UN representative calls on EU to become the “European Sustainable Union”

UN representative, Ulf Bjornholm Ottosson, calls on EU to become the “European Sustainable Union” at debate on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the EU

On 29th September 2016, the external relations section of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) met to consider and vote on a Draft Opinion entitled ‘2030 Agenda – a European Union committed to sustainable development globally’. This opinion outlines the ways in which the European Union should promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in September of last year. They are 17 goals that seek to realise the human rights of all. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

Although these goals are arguably at the core of the European Union, the Rapporteur for this opinion, Mr. Vardakastanis, expressed concern about the lack of engagement and initiative at EU level on SDG implementation so far..

The rapporteur pointed out that while 4 European countries have voluntarily reported back to the UN on their progress with the SDGs – Estonia, Finland, France, and Germany – but the EU as a whole has not yet presented any coherent plan to implement the agreement. For this to happen, a comprehensive commitment at the highest political level, spanning across the Council, Parliament, and Commission would be necessary .

Mr. Bjornholm Ottosson, representing the UN agencies in Brussels at this event, argued that the EU should take on a leading role in the implementation, and become the “European Sustainanable Union.”  He stressed that the 2030 Agenda is an inclusive and participatory agenda, and underlined that “all countries are now developing countries, because no country is sustainable. “ Thus, the EU must both support other countries in their efforts to implementat of the SDG Agenda, and mainstream SDG implementation into its domestic policy framework and legislation. ”

A discussion followed from the speeches, where members of the EESC expressed their broad agreement with the opinion. Various members also underlined the importance of EU reporting on implementation in order to identify gaps and make improvements on the way in which the EU commits to the SDGs.

Following from this discussion, there will be a plenary session on the 19th – 20th October where the opinion will be tabled for adoption.