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C 95/54 EN Official Journal of the European Union 23.4.


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘The Lisbon Strategy and
Sustainable Development’

(2003/C 95/14)

On 24 October 2002, the European Economic and Social Committee decided, under Rules 19(1) and
29(2) of its Rules of Procedure, to draw up an opinion on ‘The Lisbon Strategy and sustainable

The Subcommittee on Sustainable Development, which was responsible for the Committee’s work on the
subject, adopted its opinion on 5 February 2003. The rapporteur was Mr Ehnmark and the co-rapporteur
was Mr Ribbe.

At its 397th plenary session on 26 and 27 February 2003 (meeting of 27 February), the European
Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 98 votes to 2, with 4 abstentions.

1. Summary 1.5. The EESC therefore calls on the Spring Summit, in

March 2003, to firmly re-establish sustainable development as
an overarching objective for the European Union. The EESC
calls on the Summit to give the necessary impetus for
1.1. Sustainable development was conceived as an over- integrating sustainable development fully in the Lisbon strat-
arching priority for the European Union. Over recent years, egy. The EESC calls on the Greek and Italian Presidencies of
sustainable development has become an ever more urgent the Union to initiate in operational terms this integration of
policy approach for safeguarding a balanced shaping of sustainable development.
economic growth, welfare, social justice and environmental
knowledge. This urgency should be clearly reflected in the
Union’s policy decisions. At present, however, this is not the
case. Sustainable development is still a very general concept 1.6. It is time to sharpen the vision of sustainable develop-
rather than an integrated working instrument. ment as a major objective for the European Union. This
includes establishment of a consensus of what sustainable
development could be, and what political steps would be
taken. Policies for sustainable development will have effects on
1.2. The world around confronts us with more rapid the everyday life of citizens. It is all the more important
change than anticipated. Climate change, concerns about long- therefore that there is a continuous dialogue between European
term energy supply and transport facilities, the challenges from citizens and their political leaders.
social exclusion, unsustainable production and consumption
patterns — a number of factors pose challenges for the EU’s
own sustained future welfare. They require decisions backed up
by citizens, and implemented by inspiring political leadership. 1.7. Now is also the time to make clear that sustainable
development should be at the heart of the debate on the future
of Europe. The vision should be clearly stated in the new
1.3. Having been launched at the Göteborg European
Summit in June, 2001, sustainable development has so far
not been a very visible guiding objective for EU policy
considerations. Instead of being vigorously moved forward — 1.8. The Lisbon strategy is in trouble, because of inadequate
as was decided by the Göteborg Summit — sustainable delivery on the bold objectives and actions set out in 2000.
development is too often identified as mainly an environmental The strategy has to be re-invigorated. The EESC proposes that
issue, and not integrated in a total policy mix of economic, a special effort is made to review the strategy during 2003,
social and environmental issues. Sustainable development was with the aim of providing a basis for conclusions to be drawn
conceived as a new approach to policy-making. There is still by the Spring European Summit in March, 2004. The EESC is
much to do in this respect. ready to make its contribution to such a review.

1.4. The EESC finds it regrettable that sustainable develop- 1.9. The EESC would like to give an indication of issues in
ment is still not fully integrated in the Lisbon Strategy and not the Lisbon strategy where sustainable development consider-
recognised as one of the EU’s most important and wide- ations should be integrated and where economic, social
ranging challenges and one which will require difficult choices and environmental considerations are coupled instead of
to be made. decoupled.
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1.10. The EESC underlines particularly three such issues: does it yet have a perfectly clear policy framework. But it is a
more vigorous support for private and public investments in guiding vision with a strong appeal, setting out key aspects for
new and clean technology and equipment, new efforts for our common future quality of life, in economic, social and
improving quality in work, and a new wide consultation on environmental terms. Sustainable development must not be
setting prices on the use of natural resources. seen as a limitation to economic growth and employment, but
rather as an attractive investment strategy for prosperity,
welfare and social justice.

