Sustainability policy in Europe is currently dominated by the Lisbon Strategy for the promotion of more growth and jobs. This dominance represses other goals for sustainable development. Revision of the European sustainable development strategy in 2006 presents an opportunity to address the question of how to combine the Lisbon goals with other sustainable development goals.
The European Sustainable Development Strategy under revision
The European Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS), currently being revised, is up for discussion by Europe’s leaders in June 2006. In anticipation of this action, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has analysed both the current EU SDS and the EU’s sustainable development policy, and made recommendations for the revision
The EU SDS is ambitious
The EU SDS comprises three different components: the Lisbon Strategy for socio-economic changes, an environmental pillar aimed at addressing the main environmental threats and a so-called external dimension, listing Europe’s international commitments. The EU SDS as a whole is ambitious with many goals and different means to achieve these goals.
European policy focuses on Lisbon, without explicitly addressing possible consequences
The European policy agenda is dominated by the Lisbon Strategy, aimed at making Europe the most competitive economy in the world, with more growth and more jobs. Achieving this aim might be considered a precondition for sustainable development. However, trends thus far have shown growth to be realised at the expense of climate and biodiversity. Continuation of a Lisbon focus is risky, particularly when potential trade-offs between the Lisbon goals and other EU SDS goals are not explicitly addressed. Furthermore, there are indications that the majority of EU citizens do not necessarily agree with the view that the Lisbon focus will lead to sustainable development.
Ingredients for the EU SDS revision
A revised EU SDS could, as an initial step, subordinate Lisbon by creating one single document to integrate all three components of the EU SDS. It should describe how the focus on Lisbon can contribute to sustainable development, and to what extent trade-offs will be accepted or how they will be avoided. This document can subsequently be used to guide new European policy.