President. The next item is the debate on the following:
- the oral question to the Council (O-0041/2006 B6-0209/2006) by Anders Wijkman, John Bowis and Karl-Heinz Florenz, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0042/2006 B6-0210/2006) by Anders Wijkman, John Bowis and Karl-Heinz Florenz, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0043/2006 B6-0211/2006) by Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0044/2006 B6-0212/2006) by Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0045/2006 B6-0213/2006) by Satu Hassi, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0046/2006 B6-0214/2006) by Satu Hassi, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0047/2006 B6-0215/2006) by Adamos Adamou and Jonas Sjöstedt, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0048/2006 B6-0216/2006) by Adamos Adamou and Jonas Sjöstedt, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0050/2006 B6-0217/2006) by Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0051/2006 B6-0218/2006) by Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0052/2006 B6-0219/2006) by Guido Sacconi, on behalf of the PSE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0053/2006 B6-0220/2006) by Guido Sacconi, on behalf of the PSE Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy;
- the oral question to the Council (O-0056/2006 B6-0222/2006) by Liam Aylward, on behalf of the UEN Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy and
- the oral question to the Commission (O-0057/2006 B6-0223/2006) by Liam Aylward, on behalf of the UEN Group, on the Sustainable Development Strategy.
Anders Wijkman (PPE-DE), author. – (SV) Mr President, what we are debating today, then, is the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy, an extremely important document from the European Council’s meeting in Gothenburg five years ago. We should have liked to have seen a more comprehensive review and, above all, a report by the Commission noting what has really been achieved during the last few years. We should also have liked to have seen more ambitious long-term goals specifically set out.
The truth is, of course, that, in many areas, we have not made any clear progress in comparison with how matters stood in 2001. Biodiversity continues to be impoverished and climate-affecting emissions are still increasing in the majority of Member States. We have social divisions, migratory pressure at our borders and an array of problems in the field of health, for example resistance to antibiotics. These are all things that we must, of course, get to grips with in a way that takes account of the long term.
I wish to thank the Austrian Presidency for having involved MEPs in a meaningful way. Horizontal in nature, this is a difficult issue to deal with, and it has to be asked whether we are sufficiently well organised, both in government offices and in the Commission and the European Parliament. We are organised on a vertical and sectoral basis, but this is a horizontal problem. We should reflect on this in the long term.
One of the main issues in this connection is the relationship between the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Lisbon Strategy. Certain MEPs wish to combine these strategies in the long run. What is important right now, of course, is to bring about the best possible coordination and for we MEPs to be involved in the process. We think that the Sustainable Development Strategy should not, in the first place, be seen as an obstacle to, or problem for, growth and development but, rather, as an opportunity. The world is crying out for intelligent solutions to, for example, our energy and transport problems. This should be made a main issue in the Lisbon process.
A big advantage of the Commission’s new proposals is that the international dimension is now included. We see the EU leaving an ever bigger ecological footprint on the world, a state of affairs that we must, of course, do something about. It also requires that progress in society be measured in a different way in the future. We cannot only look at GDP growth, but must also consider a range of other factors. Another logical consequence of the international perspective is, of course, that we must let the sustainability dimension influence our development aid very much more than we have allowed it to do so far.
Finally, I wish to emphasise the importance of research issues. I have a number of questions for both the Commission and the Council. How do you wish to strengthen coordination between the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Lisbon Strategy and, above all, how do you wish to ensure that there is more encouragement for the environmental technology industry and for innovations in this area? How does the Commission wish to ensure that the sustainability aspects are better reflected in the budget than they are at present, especially in the aid budget?
Finally, we must get to grips with the problem of the EU’s increased ecological footprint. Are you considering integrated measures of some kind to tackle this issue?
Chris Davies (ALDE), author. – This Parliament’s procedures leave us in a position of weakness. We are, after all, trying to influence the document that will go to the European Council this week, but in practice I assume that has already been written, finalised, translated into 20 different languages and our impact in this Chamber is likely to be somewhat limited. Perhaps that is something to consider in future.
However, I wish to congratulate the Austrian Presidency, because it has at least made this a priority; it has tried to pull together the threads and it has looked at ways to take this agenda forward, which is welcome.
To me the big issue, though, is implementation. Take one example: national sustainable development strategies have to be prepared in all cases by next June. But what if they are not? What tools, what mechanisms, do we have to ensure that Member States actually deliver on the pledges the prime ministers will agree this Friday?
We need more indicators. There is a good suggested list here in Austria’s draft paper, but it is simply not comprehensive enough. We need specific performance tables; we need the opportunity to name and shame, to point the finger at those Member States that pay lip service to the idea of sustainable development, but do not match their fine words with deeds.
What we really need is for the Commission, as the independent arbiter, to be able to find mechanisms to put pressure on Member States which are so reluctant to rock the boat within the Council and to point the finger at one another. Five years ago, when the Natura 2000 programme was being prepared, Commissioner Wallström, the then Environment Commissioner, used the fact that structural funds could be withheld unless the Habitats Directive was properly complied with as a means of encouraging the process. That threat of withholding money from Member States brought about a dramatic transformation in performance and the submission of new ideas. I hope that over the next few months and years the Commission will come up with mechanisms of that kind to really put pressure on Member States where it hurts.
Satu Hassi (Verts/ALE), author. – (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have to understand that sustainable development is the basis of our future. If we forget that, the basis of our economy will also disappear.
