L’Unione Europea e le sfide della sostenibilità, 1993-2022

The essay investigates the evolution of the concept of sustainable development in the official documents of the European institutions, as it evolved in response to changes in the cultural, environmental, economic-financial, and social context in which the process of European integration has taken place over the last three decades. Three main periods were identified. The first, inaugurated by the Delors Commission, while incorporating the then pioneering contributions on environmental sustainability, proposed a concept of sustainable development in a broad sense, aimed at balancing the effort for innovation and the primacy of ecological transition, attentive to the balance between the supply and demand sides. The second, characterized by the complex transition towards convergence for entry into the euro and up to the sovereign debt crisis, in which the Commission takes an approach essentially limited to the financial sustainability of fiscal aggregates. A third, initiated immediately before (and consolidated) by the pandemic emergency, in which the many facets and meanings of the idea of sustainable development are rediscovered, until the Commission documents that suggest a permanent financial support to the production of European public goods through the development of a safe asset. The essay attempts to show how this temporal division responds to theoretical debates and political priorities that have evolved in the government of the Union.