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Document 52005AE0528

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘The role of sustainable development within the forthcoming financial perspectives’

OJ C 267, 27.10.2005, p. 22–29 (ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, PT, SK, SL, FI, SV)

27.10.2005   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 267/22


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘The role of sustainable development within the forthcoming financial perspectives’

(2005/C 267/04)

On 29 November 2004 the future Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 262 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on ‘The role of sustainable development within the forthcoming financial perspectives’.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 18 April 2005. The rapporteur was Ms Sirkeinen, co-rapporteurs were Mr Ehnmark and Mr Ribbe.

At its 417th plenary session, held on 11/12 May 2005 (meeting of 11 May), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 151 votes to 1 with 8 abstentions:

1.   Introduction

1.1

The EESC has earlier adopted opinions covering comprehensively the sustainable development strategy of the EU. In this exploratory opinion the EESC discusses, as requested by the Luxembourg Presidency, the relationship between sustainable development and the financial perspectives; that is, what can and needs to be done by budget policies to integrate and enhance sustainable development. This opinion is structured according to the headings — priority areas — of the Communication on the financial perspectives.

1.2

The relationship between the EU budget and the objective of sustainable development is complex. The EESC endeavours in this opinion to shed light on this, but cannot here cover all details. Therefore it is important to collect and analyse knowledge and views on the issues involved on a broad scale.

1.3

The EESC is ready and willing to play an active role in the continuing work on sustainable development. To this end, it can also make a significant contribution in keeping with the tasks entrusted to it for the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy by the March 2005 European Council. The interactive network encompassing civil society and stakeholders which it has been asked to set up is an appropriate platform for an effective, multidimensional (economic, social, environmental) and clear evaluation, while at the same time promoting ownership of Community policies by grassroots players.

2.   The Commission Communication on the Financial Perspectives 2007-2013

2.1

In its Communication ‘Building our common Future — Policy challenges and Budgetary means of the enlarged Union 2007-2013’ (1) of 10.2.2004, the Commission presents its priorities for the enlarged European Union and its proposals for financial requirements, instruments, governance and the new financial framework as well as the financing system. The three priorities for the next financial perspectives are:

completing the internal market in order to achieve, in particular, the broader objective of sustainable development,

the political concept of European citizenship, which hinges on the completion of an area of freedom, justice, security and access to public goods, and

Europe as a global partner, promoting sustainable development and contributing to security.

2.1.1

The proposal for a new financial framework is grouped under the headings (table as an annex)

1.

Sustainable growth

1a.

Competitiveness for growth and employment

1b.

Cohesion for growth and employment

2.

Preservation and management of natural resources incl. Agriculture

3.

Citizenship, freedom, security and justice

4.

The EU as a global partner

5.

Administration.

2.1.2

The Commission proposes a larger increase in expenditure under priority 1. It is proposed to raise total appropriations for commitments from EUR 120.7 million in 2006 to EUR 158.4 million in 2013. This should be covered by payments of 1.24 % of GNI, including a margin of 0.10 %.

2.1.3

In its opinion on the financial perspectives 2007-2013 the EESC generally endorses the communication as it is seen as cohesive, having a solid, farsighted political premise, providing clear and consistent practical policy priorities and choices as well as being balanced. On the level of own resources of the Community budget, the EESC takes the view that is necessary to ‘opt for increasing the own resources of the Community budget for the new 2007-2013 programming period beyond the current budgetary framework, to the maximum level of 1.30 % of GDP’.

3.   General comments

3.1

It is of utmost importance that the new financial perspectives, the frame of the EU budgets for 2007-2013, reflect clearly the priorities of the Union, in particular the Lisbon goals and sustainable development. To this end a significant restructuring of expenditures must take place. If the financial perspectives, given their fairly long term, do not direct EU development in the right direction, there is little hope that other policies or later financial adjustments will succeed in doing so.