1.11. A group of key issues in sustainable development

stem from the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil
fuels, for energy production and for transport. Although some
approaches have been taken in these fields, the EESC proposes
that the Spring European Summit should signal the start of a
coherent action to lower dependence on fossil fuels.
2. A strategy in trouble

1.12. Sustainable development is a vision with clear conse-

quences for governance, political leadership and policy coher-
ence, both at national level and at EU level. Dialogue with 2.1. The Lisbon strategy of economic, social and environ-
citizens can not be a one-off effort, but requires continuing mental renewal is one of the most ambitious projects initiated
endeavours. The recent agreement on public participation in by the European Union. However, three years after its launch,
the shaping of environmental policies is a positive develop- the strategy is in trouble. The objective to become the most
ment. To establish policy coherence will be a challenge for the competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the
EU institutions, and for national governments. Both the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and
Commission and the European Parliament should take further better jobs and greater social cohesion remains highly relevant,
action in order to ensure policy coherence. but its delivery and implementation is falling seriously behind
schedule. The European Commission in its 2003 Report to the
Spring European Council has illustrated the deficiencies in the
implementation of the Lisbon strategy.
1.13. The new member states of the EU will automatically
be partners in the Lisbon strategy and the strategy for
sustainable development. These issues were not included in
the accession talks, because they are not part of the acquis
communitaire. It will become essential to be able to offer the 2.2. It is particularly regrettable that with the Lisbon
new member states appropriate assistance particularly in strategy in trouble the concept of sustainable development is
implementation of the strategy for sustainable development. also falling behind in planning and delivery. The Spring Report
fails to deliver a coherent report on progress with sustainable
development and particularly in those areas identified as
priority items by the Göteborg European Council. The Spring
Report refers to sustainable development issues only in
1.14. The approach signed up to by the EU at the Johannes- passing. The Commission repeats the common mistake of
burg World Summit in 2002 gives the EU a unique and identifying sustainable development mainly as an environmen-
historic opportunity to set an example and to take the lead tal issue. The European Economic and Social Committee would
globally in forging practical policies to implement sustainable have appreciated a more thorough analysis of progress and
development. In addition to forcefully pushing ahead with its shortcomings as regards the implementation of sustainable
own strategy for sustainable development, the EU should act development as an overarching priority.
strongly to ensure other countries and regions follow, includ-
ing through partnerships.

2.3. The European Summit in Göteborg in June 2001

1.15. In a number of opinions, and by organizing stake-
agreed a strategy for sustainable development, which added a
holder consultations, the EESC has taken a very active part in third, environmental dimension to the Lisbon strategy giving
the development of the strategy for sustainable development. environmental issues the same political priority as economic
The EESC intends to continue this work.
and social issues. The real importance of the decision was to
establish a new approach to policy-making for the EU
stipulating that the economic, social and environmental effects
of all policies should be examined in a coordinated way and
1.16. In the current economic and political situation, it is taken into account in decision-making. This required that all
all the more important that the EU gives a clear message on EU actions should be subject to a sustainability impact
the importance of pushing ahead in the realm of sustainable assessment covering their potential economic, social and
development. This vision is not an answer to all problems. Nor environmental consequences.
C 95/56 EN Official Journal of the European Union 23.4.2003

2.4. The absence of sustainable development as a topic for 3.3. The September 2002 Stakeholder Forum examined
reflection at the Convention on the Future of Europe further progress and future priorities for the EU sustainable develop-
illustrates that the concept of sustainable development has yet ment strategy and clearly indicated three overriding concerns:
to be integrated into mainstream political thinking and
— The concept of sustainable development needs to be
further developed, particularly in a long-term perspective.
Conflicting views on the meaning of sustainable develop-
ment persist, both inside and outside of the EU.
2.5. Sustainable development has not played a significant
role in any of the 31 chapters which formed the basis for the
negotiations with the new member states. It will be essential — Sustainable development has to be defined in concrete
to support the new member states in adapting to and terms, making it possible to communicate the concept to
integrating the EU strategy for sustainable development in citizens and what it implies for the present and for future
order to avoid unsustainable developments. An example is the generations.
development in the transport sector, to which the EESC has
already pointed several times. The EESC would have expected — There is a lack of political leadership on the subject and
that the Commission in its Spring Report would open a sustainable development is still not yet integrated into a
discussion on how to introduce sustainability criteria into the coherent approach to policy making at EU level. Links
implementation of EU financial aid in the enlarged Union. between economic, social and environmental consider-
ations must be combined building win-win situations
into the sustainable development strategy rather than
following a compartmentalised approach. The strategy
could provide a unique opportunity for the EU to develop
2.6. The EU played a leading role at the World Summit on
a new approach to its economic development based on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, pushing more sustainable production and consumption patterns
for more ambitious commitments and actions to implement
and involving new patterns of innovation for technologi-
sustainable development. The EU should not lose the oppor-
cal development. Sustainable development must be tur-
tunity to be a global leader on these issues. It should act
ned into an attractive investment strategy for the environ-
strongly to ensure other countries and regions follow, includ-
ment and prosperity based on competitiveness, employ-
ing through partnerships.
ment and combating social exclusion.