It is a misconception that economic development and environmental protection would be in conflict with one another. Our experience is quite the opposite. Ambitious environmental protection promotes economic development, and this applies to both countries and sectors of industry. Industry has called for the economic effects of environmental policy to be analysed. The problem is that when an analysis is carried out, the results are not believed. When, for example, analyses showed that the REACH chemicals legislation is economically viable, industry did not believe it. Similarly, when analyses show that cleaning up air pollution pays off, the car industry lobbies against it.
We need ambitious targets, when, for example, it comes to saving energy. The least we could do, and the cheapest option, is that we should decide to end aid that is harmful to the environment. Aid for fossil energy in the EU amounts to more than EUR 24 billion a year, which is four times more than that for renewable energy.
Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL), author. – (EL) Mr President, on behalf of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, I wish to express our disappointment and displeasure about the lack of progress in developing and monitoring the sustainable development strategy.
We agree that the sustainable development strategy must include three core, interconnected objectives which have not only environmental, but also social and economic repercussions. And yet the Council and the Commission appear once again to be more concerned, as far as sustainable development is concerned, with promoting the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, despite its environmental and social repercussions.
Unfortunately, the Lisbon Strategy relates mainly but not solely to economic competitiveness and the creation of prosperous jobs, with environmental objectives coming a very poor second, while the sustainable development strategy needs to promote environmental and social objectives, rather than economic sustainability.
I should like to point out, given that a large percentage of the European population suffers from serious economic and social problems, such as poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, and the fact that the most deprived social groups often suffer the worst social and environmental conditions, including poor housing and health, that the framework for Commission action to review the sustainable development strategy is extremely reticent and weak. The objectives being formulated by the Commission are extremely general in nature and therefore difficult to assess. For example, the Commission has introduced the European year for fighting poverty and social exclusion, an initiative that we welcome, but has failed to formulate more specific initiatives and effective, enforceable measures which will allow real progress to be made.
Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM), author. – (NL) Mr President, the strategy which the Commission has published sends out a positive message: it demonstrates that the Commission too has time for a sustainable society. I can concur with the conclusion which the Commission has drawn in its document, namely that, if we want to work towards a sustainable society, we must seize the existing opportunities now. That should also be the message to the Council. If we want to make sustainable development a success, then there are many examples of measures we could take straight away.
I would like to remind you that we do not own this planet, but that we have the task of looking after it and saving it. As a consequence, we will really have to change our way of living if we want to secure an existence for our children and grandchildren. That is why we need an ambitious package of measures, and I would like to hear from the Council and Commission how they would like to work on it together with this Parliament.
Guido Sacconi (PSE), author. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too am grateful to the Austrian Presidency for having made this strategy one of its key priorities. I hope that, although our document comes slightly late in the day, the Summit will decide on something practical in this regard over the next few days and not confine itself to making token or rhetorical statements.
I should like to extract and highlight three key words that I consider essential from the contribution made by Parliament in the shape of the unanimous resolution on which we shall vote tomorrow.
The first word is integration. The Lisbon and Gothenburg European Councils were held one year apart. Five years later, the time has perhaps come to integrate them more, maybe even with a buzz word, with a new word such as Lisbothenburg, in such a way as to overcome this contradiction and this distinction between competitiveness and environment.
The second word is governance. We genuinely need to give a strong boost to the Member States and, I stress, to what is actually taking place at a local and regional level, so that everyone, across the board, might play a leading role in implementing this strategy in practice. Actions cannot only come from above, but this leading role also needs to be promoted.
Finally, the third word is monitoring. I very much agree with the need to define a concise set of, let us say, multicriterial indicators, which measure the progress made towards sustainability on a regular and ongoing basis. This is vital if we are to win over the citizens, who must have the opportunity to ascertain in practice the progress made or the difficulties encountered in pursuing our objectives. I believe that this bottom-up form of monitoring is very important.
Alessandro Foglietta (UEN), Author. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, economic theory based on sustainable development abandons the approach grounded only in an analysis of GDP and employment in favour of an interpretation of a country’s cyclical position. Work is natural capital, the capital produced by people.
The European sustainable development strategy and the Lisbon Agenda must integrate the economic dimension with the social and environmental dimensions in order to guarantee long-term development. For this strategy to be successful, it is essential to act at all levels of governance, from the largest international and national organisations to the local Agenda 21, which in Italy too is at last becoming one of the most important forces driving the spread of a sustainable management model.
Acting at a local level is the key principle that makes it possible to pursue major objectives like preserving what natural capital is left, reducing human pressure on the world around us, and improving the efficiency of the end uses of products, for instance by promoting energy-efficient buildings and environmentally friendly urban transport systems. The extension of Commission support to the system of so-called ‘green’ public works contracts is producing good results.
Nevertheless, in common with Members in other groups – and I am glad to have heard the speaker before me – I must highlight a number of aspects that I consider very important. The Commission ought to be more specific and to stick to definite and therefore verifiable objectives. That is the only way that all the actors in the sustainable economy will be encouraged to adopt an ecologically and socially compatible model.
There is still a great deal to do in Europe to ensure that our energy supplies are based on renewable sources, in order to protect the environment from pollution and from the excessive, irreversible exploitation of natural resources. In this context I consider it essential for sustainable development indicators to be developed and improved: they need to be easily understood and accessible to the general public. It is important to try to monitor all the outcomes.