3.2

The EESC does not in this opinion discuss at length the issue of level of own resources, since this was thoroughly done in the previous opinion referred to in 2.1 It is, however, important to point out that Europe cannot be strong in delivering on its priorities and meeting the needs and expectations of its citizens unless it has strong financial resources. EU financing can have a significant multiplier effect on total resources devoted to given objectives, and this potential should be fully exploited. At present, there is tension between firstly, the views of the net contributing Member States, secondly those of the current main beneficiaries, thirdly political commitments to new Member States and their citizens and fourthly needs to reallocate resources to new priorities of the EU. The Committee stresses that a restructuring of expenditures towards the priorities of the Union must take place irrespective of the level of own resources finally decided upon.

4.   The concept of sustainable development

4.1

The EU strategy for sustainable development is based on interpenetration, interdependence and coherence between the so-called ‘three pillars’ of economic, social and environmental considerations. Sustainable development covers both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Policy decisions have to take all three aspects into consideration simultaneously. Policies directed mainly to one of these areas, or other policy areas, have to be coherent with the goals of the other areas.

4.2

Sustainable development has a long-term and a global aspect. Intergenerational justice means that present generations should not live at the expense of future generations. Global distributive justice does not allow us to live at the expense of other societies or by stifling the development of their well-being or global poverty eradication.

4.3

The sustainable development strategy differs from the standard definition of a strategy because, rather than defining a goal and a programme of measures to reach it, it takes the sustainability of the development approach as its key objective. At no point can sustainable development be said to have achieved completion; it is not so much a goal as a process. The important issue is to ensure that developments, particularly in the longer term, are consistent with one another and firmly aimed at fulfilling the criteria mentioned above (points 4.1 and 4.2). This is the real challenge of sustainable development — it cannot be delivered by specific targets or policies, although it must be possible to measure major reversals in trends (such as progress on the millennium goals).

4.4

Sustainable development requires a high level of policy coherence, at EU and national level. The total effort is very much a combination of big-scale and small-scale steps, together building up a process that counters unsustainable developments and promotes changes that are in line with the overarching objectives. One of the most difficult challenges in this approach is to develop indicators that properly reflect developments.

4.5

The EU sustainable development strategy concentrates presently on a few of the most urgent unsustainable trends in our societies — climate change, transport, public health and natural resources. Others, like eradication of poverty and population ageing have been left out, and can be added at a later stage.

4.6

The EESC has in its earlier opinions on sustainable development urged action in certain policy areas. These are: support for private and public investment in new and clean technology, new efforts to improve quality of work, setting prices on the use of natural resources as well as strategies for decreasing dependence of fossil fuels.

4.7

Policies in these areas, how important they may be, are however not alone sufficient to deliver on the objective of sustainable development. The goal and criteria of sustainability should be reflected in all policies. Individual EU policies must be framed more coherently.

4.8

It may be time to reconsider the form of the EU approach to sustainable development. The forthcoming revision of the sustainable development strategy will have to consider the best way to implement the overarching principle of sustainable development.

5.   The financial perspectives and sustainable development

5.1

The structure and detailed contents of the budget have a fundamental influence on the direction of EU developments. The renewal of the budget structure, giving the new priority headings, features an acknowledgement of the importance of sustainable development. The EESC expects this to be reflected in the implementation of the budget in real terms, and not only doing the same things in the same way under new headings.

5.2

The EESC shares the view of the Commission in giving priority to growth and employment, in the Lisbon perspective of the years up to 2010. Growth must be understood as economic growth taking into account the key European values of social inclusion, health and environmental protection. Competitiveness and economic growth are not final goals in themselves, but tools for promoting social and environmental goals. The problem is, however, that consistently slower growth and weaker competitiveness in the EU compared to the other main economic areas can put both the European social model and our environmental values at risk.

5.3

Budgetary decisions should also take into account the fact that social and environmental development for their part also contribute to economic growth.

