SDG Watch Europe – Opinion on President Juncker’s State of the Union 2017

On Wednesday 13 of September, President Juncker delivered his State of the Union (SOTEU) 2017 address. Just like last year, his speech made no mention of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is despite the fact that the EU has endorsed and, at least in theory, is committed to implement this ambitious and overarching agenda.

Civil society is extremely disappointed at the EU’s failure to date to concretely engage in the effective coordination of Member States and the implementation of Agenda 2030, although it did play a central role in shaping this new global agenda. The almost total absence of reference to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in President Juncker’s speech this year reinforces the growing view that there is a real lack of political will at EU level where this important sustainable development agenda is concerned.

Only in the letter of intent, was a reference made to the 2030 Agenda for SD. But instead of seeing it as an overarching strategy, it was tucked away under “priority 1: A new boost for jobs, growth and investment”. SDG Watch Europe has already stressed on many occasions that this 2030 Agenda should be implemented in a more comprehensive way, as it covers all EU policies and, if done correctly, will promote Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development. This agenda should help us to achieve a fundamental rethink of the kind of Europe we want, beyond the “jobs and growth” paradigm. It should help to bring the European project and ambitions closer to what citizens want.

That is why people and civil society organisations are still demanding a vision for the future of Europe that puts public interest, democracy, environmental justice, human rights and a strong social fabric at the core. But unfortunately, the Commission remains too focused on a narrower agenda of trade, investment, the Eurozone and defense issues.

Moreover, Juncker’s plans on trade ignore widespread criticism that they undermine Europe’s social, environmental and health standards. He continues to give VIP rights to investors through a Multilateral Investment Court while he gives no rights to citizens harmed by these investors and sustainability chapters are non-binding.”

The 2030 Agenda for SD recognises the positive impact of migration, and the commitment to “cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of their status…”  In his speech, however, President Juncker tackles the issue purely from a “security and protection” perspective defending the agreement with Turkey which prevents migrants reaching Europe- as a good model.

In his State of the Union address President Juncker also announced that the European Commission will present its plans how the future EU budget can match the ambitions and deliver on what the EU has promised. It is rather unfortunate that here again, he forgets to mention the 2030 SD agenda that it also promised to European citizens.  How can they believe that the Commission will deliver a modern budget that meets people’s expectations and sets Europe on a sustainable path that will address today’s biggest challenges without having a long term, positive vision? We need strong political commitment and effective policy instruments now, so that the future EU budget is sustainability- proofed and designed to serve the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a growing demand on the part of European citizens for the Union to respond to significant cross-border challenges that cannot be tackled effectively by Member States, such as migration, climate change and energy, among others. The European Union cannot properly tackle these challenges unless its budgetary resources are increased accordingly. The next MFF should take full account of the commitments made by the EU in the context of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and COP 21.

More than 250 non-government organisations from across Europe have released an alternative vision for a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe, the so called 6th scenario demanding that “The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, already supported by the EU, must be put at the heart of the Future of Europe”. President Juncker could do worse than to read this 6th Scenario document and to implement many of its progressive and timely proposals!

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