Josef Pröll, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European sustainability strategy is an important topic and a top priority for the Austrian Presidency of the Council. In the past few months, 10 different Council configurations have dealt with the subject of assessing and implementing the sustainability strategy for Europe, in order to strengthen the quality of the strategy across the board, including with our own working group, 'Friends of the Presidency'. We want the European Union to act as an international frontrunner, and to demonstrate its capabilities as, so to speak, a 'sustainable union' at international level. That applies to the European Union with its central institutions, to the territorial authorities, to the regions and to the municipalities. We want to send out clear signals promoting sustainable development. It would be inappropriate to concentrate solely on economic growth, economic development and the Lisbon Strategy: it is not compatible with Europe's history, and I also do not think it is enough to act sustainably in the future.
We have the impression that, following the discussions, in general a text could be negotiated that is both balanced and politically significant. In line with the instructions of the European Council of December 2005, we now have a single, coherent document that brings together aims, tasks, indicators and a whole range of specific actions for essential EU policy areas. This renewed EU sustainability strategy should be clearly visible from the outside. The document that the European Council will adopt in the next few days has no annexes, and is clearly structured, comprehensible and consistent. This constructive cooperation, in particular from the Member States, and the intensive dialogues between the various parties involved have led us to the success that we hope will be achieved in the days to come.
We have had a whole range of contacts and positive conversations with representatives of the European Parliament. We in the Presidency have tried very hard and quite consciously to include the central points brought up by the European Parliament in the negotiations – and, as far as possible, in the compromise as well. You have frequently talked about how we need to view the issue of the link between the Lisbon Strategy and the EU sustainability strategy from the aspect of qualitative growth. We want to send a clear political signal that sustainable development will not, as some intend, put the brakes on economic growth, but will actually support and enable intelligent growth in areas for the future. That is what we need to do with this strategy. The strategy repeatedly refers to issues such as renewable energy sources, environmental technology, 'greening' public procurement, resources and energy efficiency, the environment as a factor for more jobs, intelligent and innovative products and services and mobility solutions.
Growth cannot be an end in itself, but just a means to an end, and that end is improving the quality of life and of the environment in Europe, whilst maintaining long-term competitiveness. If the people and the environment are doing well, then the economy will also do well. Europe has always particularly distinguished itself in the past, and will continue to do so in future, by the way in which it runs its economy according to different criteria from other national economies in the world.
Regarding the relationship to the Lisbon Strategy, the two strategies, each with its own priorities and timescales, should continue to exist separately from one another, but support and strengthen each other. The central goal is greater transparency and a higher status for the EU sustainability strategy at political level. The two strategies should therefore be further developed and implemented in close coordination in content terms. We want to make it clear that the EU strategy for sustainable development and the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs do not exclude each other, compete with each other or supersede each other, but rather complement each other effectively. The EU strategy for sustainable development provides a comprehensive framework within which the Lisbon Strategy, with its new focus on growth and jobs, can act as the engine of a dynamic economy.
In our opinion, both strategies underline the fact that economic, social and environmental goals can strengthen each other and should therefore be designed, developed and promoted together. Both strategies aim to support the necessary structural changes that will allow the economies of the Member States to face up to the challenges of globalisation, which affect all of us in Europe.
The aims and main content of the sustainability strategy, including in comparison to Gothenburg 2001, which will become the key challenges for sustainable development, are clearly laid out in the paper and in the strategy, and are also translated into concrete terms through targets and actions: climate change and environmentally-friendly energy, sustainable mobility and transport planning, sustainable production and consumption models, which will be an important guide for the future, management of natural resources, health, social integration, demographics and migration, which is probably one of the greatest challenges facing the continent and a major challenge in relation to the fight against poverty and for sustainable international development.
The new key challenge of sustainable consumption and production models caused a great deal of controversy, but has now been incorporated into the strategy. One major success that has been mentioned by several speakers here is certainly the creation of a separate chapter in the strategy setting out implementation mechanisms for effective follow-up and for evaluating and assessing the progress made.
As you can see, we have put a great deal of energy into this sustainability strategy. We have kept 10 Council configurations busy, and we have tried to resolve this apparent competition between Lisbon and sustainability, so I am very pleased that, taking your comments into consideration and following intensive negotiations with the Member States, we will be in a position to adopt this EU sustainability strategy within the next few days. That is good for the quality of life in Europe, and it is a positive sign for the future.
Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Sustainable Development and Lisbon strategies together address issues that really concern people. European value and quality of life surveys tell us that citizens want prosperity, but they also want a clean environment, good health, social protection and equality.
The Commission put forward its proposal for the review of the European Union’s Sustainable Development Strategy in December. This has been the subject of in-depth debate in the Council, culminating in the adoption of a review of the Strategy at the European Council scheduled for tomorrow. I welcome Parliament’s input from January on the stocktaking and orientations for the review, and I appreciate the involvement of many of you in the stakeholder debate on this subject. I look forward to working with you further on this, on the issues raised in the motion for a resolution amongst others.
Sustainable development is an over-arching objective of the Union. The European Union Sustainable Development Strategy and the Lisbon Strategy work hand in hand towards this objective, although they should be kept separate. Together the strategies are an agenda for change, for Europe to adapt to a changing global context: new competitors, an aging population, and the impacts of demographic change, increased resource scarcities, climate change, biodiversity, and ecosystem loss, for example. They aim to stimulate innovation, including behavioural change, create level playing fields and engage all.
The Lisbon Strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy are complementary. The much-needed economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation and must better safeguard social cohesion to ensure it can be sustained. At the same time, though, the worldwide drive towards more eco-efficient products and services creates opportunities for growth and jobs that we must seize.
For both we need to act. By achieving results on sustainable development, we improve our chances of regaining citizens’ confidence in the European Union. To achieve results, we need to focus and be clear about who does what. This implies a certain practical distribution of work between the two strategies.