5.4

The EU is not monolithic in its achievements vis-à-vis sustainable development. Member States are in very different situations. A few have been able to successfully combine relatively strong economic growth with a high level of social and environmental protection. There seems to have been a positive interaction between developments in different areas. Some other Member States, again, seem to struggle with the opposite situation, a combination of very sluggish growth, difficulties in addressing social problems and lagging behind in environmental development. New Member States are in a different situation than the older ones, characterised by growth and clear development from problematic starting points in the other ‘pillars’.

5.5

Enlargement has been the most dominant factor of change for the EU in recent years, and will probably remain so during the 2007-2013 period covered by the financial perspectives. Obviously, this has a considerable impact on the budget, in particular on expenditure for cohesion. The EESC has discussed the issues of enlargement, cohesion and funding in other contexts. Concerning sustainable development, it is clear that joining the EU constitutes a major challenge with regard to developing national policies towards sustainable development, and taking part in the overall EU actions and considerations. After accession, the acquis communautaire guides their development in environmental, health, social and other fields towards sustainability, insofar as sustainable development (not explicitly included in the acquis) is promoted by the acquis. But most of the work towards sustainability still needs to be done. Support programmes providing assistance in the form both of financial resources and expertise can, and should, help these societies to develop in a sustainable direction.

5.6

The priority areas of the sustainable development strategy as well as other areas with recognised unsustainable trends — mentioned in paragraphs 4.4. and 4.5. — must be treated as priorities in budgetary policies as well.

5.7

A budget heading as such is mostly neither ‘sustainable’ nor ‘unsustainable’. The effects on sustainable development depend on the detailed design of programmes, objectives and criteria for projects to be financed.

5.8

The key instrument for ensuring policy coherence with sustainable development goals is impact assessment. This is acknowledged by all stakeholders, including the Commission, but steps towards a systematic, independent and competent assessment of all proposals of importance have been slow. The EESC sees the preparation and the implementation of the new financial perspectives as a window of opportunity to finally introduce systematic assessment in practice.

5.9

Impact assessments need to be performed on every single programme in the budget and their objectives. In this context in particular support for unsustainable activities, related to areas identified in the sustainable development strategy and inter alia in EESC opinions, should be stopped. Impact assessments with regard to effects on long-term sustainable development should also be introduced in the Lisbon strategy, in line with what the EESC has previously recommended.

5.10

Clear and transparent criteria ought to be used for the selection of projects to be financed under different budget headings and programmes. These should include sustainability criteria, such as the impact of the project on the environment, health, creation or loss of jobs and EU competitiveness.

5.11

Particular attention should be directed to the use of resources from structural funds, the cohesion fund and agricultural expenditure as well as the TEN programmes. In these fields of EU activity, which represent the vast majority of EU expenditure, choices have to be systematically directed towards solutions that fulfil sustainability criteria as far as possible.

5.12

In these areas better supervision of results and of the impact of money spent is needed. It is not enough to monitor how much money has been spent and whether there have been any infringements of administrative rules. In order to be able to develop activities in the right direction, comprehensive impact studies in relation to sustainable development criteria are needed.

5.13

Merely conducting assessments of the likely impact of proposed policies does not always give a complete picture on which to base decisions. In some cases the impact of inaction also needs to be studied and the results assessed in comparison with the impact of various possible measures.

6.   Comments on the priority areas of the financial perspectives

6.1   A) Sustainable growth — Competitiveness for growth and employment

6.1.1

The EESC agrees with the main objectives of the Commission proposal for competitiveness for growth and employment: promoting the competitiveness of enterprises in a fully integrated single market, strengthening the European RD&T-effort, connecting Europe through EU networks, improving the quality of education and training and the social policy agenda, and helping European society to anticipate and manage change.

