In 2015, the European Union and its Member States signed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, committing themselves to achieve its 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Since then, many discussions have taken place at different levels involving stakeholders, resulting in the release of the European Commission’s long-awaited reflection paper ‘Towards a sustainable EU by 2030’ on 30 January 2019.
The reflection paper, that starts with providing a (quite rosy) overview of the EU’s performance on the Sustainable Development Goals while acknowledging the growing inequalities within the EU, sets out three possible scenarios that could guide the European Union in operating a just environmental, social and economic transition to become sustainable by 2030:
- Scenario 1. An overarching EU SDG strategy, comprising measures taken by the EU and its Member States that would be effectively coordinated and monitored through concrete and time-bound targets for 2030;
- Scenario 2. Continued mainstreaming of the SDGs in all relevant EU policies, with SDGs continuing to inspire the Commission’s political decision-making but not forcing EU Member States to achieve the EU’s collective SDG commitments; and
- Scenario 3. Putting enhanced focus on EU external action.
The Reflection paper also contains some critical elements to be taken into account, such as the acknowledgement of the importance of:
- social cohesion and ensuring a socially fair transition: “Solidarity and prosperity are virtues in themselves and make up the very fabric of our free and democratic societies…Sustainability change is …also about promoting social rights and well-being for all and in turn contributing to social cohesion in the Member States and across the EU”;
- education and life-long learning: “Education, training and life-long learning are indispensable to create a sustainability culture… Improving equal access to inclusive high-quality education and training at all stages of life, from early childhood through to higher education and adult education, must therefore be a main focus”;
- implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights: “The Pillar’s purpose is to guide a renewed process of improving working and living conditions. It sets out key principles and rights in the employment and social field. Our focus most now be delivering on the Pillar”.
SOLIDAR regrets the fact that, three and a half years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the EU has not yet adopted a concrete and ambitious Plan of Implementation to achieve the SDGs, with identified targets and a strong Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) to allocate the necessary means to deliver on those goals.