The Lisbon Strategy addresses concerns about medium-term economic performance, looking to stimulate growth and jobs and helping the European Union to adapt to global competition and increased pressures on resources. To achieve this aim, the Lisbon Strategy comprises actions in a wide range of policy areas, many of which are central to sustainable development strategy, such as energy efficiency, environmental technologies resource use, and others.
The SDS addresses concerns about our prosperity, both in economic and quality of life terms, including issues that are more slow-burning, where time-lags mean that actions now have impacts into the long term. A good example is climate change, but also unsustainable modes of transport, social exclusion, health and how we use our natural resources.
It also looks at broader global challenges and impacts beyond the European Union’s borders. But let us be clear: Lisbon and the SDS are mutually reinforcing. The success of one depends on the success of the other. The priority now is to achieve results. There have been more than 20 years of debate on sustainable development, but progress in addressing unsustainable trends is too slow. We must move from words to action.
Some say that we are not ambitious enough. I disagree. The Commission’s revised SDS provides a new political drive for sustainable policies that apply to all policy areas.
We also welcome the priority given by the Austrian Presidency to the revisions of SDS and the draft conclusions that will be discussed at this week’s European Council. We are talking about a new drive aimed at making the difficult changes across society that are necessary for sustainable development. The review of the European Union’s Sustainable Development Strategy is about how we can do things better to get results: first, about how we design policy, including policies within the Lisbon Agenda; second, about implementing what has been agreed; third, about making sure that we involve all those who need to act. The European Union institutions cannot achieve sustainable development alone.
The new strategy addresses some of the weaknesses of the previous strategy: unclear priorities, little ownership and absence of a clear monitoring mechanism. It confirms the main challenges, but clarifies the objectives and sets out a new and more rigorous monitoring mechanism. It includes regular reports from the Commission, which are to be submitted every two years, drawing on the latest Eurostat indicators. It includes national strategies, to be updated to bring them more into line with the European Union Strategy, and it includes peer review of national strategies to allow mutual learning.
We need to learn from best practice and use every opportunity to multiply successful initiatives. By clarifying priorities, we will also facilitate the coordination of the Lisbon and Sustainable Development strategies.
The renewed Sustainable Development Strategy re-emphasises the importance of an integrated approach. The problems are interlinked and so are the solutions. Good use of impact assessments that address the economic, social and environmental impacts of proposals is key. Horizontal measures, such as getting prices right, investment and research and innovation, education and skills are also important. The new strategy is about all of us assuming our responsibilities. Involving stakeholders, businesses and citizens in delivering results is a priority. It is also about all European Union institutions and Member States working for the implementation of the Strategy.
We believe that the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions should play a more active role in helping to implement and monitor the strategy.
Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, I feel less optimistic than those who have spoken so far, because I believe that the document that has been produced is essentially a document full of statements, which includes many existing clichés, many arguments that we have all heard and which are leading to an increasingly weak and less respected notion of sustainable development.
Why do I say this? Because I believe that the structure in the methodology – and, as well as a politician, I am speaking as an academic – is based on an error: it is based on repeating the old clichés and on not properly analysing today’s sustainable development problems.
Firstly, it does not make it clear whether the document has European or world ambitions. It does not make that clear. Secondly, it conforms to Gothenburg, but not to Johannesburg.
Furthermore, it ignores problems such as the relationship between the economy and sustainable development. Today, economic activities cannot be separated from sustainability, and if we want to link it to Lisbon, even less so: in other words, there can be no employment, there can be no possibility of development for the under-developed countries, unless we take into account what kind of economy is appropriate. Certain economic activities are necessary in order to maintain biodiversity. Have we considered what economic activities are required or the role agriculture plays in maintaining animals? Have we taken account of the fact that, if we want to talk about climate change and development in Africa, we must talk about nuclear energy in order to resolve the problem of obtaining water through desalination and obtaining energy that does not pollute? If we talk about climate change, we must talk about nuclear energy as well, as a replacement for 30 or 40% of what is produced.
In other words, structurally, the document is not integrated. It does not refer to the economy and it completely ignores industry.
Furthermore, I do not believe that the issue of population is sufficiently dealt with. The emigrations we have from North to South in Europe are creating stress in terms of sustainable development, just like the African emigrations. That is something we must deal with, ladies and gentlemen, on the basis of sustainable development.
Riitta Myller, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FI) Mr President, on behalf of the Social Democrats I can say that I agree with the Commissioner that we must at long last move from words to deeds in the matter of policy on sustainable development.
There needs to be a proper action programme for sustainable development as part of EU policy. Sustainable development must be genuine and be capable of measuring the principle of penetrability, which relates to all the European Union’s political goals. Policy instruments, for their part, need to adapt to these goals. So it is unacceptable that projects that harm the environment should at present be supported with massive amounts of money, considering how aid is channelled for projects that improve the environment. The decisions already taken should also be implemented. The Council decided years ago now that aid that harms the environment should be gradually withdrawn. That has not happened, neither gradually nor in any other way.
EU-wide environmental taxes have also been talked about in several contexts. We know that their introduction will require consensus, but we need a step forward in the right direction. The Council has also taken decisions that Europe-wide energy taxes should be introduced. The Sixth Environmental Action Programme, which the Council and Parliament adopted in the codecision procedure, will provide an opportunity for the introduction of Europe-wide environmental taxes.