6.1.2

Under this heading, the EESC wants in particular to stress the key role of knowledge, R&D and new technology. By putting real emphasis on this and providing adequate resources, Europe has a unique chance to enhance productivity, competitiveness, growth and employment in the face of fierce competition from other parts of the globe, and also to ease the stress on environment and natural resources by using more eco-efficient technological solutions to peoples' needs which safeguard health and security.

6.1.3

As emphasised by the recent Stakeholder Forum on Sustainable Development in the EU which the EESC organised on 14-15 April in cooperation with the Commission, sustainable development as an overarching objective for the European Union necessitates systematic and long-term efforts in the field of research and development, covering all three pillars of economic, social and environmental progress. A number of universities and scientific institutions in the EU have formed networks for coordinated research on sustainable development. The financial perspectives provide a valuable opportunity for supporting these and other initiatives.

6.1.4

Increasing global competition for minerals and oil — to take but two examples — and its consequences for costs illustrate the need to develop new materials, new production processes, and in general terms more resource-efficient technologies.

6.1.4.1

The EESC consequently reiterates its earlier support for the Commission's proposals concerning the European Research area, doubling the financial contribution to the 7th Framework Programme and launching the Environmental Technology Action Plan. In its forthcoming opinions on the 7th Framework Programme and specific programmes the EESC will also incorporate the aspect of sustainable development.

6.1.5

In this part of the financial perspectives, covering TENs in addition to R&D and innovation, special emphasis is needed on energy and transport. Support for development of technologies and market launches of renewable forms of energy, energy efficiency and clean energy solutions need to have high priority. TEN-T projects that merely increase the volume of transport do not comply with the sustainability principle.

6.1.6

The EESC has emphasised in several opinions that particularly in the areas of transport and energy additional efforts are needed to redirect developments towards sustainability. The Committee has also proposed policy lines towards this end. The Communication on the financial perspectives does not make it clear whether it is intended to make sufficient resources available for this purpose.

6.1.7

In preparing the EU for the intensively competitive global community the financial perspectives will have to approach two diametrically opposing challenges: first, the high level of unemployment in most EU member states, second, the need — in the near future — for more people in the labour market. The EESC has already put forward recommendations on these issues in several of its recent opinions on ‘Employment policy: the role of the EESC following the enlargement of the EU and from the point of view of the Lisbon Process’, on ‘Business competitiveness’ and on ‘Improving the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy’.

6.1.8

In particular, the EESC would like to see a new approach for life-long learning, as this is a tool both for improving employment and for shaping a higher awareness of the issues at hand in the perspective of sustainable development. Life-long learning appears to be one of the key missing links in the efforts to implement the Lisbon strategy. A serious commitment to sustainable development requires, in this area, cooperation between the social partners as well as additional financial contributions by Member States.

6.2   B) Cohesion for growth and employment

6.2.1

Cohesion has been necessary to deepen the integration process. The EESC acknowledges the attempt by the Commission to re-focus cohesion actions on sustainable development objectives.

6.2.2

Cohesion policy should aim at increasing economic performance and creating more and better jobs by mobilising unused resources. EU funds should not be used to support lame-duck enterprises in a way that distorts competition or merely transfers jobs from one part of the EU to another. Actions should primarily focus on supporting new, sustainable jobs, increased competitiveness, human and physical capital, internal-market consolidation, and improving labour mobility.

6.2.3

Concentration of resources towards regions lagging behind (objective 1) and for a closer fit with the general strategic goals of the EU in the framework of sustainable development should be supported. More emphasis on cross-border cooperation is also essential to integrate the internal market more deeply.

6.2.4

The transition period for the regions in which per capita GDP is higher than 75 % of the Community average, as a result of the statistical effect of enlargement, is needed. However, subsidies should progressively be reduced.

6.2.5

Here too clear qualitative tests should be put in place. Due to the availability of funding ‘from Brussels’, a considerable amount of resources, which could have been used much more efficiently, has been used for planning. Nor has regional planning always created new jobs in Europe.

