The Commission has announced that the broad focus given to the environmental and social pillars by the original Lisbon process in 2000 and 2001 will now face “temporary abandonment”.

But the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Social Platform have expressed their deep disappointment to the Commission, stating that they disagree with its outdated philosophy of “growth first, other worries later”.

“A society which addresses these major issues separately is wasting resources, undermines European growth potential and stands no chance of achieving the economic goals of Lisbon in a sustainable way,” the trio stated.

In their proposal, the organisations also outlined their concerns that a narrow focus would fail to address the threats of climate change, ever-increasing transport movements and erosion of biodiversity in a way that also contributed to economic modernisation and better public health.

“Europe should not aim to compete with emerging economics on the basis of a ‘low road strategy’ because this approach can only fail,” the organisations warned. “Instead, Europe should invest in Social Europe and sustainable development as a source of excellence, innovation and a basis for the knowledge society.”

“Greater social cohesion does not automatically result from increased economic activity alone. For growth to have a maximal positive impact on social cohesion and poverty reduction, effective employment, social protection and social inclusion policies are required.”

The EEB, ETUC and Social Platform have therefore made the following demands to the European Council:

  • Ensure that the short-term actions promoted by the Lisbon process contribute concretely to, and do not contradict, the environmental and social commitments the EU has agreed
  • Guarantee that the Spring Summit will focus not only on growth and jobs but also include strong social and environmental dimensions, to ensure an integrated view of these three policy areas
  • Resist any attempt to impose a standstill on further improvement of the EU’s environmental and social policies, with reference to the current economic situation
  • Agree to promote policies for public investments in sustainable housing and transport in all Member States
  • Make the strongest possible commitment to green and social public procurement
  • Undertake a thorough analysis of the impact of liberalising energy markets on sustainable development, including access to services, CO2 emissions and employment
  • Decide on environmental tax reform, taking into account the social and employment impacts, using these revenues for the reduction of labour costs and for social services
  • Pledge to make the Doha round trade negotiations a true “development round”

    The three organisations also stressed the need for the EU to put the need for implementing fairer trade at the top of their agenda.

    “We are concerned about European external policy shifting from the promotion of responsible economic global governance towards a simple free trade agenda, in which the rest of the world is only seen as a competitor,” they concluded.

    By Jane Kettle

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