4. Agreement on a common concept of ‘sustainable

3. The policy challenges of the Göteborg vision development’

4.1. Sustainable development, as an overarching vision and

3.1. The importance of the decisions of the Göteborg priority for the EU, suffers from one obvious weakness:
European Council did not lie in their details but in establishing there has never been any wide-ranging, comprehensive and
a new overall approach to policy-making: sustainable develop- systematic consultations on this matter with the governments
ment was made the impact assessment factor against which all of the Member States and candidate states or with organised
major policy proposals should be measured. Implementing civil society. As a result, the concept is sometimes still difficult
this decision has proved difficult. So far, only a limited number to grasp.
of Commission proposals have been subjected to this impact
assessment. The set of criteria used has to be further developed,
particularly as regards environment. New indicators to be used
could include limits on the use of undeveloped land, for 4.2. It is clear from the 2003 Spring Report and the
built-up purposes, environmental constraints by urbanisation, outcome of the debates at the Stakeholder Forum that
proportion of nature protection areas and implementation of comprehensive agreement has yet to be reached on the
protection policies. meaning of the term ‘sustainable development’, the changes
which will have to be introduced and the ways and means of
implementing these changes. It is easy enough to reach
verbal agreement on the need for sustainable development.
Introducing and applying concrete measures in this field,
3.2. In the run-up to the Göteborg Summit, the Com- which in some cases may have a severe impact on life in
mission set in train a short consultation process on sustainable present-day society is, however, a more difficult proposition,
development, including a hearing co-organised with the EESC, particularly when no uniform objective has yet been set. This
in order to involve the public in the political decision-making has been clearly demonstrated by the political discussions in
process. Two Stakeholder Forums, organised jointly with the recent months on issues such as fisheries policy and the reform
EESC, have since been held. of the CAP.
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4.3. It is therefore becoming ever more obvious that there — in the short term, up to 2010, the focus should be on
is, as yet, no general understanding on the meaning of formulating concrete actions to follow up the Göteborg
‘sustainable development’. Until such time as the sometimes European Council decisions, inter alia in the light of: the
diametrically opposed views can be brought into line with priorities set for combating climate change; ensuring
each other, no more far-reaching measures can be taken with sustainable transport; addressing threats to public health;
any degree of satisfaction. managing natural resources more responsibly; integrating
the environment into Community policies; and incorpor-
ating the concept of sustainable development into the
4.4. Sustainable development is based on the three-pillar Lisbon strategy;
principle. Some people interpret this as meaning that econ-
omic, social and environmental aspects are to be addressed on
— in the long term, i.e. over the next 25 to 30 years, the
an equal footing . Others maintain that the aim is not
to achieve equal treatment but rather to seek a ‘balanced focus should be on deciding which issues have to be
tackled if our generation is to give succeeding generations
consideration’ of economic, social and environmental aspects.
sufficient scope for maintaining and further enhancing a
Shifts in emphasis between the different pillars are therefore
perfectly conceivable. Both of these approaches entail difficult high standard of living. In this context the key issues to
focus on should be efforts to decouple economic growth
political decisions.
from the consumption of resources and to decrease
dependence on fossil fuels.
4.5. There is a lack of awareness in large sections of society
with regard to the consequences for the future of the current,
unsustainable trends. Other sections of society are aware of
these consequences but are more afraid of the short and
medium-term consequences of reorganisation than of the 5. Integrating the Lisbon strategy into the vision of
long-term consequences of the current unsustainable system sustainable development
(which they will not live to see). The necessary political
decisions to reverse all unsustainable trends in industrialised
countries have not yet been taken, and the situation is even
worse as regards our readiness to take responsibility for the 5.1. It has been agreed that sustainable development is an
impact of industrial development in other parts of the world. integral part of the Lisbon strategy. With this addition, the
strategy should integrate the economic, social and environ-
mental aspects in all policy decisions. The Lisbon strategy is
4.6. There is no disputing the fact that, as a general rule, thus an opportunity to operationalise sustainable development
economic competitiveness has to be maintained and any in the short- and medium-term perspective. However, this
reorganisation has to be carried out with care. There are, opportunity has so far not been very visibly grasped. The
however, at present a number of economic sectors which are Spring Report 2003 from the European Commission is an
sustainable but not competitive (such as renewable energy improvement compared with the Spring Report of last year,
production) whilst unsustainable sectors form the backbone but it still falls short of meeting the expectations inherent,
of the economy because of the general conditions which ultimately, in the Göteborg European Council decisions.
currently apply. This is where the reorganisation must com-