6.2.6

There is need for a higher degree of ownership of specific measures for sustainable development at local and regional levels. The EESC recommends that projects for cohesion should be assessed not only in terms of economic growth and employment, but also in terms of their effects on sustainable long-term development of the region.

6.3   Preservation and management of natural resources

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

6.3.1

The Committee's opinion on the Future of the CAP  (2) included detailed descriptions and analyses of the various reform measures taken by the EU in the field of agricultural policy, and pointed out the difficult circumstances faced by European sustainable agriculture against a backdrop of globalised markets. In its opinion, the Committee noted that reforms were always preceded by criticisms and debates questioning whether agricultural expenditure was balanced and socially equitable, and by concerns about their environmental impact. The Luxembourg reform has not ended these debates.

6.3.2

This prompted a series of proposals from the Commission on gearing agricultural expenditure more closely to ‘greater sustainability’. For example, former Agriculture Commissioner Fischler initially suggested the introduction of a ceiling and then of a sliding scale for payments in order to secure a ‘fairer’ distribution of support. Mandatory linkage of direct support to environmental constraints that go beyond the legislation in force was also discussed on several occasions by Commissioners McSharry and Fischler, so as to assess the environmental impact of the funding too. However, these proposals failed to obtain majority support in the Council.

6.3.3

The agricultural reforms decided in summer 2003 give Member States two basic options for introducing production subsidies to implement the new direct payments: these involve either a production subsidy based on the level of existing payments, or one that is calculated wholly or at least in part on the basis of the farm's acreage (‘regionalisation’).

6.3.4

In neither case has it been made mandatory — even this time round — to tie future payment to the retaining and/or creation of jobs. Against the backdrop of the sustainability debate, this is likely to spark a new debate within society, in the same way as the related issue of the environmental component.

6.3.5

After all, the ‘cross-compliance standards’ which farmers have to meet do not go very far beyond compliance with existing laws, a fact which in some Member States, as the reform has been transposed into national policy, has already led to heated controversy.

6.3.6

For the EESC it is clear that transfer of government funds must always be linked with the common good. Payments must be justified, warranted and socially acceptable. Ideally there should be a clearly recognisable link between the CAP and the sustainability objectives of the Gothenburg and Lisbon strategies (creating jobs, promoting social justice, preserving the environment); however, at present no such link is yet discernible, at least for the majority of citizens. This is likely to spark further discussions about the whole point of such payments and about the role of farmers in relation to these objectives. The mid-term reform of the CAP, which has been carried out against the wishes of most representatives of European farmers and livestock breeders, should be reorientated towards stimulating sustainable family farming in Europe, which would give it social legitimacy.

6.3.7

Payments under the first pillar of the CAP, and particularly direct payments, are undoubtedly of vital importance to many farmers. However, decoupled direct payments, instead of offering any political scope to steer farmers towards sustainable production, are rather a means of safeguarding incomes, which does not even benefit all farmers equally.

6.3.8

Under the second pillar — support for rural development — payments are subject to clearly defined quid pro quos, set by programmes developed at Community level. Examples of these are the agri-environmental programmes, support for organic farming, diversification of farming activities (e.g. promoting processing and sales of raw products), as well as support for small and micro-businesses in rural areas.

6.3.9

In this context, the call by the new Agriculture Commissioner Fischer-Boel at the launch of the Green Week in Berlin on 20 January 2005 to ‘make rural development a cornerstone of the Lisbon strategy’ is of relevance. Also significant are comments from the Commissioner's cabinet to the effect that, whereas there is unlikely to be a great deal of job creation under the first pillar, rural development policy is seen to have considerable potential. The EESC feels that it would be particularly helpful for the Commission to carry out studies as soon as possible to corroborate the probable impact of the CAP's two pillars on employment, the environment and social matters.

6.3.10

The new draft regulation on rural development currently under discussion envisages more activities in this area (e.g. funding of NATURA 2000 areas and implementation of the Water Framework Directive). Rural development is thus increasingly becoming an important political tool to steer farmers towards sustainability, a tendency which is welcomed by the EESC.

