"2020 Vision" for a sustainable Europe

Advisory group recommends integration of environment into EU foreign policy

The European Union should prepare a strategy on how the EU can promote environmental concerns in its foreign policy considerations, an official EU advisory group says. In a letter sent to EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, the General Consultative Forum on the Environment has also argued for a sustainability task force and regular sustainable development reports.

The Consultative Forum was set up in 1993 to advise the European Commission on environmental issues. It is made up of representatives of the business community, environmental organisations, trade unions and local and regional organisations. Last month, the Commission revamped the Forum by changing its name (now officially the European Consultative Forum on the Environment and Development), giving it a more independent role and admitting members from European Economic Area countries.

The Forum's brief was "to help the European Commission develop its own 2020 vision for a sustainable Europe" and to "challenge policy makers...to develop a more future-oriented approach to environmental policy". To this end, it considered three specially prepared "Scenarios for a Sustainable Europe", which were based on an analysis of environmental, social and economic trends in Europe.

Amongst the Forum's main recommendations are that the EU should set up a sustainability task force to provide new and innovative solutions to environmental problems; that the EU should produce and publish widely a regular sustainable development report including "performance" and "balance sheet" information; that a think tank be set up "to ensure that the long term is taken account of" in EU environment policy; that steps should be taken to develop a European research and development strategy to move towards sustainable development; and that the EU should draw up a policy paper on EU foreign policy and sustainable development issues, "evaluating how the EU could demonstrate global leadership on sustainable development".

A Commission official told ENDS Daily that the Forum's ideas would be fed into the debate on the future direction of the EU's environment programme and would be used to "point the whole policy making process [of the Commission] in a sustainable direction". Welcoming the Forum's proposals, Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said that they constituted "a challenge to the Commission as a whole, raise a number of important questions and seek to challenge our conventional thinking about the economy".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 9111.

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