A condition of a genuine environmental policy is that the economic policy instruments in legislation and other legislative acts go hand in hand. In this way a favourable situation can be achieved, in which society develops eco-efficiency and environmentally friendlier technologies in an economically rational way. In this respect, we are coming to a crossroads as far as the Lisbon Strategy is concerned, which is to say that the environment is also a good thing for the economy, and its development is a means of getting the wheels of the economy turning.
Fiona Hall, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the renewal of the Sustainable Development Strategy is very welcome, but it must become more focused. The need to have better coordination with other cross-cutting strategies like Lisbon is well established, but we also need to have better coordination within the sustainable development strategy itself.
We need to think clearly and recognise that some of our sustainable development policies could potentially conflict with others. For example, we are committed to a European target for biofuels and I very much support this, but the sustainable development strategy also includes a commitment to sustainable forest management and to halting the loss of biodiversity.
A badly thought-through expansion of biofuels could result in virgin forests being destroyed and habitats lost. A properly thought-through biofuels policy would mean European vehicles running on biofuels from certified sources only. So I would beg the Presidency in this regard simply to use the strategy as a starting point for much more detailed work on sustainability.
Elisabeth Schroedter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, we have only borrowed the earth from our descendants. We all know that any form of politics that lacks responsibility towards this principle imposes a hurdle on the next generation that cannot be overcome.
Jacques Delors declared as early as 1993 that in order to meet future challenges the European Union has the urgent task of restructuring the economy in a way that is ecologically and socially fair, and of orienting it towards a sustainable strategy; Mr Pröll has confirmed this once again. Jacques Delors stated that, essentially, models of development must be achieved that are based on low consumption of non-renewable resources and that are reproducible in the long term. In 2001, the Swedish Presidency responded to these findings with the Gothenburg Strategy.
Now, five years later, we see that the new Commission has chosen to ignore all of these findings that are so important to our survival. Instead, it has returned to completely outdated notions. This is evident from resolutions in which unimpeded growth is invoked as being the key to solving all the problems of today, while the third dimension - the preservation of ecological foundations - is no longer mentioned and the necessary balance between three dimensions is negated. The earmarking catalogue in the regulation on the Structural Funds includes, for example, a total variable of 71 for the environmental dimension. The Commission’s new slogan, that the Lisbon Strategy must be pursued in the direction of unimpeded growth, is simply wrong, because it is short-sighted, it lacks solidarity and it is irresponsible, because acting in this way shifts incalculable costs onto the next generation.
We are glad that the Council does not take this line, and we welcome the Austrian Presidency’s new strategic approach. We hope that this will be adopted in the next few days and that it will genuinely be implemented in terms of concrete political action.
Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the website on sustainable development that was started by the Commission on the 30 May is well-meant and very interesting - the same goes for the two other websites on climate change and climate control - but that does not lessen my criticism of this Commission communication. It does not contain a Sustainable Development Strategy, but a catalogue of measures introduced, individual problems and intentions. In taking this view I simultaneously endorse the main criticism expressed by the Social Platform. I also agree with this network that the cardinal problem here is the definition of political priorities.
However, I would like to go even further and say that sustainable development is the democratic realisation of a social model, one in which each and every person can live independently and with dignity. In my view, sustainability means that on the ground, in Europe and around the world, more and more people increasingly have access to the conditions that are necessary to ensure peace, protection from violence, democracy, social security, unspoiled nature, education and culture. The Sustainable Development Strategy must therefore set out three priorities: the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; the combating of poverty and social exclusion in the EU; and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. That means disarming, demilitarising and democratising economic relations and our societies as well as redistributing and redirecting flows of resources through structural change, restructuring the energy economy and of course reorganising the social division of labour.
Michael Henry Nattrass, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, these questions show the European social model in flashing lights. However, the European social model is a mishmash that pleases no one: a bit of free market here and a bit of welfare state there, mixed with a little green posturing. The EU dictates that one size fits all and, judging by the identical wording of these group questions, one size does appear to fit all. However, in the Independence and Democracy Group, we realise that one size will never fit all.
I am free to say that my party, UKIP, can never support the Lisbon Strategy, because it is the failed strategy of a Commission that has no legal right to dictate economic policy to my country. It is for this reason that the EU can never impose a sustainable development strategy on Britain.
There is, however, a PPE-DE one-sizing problem. Last September, David Cameron was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as ‘fighting to end the EU’s damaging social role’ and leaving it to focus on ‘making the single market work properly’. Yet we now have a Tory MEP, Mr Bowis, asking how the EU will enhance its social role in economic policy. No wonder Mr Cameron’s pledge to leave the PPE-DE Group has become such a huge joke. Or, as I always say, ‘EU must be joking’.
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I speak on behalf of the new Italian Socialist Party. It will be essential to make the management of the new development instruments consistent with the Lisbon Strategy by providing for short-, medium- and long-term planning in order to achieve the objectives that have been set, namely efficiency, effectiveness and economy, focusing particularly on growth but without forgetting environmental protection.
In our opinion, Europe’s sustainable development policies have a vitally important role to play abroad, especially in developing countries, since in many cases it is precisely in those countries, where, unfortunately, there are no economic alternatives as yet, that the indiscriminate exploitation of resources occurs. The new policies must therefore be based on a feasible project for sustainable development that all peoples in the world can enjoy without distinction.
For the world’s sake, Europe’s institutions need to send out signals of political convergence based at last on solidarity and aiming at reducing the indiscriminate exploitation of non-renewable resources. At the same time they need to commit themselves to promoting research and development in the field of environmentally sound technologies.
Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, when the Lisbon Strategy was reviewed, you decided to keep it separate from the sustainable development strategy. I think that this was a mistake. These two tools are more than complementary; they are inseparable from one another. That is why, at present, the impression created is of your adopting an ideological stance without taking action. It cannot credibly be proclaimed that sustainable development is one of the three pillars of the Lisbon Strategy unless the necessary bridging clauses are created. As for the content of the action platform presented after considerable delay by the Commission, I have to say that I was disappointed in it. We were expecting more substance and more proposals.
Sustainable development now sounds hollow. Commissioner, I may be somewhat jumping the gun and anticipating our institutional agenda, but your work programme for 2007 will have to take up this challenge. I would ask you to be firmer, more incisive and more audacious in your dealings with the Council. Yes, the Commission must be audacious and courageous, as it is not being at present. It forever censors itself, confronted as it is with a paralysed Council that has nothing more than good intentions, never translated into action. Where energy is concerned, it should be emphasised that nuclear energy is no longer taboo, but it must be accompanied by renewable sources of energy. When it comes to biofuels, Member States – in particular, France and Sweden - are known to be working on these, but on different systems. What has become of harmonisation? No progress is being made. Where are the practical proposals? They are there in people’s minds but, unfortunately, that is where they remain.
As for the Council, I am inclined to tell it to rationalise the instruments available to the EU: the Cardiff process on the integration of environmental aspects into other policies, the Gothenburg sustainable development strategy and the recently revised Lisbon Strategy. Frankly, hand-to-mouth policy needs to take a back seat in favour of visionary policy that considers tomorrow and makes sustainable development a key factor for the future.
Gyula Hegyi (PSE). – Mr President, my main problem with the Commission’s environmental proposals is that they do not correspond with the objectives of the Sixth Environmental Action Plan.
As far as traffic is concerned, the Sixth EAP stressed the decoupling of transport goals and GDP goals. However, the Commission’s new strategy does not propose legally binding measures and deadlines. It is all very well to speak about wanting fewer private cars and more environmentally friendly public transport, but without legally binding measures these are only empty words. If we want to have less air pollution and more public transport, we have to act.
As the rapporteur on urban environment, I propose legal measures and targets to increase the rate of environmentally friendly transport. I hope that the Commission and the Council will return to the policy of clear targets and measures. Listening to Mrs Grossetête, I also hope that the PPE-DE Group will support my amendments and my report about having binding measures and targets concerning the urban environment and traffic.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to rural development. It is important that we do not lose sight of rural spaces as a whole as an aid to economic development. This means that in financial respects too we must ensure that sufficient means are available. Unfortunately the so-called second pillar of rural development for the period 2007 to 2013 has been reduced by EUR 20 billion in comparison with the proposal by Parliament and the Commission, and that reduces possibilities of development. That is why we must surely make use of the optional modulation system of 20%, I mean by redirecting funding from the first to the second pillar. We also have to ensure, however, that we give our support to the international development of rural spaces. In order to do this we need a fund that can be accessed on an international basis for rural development projects, in a similar way to the existing European one. Only in this way will there be a chance to develop rural spaces as a whole.
Jean-Claude Martinez (NI). – (FR) Mr President, sustainable development is a nice idea. It has the pleasant aroma of the Norway of Dr Brundtland, who invented it 40 years ago. It is a notion from the good old days, from the Club of Rome, from zero growth. It is a new version of the old idea of Pastor Malthus. At the banquet of humanity, there is not enough room for all of the generations. We must therefore restrict ourselves, because the ice is melting, the water is rising, the greenhouse effect is going to suffocate us, the sun is going to burn out and raw materials are going to run out because the Chinese are consuming everything.
In fact, the only thing that is sustainable is under-development. Look at Africa! The only sustainable thing is poverty, which is a socially transmitted disease passed on from generation to generation. Development, on the other hand, is purely provisional. The stone age did not come to an end because of a lack of stones, but because of the invention of bronze. The oil age will also come to an end, not because of a lack of oil, but because we will move on to the age of fusion or of hydrogen. In short, sustainable development is an absurd notion, dreamt up by the rich to explain to the poor that, in order to save humanity in the future, they must go without today.
Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner, sustainable development is something obviously desirable that we all seek. Who could possibly be opposed to it? Strategy and approach have great significance for the future prosperity of Europe and the world where these issues are concerned. They are linked together rather than integrated.
The resolution originated in Gothenburg five years ago and emphasises certain components needed for turning the Sustainable Development Strategy into a reality. More emphasis could have been placed on the way in which strong economic development can increase the opportunities for creating smart technology. Innovative environmental solutions too may require investment if they are to be profitable. The administrative dimension is emphasised to an unnecessary degree in the resolution, which sometimes shows too little appreciation of the realities of the business world. Most of the resolution can be implemented, but the market perspective should not be lost. I say this in my capacity as the person appointed by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats to take responsibility for this issue in the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
When the leitmotif of the resolution was the merger of the Lisbon Strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy, we had difficulty voting for it, but we now think that there is an acceptable compromise. We are not opposed to the strategy. On the contrary, we unreservedly support sustainable development in trade and industry, environmental work and society in general. We cannot, however, encourage a merger of the Lisbon and sustainability strategies right now, since the former, unlike the latter, is already in use. We are not, however, closing the door to such a merger for ever. Following the review that has now been carried out, we think that the resolution has acquired a tone that we can, in general, support.
Britta Thomsen (PSE). – (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great satisfaction that I note that the motion for a resolution recognises that growth and sustainable development are not opposites but, on the contrary, preconditions of each other. Sustainable growth is the only growth we can afford. The fact that the motion for a resolution extends sustainability to include areas in addition to the environment also constitutes great progress. The environmental and social dimensions should be integrated into our understanding of sustainability as elements of equal value.
