Sustainable development has been one of the overarching objectives of the European Community since its insertion into the Treaty in 1997. Sustainable development is notoriously difficult to pin down. It is subject to competing interpretations, and its application to any particular problem is often contentious.
The first major step in the spelling out of what is implied by this Treaty commitment to sustainable development came in the Commission’s communication to the Gothenberg European Council, supplemented by a further communication on the external (third country) aspects of sustainable development.3 The formal character of sustainable development in the EU can now be sought in the Renewed Strategy on Sustainable Development (the ‘Renewed Strategy’), adopted by the European Council in June 2006.
The purpose of the Renewed Strategy is expressed to be the setting out of ‘a single, coherent strategy on how the EU will more effectively live up to its long-standing commitment to meet the challenges of sustainable development’.4 The Renewed Strategy sets out four ‘key objectives’, seven ‘key challenges’ and ten ‘guiding policy principles’. Between them, these provide contemporary policy thinking on sustainable development at EU level.