Memo to EU leaders: Make Europe sustainable now

An alliance of more than 50 of Europe’s leading civil society organisations is urging EU heads of state and government, as they gather for a summit in Sibiu (RO), to nominate and select European commissioners who will support and serve present and future generations, and prioritise environment, quality of life and decent work.

“Too many people in Europe are being left behind,” more than 50 NGOs said in a letter to every EU head of government or state (pdf), referring to increasing poverty, widening inequalities, deteriorating access to healthcare and worrying levels of youth unemployment. “Meanwhile, many large companies pollute the environment, refuse to pay their fair share of taxes and wield disproportionate political influence.”

This has led many Europeans to feel frustrated and lose trust in the capacity of EU institutions to respond to their aspirations, which is helping fuel Euroscepticism, says the coalition of NGOs, which includes such prominent organisations as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, as well as the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), an umbrella network representing some 150 environmental organisations across Europe.

In addition, the escalating environmental emergency facing the world means – as most recently conveyed in the report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – that inaction, or even insufficient action, are no longer an option.

“There is no more time for delay or complacency,” explains Eva Izquierdo, an EEB policy officer dealing with global policies and sustainability. “The time has come for the EU to take serious action to build a sustainable Europe.”

Not just a transition but a just transition

For that reason, the EEB and four other organisations decided to persuade other leading members of civil society to join forces and communicate a blueprint. Together, 55 NGOs sent a letter to every EU leader attending the Sibiu summit in Romania on 9 May 2019, imploring them to “lead and support a just transition towards a sustainable economy and society for all people”.

“The women and men you propose to lead the next European Commission will play a major role in making this vision of the EU a reality,” the letter adds, in reference to the fact that the mandate of the current Commission, led Luxembourg’s by Jean-Claude Juncker, will end this year.

The letter outlines the main milestones the new Commission will need to achieve, such as accomplishing the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, implementing fairer taxation policies, as well as taking urgent action to limit climate change and reverse biodiversity loss.

It also outlines the qualities required in future commissioners. “We need European commissioners who put the interests of the people of Europe, not corporations, first,” notes the document.

The dozens of NGOs who signed the letter are committed to exerting continued pressure on EU leaders to ensure they appoint the Commission Europe so desperately needs in the coming years.