5.2. It should, however, be emphasised that in a long-

4.7. There is therefore a need to redefine the general term perspective, sustainable development must be further
conditions under which new markets and new jobs are to be developed as an overarching priority for all EU policymaking.
developed. Competitiveness has to be given a strong boost In policy terms, this means that the Lisbon strategy has to be
with a view to achieving a competitive, socially just and integrated into the vision of sustainable development, and that
sustainable economy. This objective is bound to call into actions within the Lisbon strategy as well as other EU
question a number of current activities and make a broader programmes and actions should be the subject of sustainability
public debate necessary. The groups concerned need a forum impact assessments, as was decided by the Göteborg European
in which to address the conflict in order to be able to advise Council.
political decision-makers on difficult decisions which might be
necessary for the well-being of mankind and future generations
but could go against the short-term interests of individuals,
groups or whole regions. 5.3. Making the Lisbon strategy operational and consistent
with sustainable development has sometimes proved difficult.
In a number of opinions on the subject, the EESC has called
for the Lisbon strategy objectives to be made more concrete
4.8. On this basis the EESC proposes that sustainable so as to demonstrate how the strategy and sustainable
development be tackled from three angles: development objectives can be merged. In the view of the
EESC, it is vitally important to translate sustainable develop-
— the Commission must help bring about a consensus ment theories into practical policies for people. Otherwise,
over what is really meant by the term ‘sustainable sustainable development will remain an undefined long-term
development’; vision.
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5.4. The EESC would like to point to examples of issues of 2002, on progress in the field of sustainable development.
where a coherent and integrated approach is essential. One Even if the reports in many cases were fairly basic, they
such issue is the need for promoting and supporting invest- constitute an important step towards policy coherence. The
ments in new and clean technology and equipment which EESC, in applauding this initiative, suggests that the General
would also enhance EU competitiveness in the longer term. Affairs Council should follow-up on this reporting exercise
Another issue is that of quality of work, where practical action with further specific questions in view of the preparations for
is still missing. A third is the need to launch a wide public the 2004 Spring Council.
consultation on the issues of unsustainable production and
consumption patterns.

6.4. To establish policy coherence with regard to sustaina-

ble development will be a challenge for the EU institutions as
5.5. The EESC limits itself to these three examples. Together well as for the national governments. Both the Commission
with others they should also be part of a major review of the and the Parliament should take further action in order to
Lisbon strategy, three years after its launching. The strategy was ensure policy coherence internally.
conceived in a particular economic climate, and subsequent
developments have changed the context. The EESC proposes
that the Lisbon strategy be reviewed during 2003, in order to
make it possible for the Spring European Council in 2004 to 6.5. Several Member States have presented national sus-
take the necessary decisions for the further implementation of tainable development plans within the UN framework and
the strategy. produced national sustainable development strategies as a
follow-up to the Göteborg European Council decision on this
matter. The EESC recommends that the European Council calls
upon Member States to report annually on their sustainable
development strategies as part of the preparation of the Spring
European Council.

