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Integrating sustainable development into Community cooperation policy

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Integrating sustainable development into Community cooperation policy

The Commission defines a strategy to ensure that the environment plays a key role in the European Union's economic and development aid to partner countries, to enable those countries to assume their environmental responsibilities in the long term.


Commission Communication of 18 May 2000, entitled: "Integrating environment and sustainable development into economic and development cooperation policy - elements of a comprehensive strategy" [COM(2000) 264 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


Environmental challenges arising from the Treaty of Amsterdam

Article 177 of the Treaty of Amsterdam lays down three development objectives which present challenges for the integration of the environment into European Union cooperation policy:

  • sustainable economic and social development: the communication stresses that the governments of developing countries need systematically to take account of environmental aspects when drawing up economic and social policies;
  • campaign against poverty: the Commission stresses that the objective should be to ensure systematic acknowledgement of linkages between poverty and environment in policy dialogues with developing countries;
  • fostering the integration of developing countries into the world economy: this objective can be achieved through trade, development of the private sector and international investment. As regards trade, the Commission wishes to clarify the relationships between certain WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules and the environment. As regards the private sector in developing countries, the Commission will ensure that private sector operators integrate environmental considerations into all their operations (e.g. environmental auditing and reporting, environmental management systems, adherence to internationally agreed codes of conduct, etc.). Finally, the communication recommends that regulations in developing countries on international investment should take account of environmental protection.

Environmental challenges arising from international agreements

As part of the political dialogue with developing countries, the Commission puts the emphasis on supporting those countries in their efforts to respond to global environmental issues and to implement the major UN environmental conventions on climate, biodiversity and desertification. It should also help these countries to respond to global environmental issues, while strengthening their capacity to negotiate emerging environment agreements.

Community funding and the environment

Community funding for environmental purposes remains modest compared with other EU aid. The communication stresses the key role played by the governments of developing countries in allocating the funds granted by the European Union. For this reason, the Commission must insist that they take account of environmental issues when allocating their resources.

In connection with economic and development cooperation, accounting of environmental expenditure needs to be improved to facilitate comparison between regions receiving Community aid and with the expenditure of the Member States.

Programming and project cycle

Programming is the first step to be taken in any cooperation between the Community and a developing country. It provides a good opportunity to ensure that the environment will be taken into account in development strategies, and to identify and avoid harmful environmental impacts of cooperation programmes.

Programming is currently being harmonised within the Community. At the end of this process, the same environmental integration procedures will be used for all regions receiving aid from the European Union.

A manual with guidelines for the integration of environmental aspects in policies and programming is currently being prepared by the Commission. This manual establishes a three-step approach:

  • a country environmental profile with performance indicators will serve as an input to the country strategy document;
  • systematic assessment of the environmental risks and opportunities of the proposed programme or policy;
  • improvement of the quality of the integration of environmental aspects through quality support groups.

The communication announces the inclusion of a short environment chapter in each country report, as a measure to improve programming.

European Union economic and development cooperation provides for compulsory mechanisms for the environmental assessment of programmes and projects, but these need to be further improved.

Advancing and evaluating the environment integration process

At present, all units dealing with environmental issues in the Commission have to observe the following mandate:

  • build capacity in the developing countries to assume greater responsibility in implementing environmentally sound cooperation programmes;
  • increase the capacity of staff to integrate environmental aspects in the cooperation programmes;
  • streamline internal procedures to incorporate environmental issues systematically;
  • establish a system (e.g. of a statistical nature) to continuously improve the quality of the output.

Training and capacity building are major activities for integrating the environment in cooperation policies. For this reason, a series of courses on the environment will be organised during 1999 and 2000 at the Commission and in some of its delegations. Environment training will also be given in all cooperation areas. In 2000, the Commission will carry out a comprehensive assessment of its training needs.

The overall environmental performance of EC aid to developing countries is evaluated regularly.

The Commission will carry out a study in order to improve its own internal procedures to integrate the environment more effectively.

The communication mentions certification and accreditation of the environmental integration process in accordance with an internationally acknowledged and standardised environmental management system as the most credible approach to achieving sound management.

In Annex I to the communication, we find legal texts on the integration of the environment and sustainable development into EU economic and development cooperation policies.

Annex II concerns the integration of the environment into selected EC economic and development and cooperation policy documents since 1992.

Annex III gives details of Community participation in multilateral environment agreements. It mentions the multilateral environment agreements to which the Community is, or will be, a contracting party.

Annex IV shows the regional breakdown of funding to different environment themes and the EU, EIB (European Investment Bank) and EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) funding instruments for third countries.

Annexes V and VI refer to the indicators used by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the European Union in environment matters.


Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation [Official Journal L 378, 27.12.2006]. In the context of the 2007-2013 financial perspective, this Regulation establishes a financing instrument for development cooperation providing direct support for the Community's policy in this field. The policy is aimed at achieving the objectives of poverty reduction, sustainable economic and social development and the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries into the world economy. The Regulation repeals and replaces Regulation (EC) No 2493/2000 as of 1 January 2007.

Council Conclusions of 31 May 2001: Strategy for the integration of environmental considerations into development policy to promote sustainable development. In this strategy, the Council underlines the importance of integrating environmental considerations into all Community initiatives in the field of development cooperation. Priority should be given to:

  • enhanced policy dialogue with partner countries on environmental issues;
  • systematically incorporating environmental considerations into the preparation of all strategic plans and programmes for EC development cooperation;
  • mainstreaming environmental considerations into the six priority themes for EC development cooperation, namely trade and development, regional cooperation, poverty reduction, transport, food security and institutional capacity building;
  • monitoring the progress made.

Last updated: 13.04.2007