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EU policies for sustainable development scrutinised in Helsinki

The European Union should adopt a comprehensive strategy on sustainable development by 2001, according to 160 European policy makers, business leaders, and representatives from non-governmental organisations, who met at the Sustainability 21 conference in Helsinki at the begin...
The European Union should adopt a comprehensive strategy on sustainable development by 2001, according to 160 European policy makers, business leaders, and representatives from non-governmental organisations, who met at the Sustainability 21 conference in Helsinki at the beginning of November.

The EU's record in promoting sustainable development came under close scrutiny at this high-level conference, held in advance of the December European summit in Helsinki when EU Heads of State and Government will review Europe's progress towards sustainable development and the integration of environmental issues into other policy areas.

The Sustainability 21 conference participants are now urging the European Council to put the implementation of sustainable development high on its agenda, and in particular take a close and critical look at the ministerial councils' recently prepared integration reports. These reports are crucial for the successful integration of sustainable development into their policy fields but the conference warned they are of 'differing quality and lack a common framework'.

The conference also suggested that the European Commission should develop core headline indicators for councils to follow. These should address inputs (resource consumption), outputs (emissions and waste streams) and outcomes. They believe this will strengthen the ministerial councils' work. Conference delegates also want to see clear targets set, to meet the objectives of decoupling resource use and economic growth, and timetables established that address both short- and long-term issues.

This work will benefit if the President of the European Commission takes an active role in facilitating the integration principle, the delegates said. They also called on the Commissioners' Group for Growth, Competitiveness, Employment and Sustainable development to initiate work on a comprehensive sustainable development strategy, which should be adopted before the Rio +10 review in 2002.

Further to this, they called on all EU institutions to develop 'appropriate' mechanisms for integration and asked the European Council to commit itself to veto approval of major policy initiatives with significant environmental impact - unless they are appraised for their environmental impact and contribution to sustainability.
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