It’s been a long time coming: Over three years after the European Union’s endorsement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement, the European Commission has published its reflection paper ‘Towards a Sustainable EU by 2030.’ A chance for us to see what has been suggested – and what more needs to be done!

Three possible scenarios that should guide the European Union in operating a just environmental, social, economic and political transition towards sustainability by 2030 are at the core of the Commission’s Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Katainen’s reflection paper. Out of these scenarios, CONCORD strongly supports the first scenario: A vision of an overarching Sustainable Europe 2030 Strategy. This should therefore become the number one priority of the next Commission 2019-2024. Of course, this cannot be realised without integrating elements of scenario two which allow mainstreaming sustainable development through all policies. 

2019, a year of European Parliament elections, provides a unique opportunity to make sure the EU institutional set-up is ready to take such ambitions forward: with the next Commission President in the lead and all other Commissioners made responsible for mainstreaming sustainable development within their areas of responsibility. In particular, CONCORD wants all future Commissioners to better take into account the impact of their policies on sustainable development in other parts of the world.

There is still a lot to be done, and we welcome the Commission’s recognition of this very fact. Let’s take a look at the paper’s promising elements, and CONCORD’s ideas how they could be pushed forward!

Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Elements to build on: It wants us to look at the environmental, social, economic and governance dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner.

CONCORD’s suggestions: The Commission must better take into account the impact of EU policies on sustainable development beyond our borders.


Elements to build on: Addressing inequalities is shown as a crucial matter for the public to support the sustainability transition.

CONCORD’s suggestions: Therefore, the next Commission needs to create an EU Action Plan to Fight Inequalities.

Ecological debt

Elements to build on: Ecological debt is presented as our greatest challenge. We overuse and deplete natural resources.

CONCORD’s suggestions: The EU need to decouple EU consumption from environmental degradation and ensure sustainable supply chains.

Sustainable food system

Elements to build onThe paper proposes to accelerate the transition to a sustainable food system and to correct imbalances in our food chain.

CONCORD’s suggestions: The EU should promote this transition globally.

Just economic transition

Elements to build onThe paper refers to a just economic transition and makes references to alternative measures of progress beyond GDP growth.

CONCORD’s suggestions: Instead of keeping a prevalent focus on economic growth, we need alternative measures of progress connected to well-being, such as the Quality of Life or Happiness Indexes.

Corporate accountability

Elements to build on: The paper rightfully implies that there can be no realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without corporate accountability.

CONCORD’s suggestions: The Commission should not shy away from ensuring responsible business conduct through a real Business and Human Rights Action Plan.

Trade agreements

Elements to build onSustainability chapters in EU trade and investment agreements to uphold and promote social and environmental standards are mentioned.

CONCORD’s suggestionsBinding provisions on investors to respect human rights and environmental standards are needed in EU trade and investment agreements.

Migration & Human Rights

Elements to build on: It mentions the risk of increased forced displacement because of environmental degradation and the effects of climate change.

CONCORD’s suggestions: The EU should adopt clear guidelines for ‘development, human rights and migration partnerships’ with developing countries to help tackle root causes of forced displacement.

More on the EC’s Reflection Paper?
CONCORD Press Release, January 30 2019: “A Big Leap Towards a Sustainable EU in 2030. Do we have the courage?”
CONCORD Article, October 11 2018: “The EU Multi-stakeholder platform adopts common proposals towards Sustainable EU by 2030”