Friday, January 13, 2006

Margot Wallström

A quick debrief on Margot Wallström’s visit while it’s still fresh:

Wallström is the VP of the EU, her official title is the “Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication” – but for the past 5 years she was the Environment Commissioner. She’s from Sweden and has worked with Karl-Henrik before, and appointed him as a representative on a roundtable to tackle sustainability issues in the EU. For more information on her, check out her blog:

Her focus now is on democracy in the EU and globally – but because of her past work, and the fact that she is a very thoughtful and insightful person, she knows that democracy, globalization and sustainability are inseparable issues and you cannot talk about any one of them without talking about the others.

She gave a very good brief speech last night downtown at the Karlskrona Konsert Hus that was open to the public. The content was very similar to this previous speech, but with a bit more focus on sustainability.

This morning we were able to meet and continue to ask questions in a small group with just our class and the European Spatial Planning masters program class. We talked about issues of globalization – how trade liberalization might be able to promote democracy – and we danced around how the view that free trade translates into development is simplistic. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to dig into these issues.

Another main point we wanted to drive home was the importance of a scientific definition for success in terms of sustainability that could help the EU in being strategic in its attempts to move towards sustainability. She said that she was disappointed to say that she didn’t think the adoption of such a definition was likely any time soon, but that they would probably continue to use the very inspirational, but very vague Brundtland definition – "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The Four Sustainability Principles take this definition one step further downstream in order to add the necessary specificity to be strategic in moving towards sustainability – so it was a bit of a disappointment to hear that she didn’t think they would be officially adopted soon.