6. Coherent policy-making for sustainable development

6.6. Given the decision by the Göteborg European Council

to add an environmental dimension to the Lisbon strategy, the
6.1. The choice of indicators which allow a sustainability EESC considers that in addition to the report on Economic
assessment of new EU actions and programmes is of funda- Policy Guidelines and on Employment Guidelines, which in
mental importance to establish policy coherence and create themselves should make due reference to the integration of
win-win situations. At present, most indicators refer to only sustainable development, an annual sustainable development
one or another of the three dimensions instead of systemati- policy report would also be prepared for the Spring European
cally assessing interrelations and progress towards overall Council.
sustainable development. The EESC recommends that the
indicators chosen for the 2003 Spring Report are refined in
view of the Report to the Spring European Summit in 2004.

7. The role of the EESC

6.2. Appropriate institutional arrangements are a key factor
in reaching coherence in sustainable development. On repeated
occasions the EESC has emphasised that it is essential that the
EU institutions, and particularly the Commission, take steps in 7.1. The EESC has given very high priority to the problem
order to establish mechanisms for effective internal coordi- of ensuring that sustainable development is given the necessary
nation and policy coherence on sustainable development. prominence, above all in view of the profound effects that
The Commission President must assume an even stronger measures in this field will have on the everyday life of European
leadership role on sustainable development, ensuring the society. A number of the EESC’s own-opinions and a range of
alignment of compartmentalised and competing policy objec- different kind of stakeholder meetings have illustrated the
tives. importance the EESC attaches to discussion of the issues.

6.3. The Göteborg European Council gave the General 7.2. The EESC stands ready to assist in the future develop-
Affairs Council overall responsibility for coordinating the ment of the EU strategy for sustainable development. It is
horizontal preparation of the sustainable development strat- prepared to take on further tasks in this development, to
egy. One of the initiatives taken by the General Affairs Council ensure that there is full integration of sustainable development
was to ask all other Council formations to report, by the end into the Lisbon strategy.
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7.3. The EESC calls on the Commission to produce an Stakeholder Forum that has been envisaged in cooperation
annual or bi-annual scoreboard on progress in sustainable between the Commission and the EESC.
development, in connection with the annual or bi-annual

Brussels, 27 February 2003.

The President
of the European Economic and Social Committee

Resolution of the European Economic and Social Committee to the ‘Spring European Council of
21 March 2003’

(2003/C 95/15)

At its 397th plenary session on 26 and 27 February 2003 (meeting of 27 February), the European
Economic and Social Committee adopted the following Resolution by 126 votes, with 1 abstention: ‘The
Lisbon strategy is in trouble’.

The Commission Report to the Spring European Council on vision for the future, based on citizens’ involvement, ensuring
the Lisbon strategy of economic, social and environmental a more balanced distribution of the wealth produced and the
renewal makes it evident that although some progress has surplus created by modern technology.
been made, implementation of the strategy is falling seriously
behind schedule. With the Lisbon strategy (and its objective
for the EU to become the most competitive and dynamic
knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable
economic growth with more and better jobs and greater
social cohesion) in trouble, the EU strategy for sustainable The Göteborg European Summit established a new approach
development based on the interdependence of economic, to policy-making, stipulating that the economic, social and
social and environmental considerations is also falling behind. environmental effects of all policies should be examined in a
The Report indicates growing disparities between Member coordinated way and taken into account in decision-making.
The integration of sustainable development into the Lisbon
States in the implementation of the strategy as a whole.
strategy presents a particular challenge not yet met by the
European institutions or by Member States.

The EESC calls for efforts to be made to implement the Lisbon

strategy (as completed by the Göteborg European Council) The EESC considers that in the present political and economic
comparable to those deployed to bring about the single climate it is all the more important that the EU gives a stronger
market and the single currency. It calls for a much stronger message on the importance of pushing ahead with the Lisbon
commitment by Member States, but also by European insti- objectives and with sustainable development.
tutions, regions, social partners and civil society as a whole to
work towards the Lisbon objectives, including presentation of
detailed progress reports.

The new Member States will automatically be partners in the

Lisbon strategy and the EU sustainable development strategy,
although neither were included in the discussion of the acquis
The EESC strongly believes that the Lisbon objectives remain communautaire. The EESC considers it is essential to facilitate
relevant and necessary. Efforts need to be made to rebuild efforts by the accession countries to speed up implementation
confidence among European citizens and to create a positive of the strategy.