6.3.11

However, the Commission's plans for the 2007-2013 period envisage maintaining the budget for rural development at current levels. For the EESC this means that, given its objectives, rural development is underfunded even in the EU's financial perspective.

6.3.12

Given the central relevance of rural development measures to the sustainability debate, the Committee wholly fails to understand the current Council discussion — launched by the six net contributor countries — on sweeping cuts in this area.

6.4   Citizenship, freedom, security and justice

6.4.1

To ensure a true area of freedom, security and justice for the Europeans action at the EU level is necessary, both in order to achieve effectiveness but also to share the financial burden. Successful integration of immigrants is a matter of both social cohesion and a prerequisite for economic efficiency. The establishment of the European Border Agency, a common asylum and immigration policy, measures involving legal residents or newly arrived third country nationals in EU Member States, as well as prevention and return of illegal residents are supported by the EESC.

6.4.2

Preventing and fighting crime and terrorism is a key challenge for the Union. Sufficient resources to address the need for security is a prerequisite for administrative, social and economic sustainability of our societies.

6.4.3

Safety and security of our everyday life, including daily needs, is a high priority for Europeans. Citizens expect from the Union a high level of protection against risks of natural disasters, health and environmental crisis and other large-scale disasters. Dangers to health from hazardous substances in the environment or alimentation as well as safety and security standards of, in particular, energy and transport, need continuous attention and action at the Union level.

6.4.4

An adequate level of basic services of general interest, such as health and education, energy, transport and communications needs to be ensured. Physical safety of supply in some of these cases, as energy and transport, is an important aspect when developing the internal market as well as multi- and bilateral trading and other external relations.

6.4.5

Sustainable development is gradually making headway thanks to the awareness, attitudes and actions of individual citizens and groups, and cannot ever again be substituted solely by top-down actions decided by those at the head of our systems, organisations and institutions. Europe can pride itself on well-organised and functioning societies, including well educated and actively participating citizens as well as a highly developed structure of civil society organisations. This is perhaps the best possible cultural basis for further sustainable development.

6.4.6

Enlargement has further widened the variety of cultures in Europe. This can enrich everybody's life, but efforts are needed to promote mutual understanding. Sharing of knowledge and experiences of economic, political and everyday life, including on how to proceed towards sustainable development, needs also to be supported. The beneficiaries would not only be the new Member States, but all of Europe and its citizens.

6.5   The EU as a global partner

6.5.1

At the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the EU profiled itself as a dynamic and result-oriented participant. Launching new efforts such as the Water and Energy initiatives (the partnerships of the willing) gained much goodwill for the EU.

6.5.2

At the UN level, implementation of the 52-page action plan from Johannesburg is progressing. It is a slow process, with considerable difficulties for the participating countries to live up to the promises and plans.

6.5.3

The EU must live up to its commitments and the leading role it took at the World Summit. This needs to be reflected in the allocations of the financial perspectives.

6.5.4

In particular, the EU will have to give more impetus to efforts in the least developed countries (LDCs), with focus on basic needs such as water, energy, healthcare, safe food, basic education and training as well as the development of agriculture.

6.5.5

Individual EU countries have developed ambitious support programmes for LDCs, particularly in Africa. There is a need for better co-ordination between the EU level and the national level as to outlining and implementing these development programmes. In the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) countries, the Cotonou programme has proved to be a valuable tool for involving social partners and organised civil society.

6.5.6

Sustainable development is to some degree integrated in these development programmes. It has to be given a central place, in accordance with the action plan adopted at Johannesburg.

6.5.7

In order to increase the coordination of efforts, and to strengthen the dimensions of sustainable development, the EESC recommends further initiatives from the EU, primarily in the form of building ‘coalitions of the willing’ for specific development issues, such as water, energy, safe food and healthcare.

