Gothenburg endorses sustainable development strategy

EU leaders endorse strategy for sustainable development but fail to adopt concrete objectives and measures at the Gothenburg Summit

Main elements of the Presidency Conclusions on sustainable development:

  • Member States were asked to draw up their own national sustainable development strategies. They should establish “appropriate national consultative processes” to consult widely with all stakeholders.
  • EU Institutions are urged to improve internal policy coordination between different sectors (to be coordinated by the General Affairs Council)
  • All major policy proposals will have to include a sustainability impact assessment covering their potential economic, social and environmental consequences. The Commission will work out mechanisms for this in its action plan for better regulation to be presented to the Laeken European Council.
  • The European Council will evaluate progress in developing and implementing the strategy at its annual Spring meetings.
  • The Commission will evaluate implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy in its annual synthesis report, on the basis of a number of headline indicators, to be agreed by the Council in time for the Spring European Council 2002.
  • The Council of Ministers was urged to take due account of energy, transport and environment in the 6th Framework Programme for Research and Development.
  • The EU will address the global dimension of the sustainable development strategy in its preparations for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The Council reaffirmed its commitment to reach the UN target for official development assistance of 0.7% of GDP as soon as possible.
  • On climate change, the Summit underlined its commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The Commission will prepare a proposal for ratification before the end of 2001.
  • Sustainable transport should become a priority. The Summit invited the European Parliament and the Council to adopt by 2003 revised guidelines for trans-European transport networks on the basis of a forthcoming Commission proposal. The Commission is also asked to propose a framework to ensure that by 2004 the price of using different modes of transport better reflects costs to society.
  • The new chemicals policy must in place by 2004.
  • The Commission will present by the end of 2001 Action Plans for tackling issues related to outbreaks of infectious diseases and resistance to antibiotics.
  • The possibility of the creation of a European surveillance and early warning network on health issues should be examined.
  • By 2010 the deterioration of EU’s biodiversity should be stopped
  • Council of Ministers asked to finalise sector strategies for integrating environment into all relevant Community policy areas with a view to implementing them as soon as possible and present the results of this work before the Barcelona European Council in 2002.


During a lunch meeting at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 18 June, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström welcomed the results of the Summit with respect to sustainable development and climate change. Gothenburg "has been a big step forward for sustainable development, and it has confirmed the European determination to address climate change", she said.

However, she showed some disappointment that the conclusions "are not more specific on concrete actions to promote sustainable development, and that the Commission's proposal for a greenhouse gas reduction target post-Kyoto of an annual extra 1 percent up to 2020 was not endorsed.

In a first reaction, the European Environmental Bureau expressed satisfaction and frustration over this "modest step towards sustainable development". The EEB mainly criticised the fact that the Summit did not agree "on the obvious essential steps: phasing out of environmentally perverse subsidies, environmental tax reform, greening public procurement, strict environmental liability".


EU leaders endorsed a strategy for sustainable development but failed to adopt concrete objectives and measures at the Gothenburg Summit of 15-16 June.


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