The Barcelona EU summit: The results are worrying from an environmental and sustainable development viewpoint

News Published 20 Mar 2002 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
2 min read
Personal Statement by Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán

Personal Statement by Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán

The Barcelona Summit, or more appropriately Heads of State and Government, do not seem to have responded adequately to the responsibilities and the mandate they set themselves in Gothenburg, nor to the expectations that they created, regarding the environment, its integration into other policies, and sustainable development. These issues do not appear amongst the priorities for the next 12 months agreed in Barcelona, even though the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development will take place in Johannesburg during this period.

A decisive development, a certain climax, in the process had been expected in Barcelona. But instead of marking a "top" the summit appears to represent a "stop."

In Barcelona, both environmental information and the situation of the environment were generally ignored and the processes of environmental integration into economic and sectorial policies, sustainable development, and the inclusion of the environmental dimension in the socio-economic agenda of Lisbon seem to have been sidelined.

The Barcelona conclusions could even call into question the EU's global leadership on environment issues and sustainable development and could affect the achievements and future of the Johannesburg World Summit, whose full potential can be realised only with the EU's leadership in view of the US's critical position.

It seems that only a miracle at the Seville Summit in June can bring us back to the promising situation of Gothenburg and put back on track the process of progress towards more sustainable development initiated at the Luxembourg Summit in December 1997 (following a proposal by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson) and continued at the Cardiff, Vienna, Cologne and Helsinki Summits, and finally in Laeken. Such a miracle could arrive late in the day for Johannesburg since the last preparatory meeting for the summit will take place in May.

The positive conclusions of the Environment Council of 4 March 2002 (which appear in the annex to the Barcelona conclusions), the related European Parliament resolution, the letters to the Presidency from different Heads of Government and the Commission's own declarations had given some grounds for hope but were not adequately reflected in the Barcelona conclusions. The conclusions are certainly not the responsibility of the Spanish Presidency alone but of the Heads of State and Government.

I believe it is an obligation for the Director of the European Environment Agency, which has followed all these processes and results through its reports, to point out this situation. I do so in the hope that awareness of the situation will make it possible again to continue progressing along the road on which Barcelona took a step backwards, to put the sustainable development process back in the promising situation that been built up over the last four years and to arrive in Johannesburg in August with a solid EU position that has a global impact.

In this respect, the Seville Summit offers a further opportunity under the Spanish Presidency.

Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán
Executive Director of the European Environment Agency

Copenhagen, 20 March 2002


Document Actions