7.   Conclusions

7.1

The renewal of the budget structure, giving the new priority headings, features an acknowledgement of the importance of sustainable development. The EESC expects this to be reflected in the implementation of the budget in real terms, and not only doing the same things in the same way under new headings. The Committee stresses that a restructuring of expenditures towards the priorities of the Union must take place irrespective of the level of own resources finally decided upon.

7.2

It is of utmost importance that the new financial perspectives, the frame of the EU budgets for 2007-2013, reflect clearly the priorities of the Union, in particular the Lisbon goals and sustainable development. To this end a significant restructuring of expenditures must take place. If the financial perspectives, given their fairly long term, do not direct EU development in the right direction, there is little hope that other policies or later financial adjustments will succeed in doing so.

7.3

The EESC shares the view of the Commission in giving priority to growth and employment in the Lisbon perspective of the years up to 2010. Growth must be understood as economic growth taking into account the key European values of social inclusion, health and environmental protection. Competitiveness and economic growth are not final goals in themselves, but tools for promoting social and environmental goals. The problem is, however, that consistently slower growth and weaker competitiveness in the EU compared to the other main economic areas can put both the European social model and our environmental values at risk.

7.4

The priority areas of the sustainable development strategy as well as other areas with recognised unsustainable trends — climate change, transport, public health, natural resources, eradication of poverty, population ageing and dependence on fossil fuels — must be treated as priorities in budgetary policies as well.

7.5

A budget heading as such is mostly neither ‘sustainable’ nor ‘unsustainable’. The effects on sustainable development depend on the detailed design of programmes, objectives and criteria for projects to be financed.

7.6

The key instrument for ensuring policy coherence with sustainable development goals is impact assessment. Impact assessments need to be performed on every single programme in the budget and their objectives. In this context support for unsustainable activities in particular should be stopped.

7.7

Clear and transparent criteria ought to be used for the selection of projects to be financed under different budget headings and programmes. These should include sustainability criteria, such as the impact of the project on the environment, health, creation or loss of jobs and EU competitiveness.

7.8

Particular attention should be directed to the use of resources from structural funds, the cohesion fund and agricultural expenditure as well as the TEN programmes. In these fields of EU activity, which represent the vast majority of EU expenditure, choices have to be systematically directed towards solutions that fulfil sustainability criteria as far as possible.

7.9

The EESC wants in particular to stress the key role of knowledge, R&D and new technology. By putting real emphasis on this and providing adequate resources, Europe has a unique chance to enhance productivity, competitiveness, growth and employment in the face of fierce competition from other parts of the globe, and also to ease the stress on environment and natural resources by using more eco-efficient technological solutions to peoples' needs which safeguard health and security.

Brussels, 11 May 2005.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND


(1)  COM(2004) 101 final

(2)  OJ C 125 of 27.5.2002, pp. 87-99


APPENDIX

to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee

The following amendments, which received at least a quarter of the votes cast, were rejected at the plenary session:

Point 4.5

Amend as follows:

‘The EU sustainable development strategy concentrates presently on a few of the most seemingly urgent unsustainable trends in our societies — climate change, transport, public health and natural resources. Others, like e The eradication of extreme poverty and hardship population ageing have been left out, and can be added at a later stage and the age revolution must be dealt with at the same time. One of the main changes required and facilitated by the sustainable development strategy is to get away from this notion of priorities, without losing sight of the need to act, even on a sectoral basis.

Reason

These proposals all have the same aim: to spell out in more detail than in the exploratory opinion the main cultural changes required and generated by the strategy and concept of sustainable development.

It should be stressed that the cultural changes in question are already at work within society and among individuals, and if they are encouraged by policies and institutions (and therefore the financial perspectives), then the sustainable development strategy will become truly operational. Otherwise, our worst fears for the future could become reality.

Voting:

For

:

51

Against

:

54

Abstentions

:

26.


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