In that connection I should like to emphasise that sustainable development also involves equality between the sexes. Women at present earn less than men throughout Europe and are not represented in decision-making bodies to the same degree as men – be it in political, economic or public life. Any strategy on sustainable development must take account of this inequality and of the fact that social problems affect men and women in different ways. The common goals of both the Lisbon Strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy cannot be achieved unless the issues of inequality and of the better use of both men’s and women’s potential are addressed.
Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, we all know that it is no longer a time for lamenting the consequences of our mistakes. The world ecological crisis is hitting us full in the face and I will not list the problems arising within this context.
We here are well aware, more than anyone else I am sure, how urgent it is to act and to make courageous and wide-ranging political choices. And what are we seeing, since this is what is important? That the Commission and the Member States use and abuse the rhetoric on sustainable development, sometimes cynically, to justify non-sustainable policies. I shall take the example of biodiversity, the common theme of our very survival, as you know very well, Mr Pröll.
Since we have waged a real battle here to obtain budgets for biodiversity in the financial perspective, since we have said that the Natura 2000 programme would be taken into account in the Structural Funds, an argument used to justify not creating a new budget line, could you tell us – and this question is for the Commission, which is not listening – why biodiversity has not been included amongst the priorities of FEDER and why biodiversity has not been provided with any budgetary contribution?
I would therefore really like to know who is sabotaging sustainable development in these institutions? And if there is sabotage, how much faith can we have in the strategy that you are presenting to us?
András Gyürk (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, in connection with the motion for resolution tabled before us, please allow me to say a few words about the relationship between sustainable development and energy economics.
The document rightly points out that energy production and consumption is one of the key factors in achieving sustainability. We are also right when on this basis we reformulate – like we have done so many times in the past – our goals in respect of increasing energy efficiency, reducing the proportion of greenhouse gases or even supporting renewable energy resources. At the same time, it is obvious that we are lagging behind significantly in respect of the further development of the sustainable development strategy adopted in 2001 in Gothenburg. Therefore, it is worth considering why we are in this situation. I am convinced that one of the important obstacles to achieving our goals may be the lack of an efficient market economy environment. The motion for resolution encourages us to exchange national experiences, and therefore, if you allow me, I will illustrate this with a Hungarian example. In Hungary, where the extent of utilisation of renewable energy sources is, unfortunately, one of the lowest in the European Union, the long term operation of polluting energy production facilities is protected by monopolistic situations and contracts that contradict market logic. As a result of these contracts, coupled with the unpredictable regulations concerning the compulsory electricity acquisition quota of the state, which also contradicts market logic, the utilisation of wind energy, for instance, is rendered practically impossible. And while this practice is in use, the chances of achieving our goals concerning sustainable development are very slim.
Therefore we need to develop an efficient, competitive and cost effective energy market, because without this, an environmentally sustainable society remains an unattainable dream. The Gothenburg strategy will only become real if this is achieved. In this hope I support the motion for resolution, and trust that we will be able to return to this issue when Parliament debates the development of the Common European Energy Policy.
IN THE CHAIR: MR FRIEDRICH Vice-President
Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Mr President, the Lisbon Strategy’s objectives are mistaken. We now have growth without jobs, so it is the wrong way to obtain more employment. We are also aiming at the wrong goals. With people now earning approximately EUR 12 000 per year, the link between increased income and greater happiness is ever more tenuous. Instead, the result is increased stress, more environmental damage, wider social disparities and more injustice. Sustainable development is not only about the environment. Achieving it involves, rather, seeing the environment as being inseparably linked to social conditions.
Today, everyone is talking about sustainable development, and tomorrow we are to vote on the Seventh Framework Programme that allocates EUR 4 billion to research into nuclear power. More money is also going to research into carbon-based energy and to research into other non-sustainable forms of energy. Why is that the case? The UN Climate Panel has shown that we can only achieve the Kyoto objectives by halting the subsidies to fossil fuels. People listening to us are amazed. Why do we not take the relevant decisions? It is because the lobbyists from the big companies obtain their cherished short-term growth solutions, which are inimical to sustainable development. We must listen more to our audience and less to our lobbyists. Then, we shall obtain sustainable development.
Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, since last December the Commission communication and other contemporary publicity channels have been confirming the speed of global changes and the new dangers, as well as the opposing trend towards permanent and balanced three-dimensional development which links economic growth and quality of life with social integration and environmental protection. Therefore, by proposing the framework of the basic principles of the European Union sustainable development strategy in a manner which supplements the Lisbon Strategy and is divided into six basic sectors, an attempt is being made to integrate sustainability into European policymaking, both in the form of an internal dimension and by including the external repercussions of decisions and choices on the planet as a whole.
Today, we in the European Parliament want our motion for a resolution to exert an effect on decisions by the other institutions. We are confirming our political and humanitarian sensitivity and our awareness of our responsibilities towards future generations by advocating an effective evaluation of the repercussions on the sustainability of all EU initiatives. The resolution is clear. We welcome the Presidency's interest, but we are calling for a single, cohesive and concise framework which will rally public opinion and policy-makers around common aspirations.
We hope that the general objectives will be supplemented by specific, people-orientated measures, which is why we must be sure to define progress indicators to measure the benefits to man as an undeniable and unique value.
Economic prosperity, high living standards and the ecological repercussions from the uniform dissemination of objectives on the potential of the natural world only make sense if they serve present and future citizens.
