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The vertical integration of Lisbon and sustainable development strategies across the EU: How different governance architectures shape the European coherence of policy documents

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In Europe, sustainable development (SD) is pursued with not one but two overarching strategies, i.e., the so-called Lisbon and SD strategies. While the Lisbon Strategy is a genuinely European response to global economic and social pressures, SD strategies are national efforts corresponding with international (mainly United Nations) guidance to better coordinate and integrate economic, social and, in particular, environmental policies. The present paper explores the vertical coordination and coherence of the two pan-European strategies. After reviewing the international background of SD strategies and the EU origins of the Lisbon strategy, the paper characterizes and compares the governance architectures of the two strategies. With a solid background on how vertical policy integration functions in the two processes, the paper then shows how this affects the coherence of respective strategy structures and monitoring indicators. Based on an extensive empirical stocktaking study of the objectives and indicators in Lisbon and SD strategies across Europe it is shown that, despite the stronger European coordination through the Open Method of Coordination, the Lisbon process entailed only slightly more coherent national strategies than international guidance did in the context of SD strategies. Thus, the paper concludes that the influence international organizations such as the UN and the OECD have on national policy-making must not be underestimated.

Keywords: EU sustainable development strategy; European coherence; Lisbon Strategy; National reform programmes; National sustainable development strategy; Structural indicators; Sustainable development indicators; Vertical integration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: RIMAS — the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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