental and Sustainable Development Advisory