Josef Pröll, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, at the end of this debate I would like, as a summary, to give an overview of the items and goals that we have tried to coordinate with the Sustainable Development Strategy during our Presidency and on which we now want to reach a decision in the next few days. I would like to give my very heartfelt thanks for your suggestions and also for the speeches and the debates that we have had here together.
Our aim with the Sustainable Development Strategy has been to put sustainable development for Europe at the top of the political agenda and in doing so to make Europe an example for others. We have been keeping all the Council configurations busy, and in recent months we have tried very hard to work through the essential points with the European Parliament and now to present them as a strategy. This strategy is, in our view, the result of very wide-ranging discussions and ambitious negotiations. Seven key challenges with goals and measures have now been clearly set out in the strategy, and this will enable the European Union to confirm even more clearly our role as a frontrunner in international cases. The most important chapter is of course - and this will also enable us to measure, to a certain extent, the success of the Sustainable Development Strategy in the coming years - a strong and clearly structured chapter on implementation, which provides for responsibilities and competences regarding the monitoring of progress in implementation and very clearly addresses all EU institutions and political levels, EU-wide, national, local and regional.
I also regard – and we should do this together – the Sustainable Development Strategy as complementary to the Lisbon Strategy. Both strategies strive, with differing priorities and timescales, towards sustainable development. We want to demonstrate, too, that quality of life and high levels of environmental quality and social cohesion are important factors in safeguarding long term competitiveness. Sustainable development is a central factor in innovation: it creates opportunities and the potential for intelligent growth and better jobs.
Sustainable development is anchored in the treaties; it is an overarching objective for all European policies. It confronts us, however, with huge challenges, above all in institutional terms. On an EU level we do not yet have appropriate structures with which to discuss this horizontal issue in the corresponding committees or to better coordinate the opinions of different committees. During the negotiations on the EU Sustainable Development Strategy we finally attempted an ad hoc solution with the 'Friends of the Presidency' group. At Council level we will be working, until the first review of the strategy, on possible options offering suitable mechanisms for sustainable development. This institutional question concerns all EU institutions equally, and it would give me great pleasure to encourage a dialogue between institutions, one that goes beyond the decision on the Sustainable Development Strategy. We regard the Sustainable Development Strategy not, as it were, as the end of the debate on sustainability in Europe, but as an important starting point in conjunction with the Lisbon Strategy in moving towards sustainable development in Europe.
I would like to thank you once again for your very constructive cooperation, not only – I am saying this as the Austrian Presidency of the European Union nears its end – in the field of sustainability, but also for all of the constructive cooperation between the European Parliament and the Presidency. For me personally and in my areas of competence, discussions have always been very fruitful and successful.
Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to thank everyone for this very interesting debate. The debate shows that this subject is a central issue for Europe and that it is a priority which the Commission believes can contribute towards improving the quality of life and preserving resources, especially for the benefit of future generations. It goes towards improving the economic, social and environmental dimensions of our way of life.
The Commission’s proposal has emphasised and given added relevance to the underpinning principles of our sustainable development policy. Moreover, we have given ourselves clear objectives with correlative actions to reach these targets. Concerning the need to be more ambitious, and the call for new targets, I need to underline that the essential thing is to produce results. Investing in new targets may not be too difficult. However, it is much harder to get people to make and accept the changes needed to achieve those targets.
We are meeting our existing targets, but the real challenge is to ensure that we do so. We are therefore proposing a new approach aimed at making the difficult changes across society that are needed for sustainable development. Having said that, I agree that setting new targets is also important. However, any new targets need to be established through a proper process involving impact assessments and full stakeholder consultation, so that we have the acceptance and the commitment of those who need to work in order to achieve those targets.
I would also like to say something about the integrated approach frequently mentioned during the course of this debate. Sustainable development is about a coherent approach to policy-making. It requires an integrated approach, and in practice this means the Lisbon Strategy working hand-in-hand with the sustainable development strategy – two strategies working in parallel and in coordination towards the overarching objective of sustainable development.
The Commission disagrees with the idea of merging the two strategies, but agrees they should be used in parallel towards achieving the overall goal of sustainable development and that they should be complementary, both in scope and in terms of governance. The Commission agrees that they can go hand-in-hand, though this does not mean that they have to be integrated. This can be achieved through sound and effective complementarity between the two, and that is what the Commission’s communication seeks to achieve.
Concerning governance and monitoring, improving the governance of the European Union’s sustainable development strategy is key to pushing forward progress. That is why the proposal for the review of the strategy proposes a new improved governance process. The Commission will report on progress every two years. Let me assure you that in doing so it will draw on the full range of sustainable development indicators.
Eurostat has made good progress in developing indicators and this work will continue. The aim is not to name and shame, but to assess where we are, how much more we need to do, and in which areas, in order to enable us to determine where we need to act and to allow clear communication to electors and stakeholders on where we need to change and on our approach to this.
Concerning the international dimension, sustainable development requires a global approach. The European Union should maintain its position as a world leader in sustainable development through its action at home and by addressing the effect of this. It must also engage with others to achieve the commitments made at Johannesburg and the Millennium Development Goals in order, as has been said, to allow developing economies to leapfrog, to avoid old-fashioned unsustainable patterns of development and to use clean and innovative technologies. This is essential, for example, in the drive to limit climate change. It is also why the global dimension is an integral part of the reviewed European Union’s sustainable development strategy and why that strategy advocates an integrated approach to development and external policies.
In conclusion, the Commission hopes that the interaction between us in this area can continue and intensify in the months ahead.
President. To wind up the debate, a motion for resolution(1) has been tabled under Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.