Eurostat, 2019: Sustainable Development in the European Union – Monitoring Report on Progress Towards the SDGs in an EU Context

This publication is the third in the series of annual monitoring exercises launched by Eurostat in 2017. It presents a statistical overview of the most recent trends of the EU SDG indicators over a five-year period (‘short term’). It shows EU progress towards the SDGs for the individual indicators and also presents the average progress for each of the 17 SDGs, based on the mean score of the selected indicators for the respective goal, including the multi-purpose indicators.

Together with the reflection paper ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030’, published in January 2019, this monitoring report is the latest contribution to the debate on the shape of Europe and our world in 2030 and beyond, and on the transformative action we must take to get there. It will also feed into the EU’s contribution to the 2019 sessions of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

On average, over the respective last five-years of available data the EU has made progress towards almost all goals. Progress in some goals has been faster than in others, and within goals, movement away from the sustainable development objectives also occurred in specific areas. Over the most recent five-year period, the EU seems to have made good progress in improving the living conditions of its citizens.

This improvement refers to gains in both actual and perceived health (SDG 3), reductions in certain dimensions of poverty and social exclusion (SDG 1) and increases in the quality of life in cities and communities (SDG 11). These favourable trends can be seen against the background of an improving economic situation in the EU over the past five years, as shown by some clearly favourable trends in the EU’s labour market (SDG 8).

The growing economic activity in the EU, however, has not always been accompanied by favourable developments in the use of natural resources and its negative environmental impacts, as exemplified by the trends for SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’, SDG 12 ‘Responsible consumption and production’, SDG 13 ‘Climate action’ and SDG 15 ‘Life on land’.

In the area of education (SDG 4), the EU has already met two of its six benchmarks for 2020 (tertiary education and early childhood education and care), and is close to meeting two other goals (early leavers from education and training, as well as on employment of recent graduates). The EU has also made progress in supporting developing countries, for example, through financial flows and trade (SDG 17).

Trends were mixed in the area of sustainable agricultural production and its environmental impacts (SDG 2). Developments in the goals on gender equality (SDG 5) and other forms of inequalities (SDG 10) were also mixed, with both growing and declining inequalities in different topic areas. A slight movement away from sustainable development objectives was visible in the EU’s innovation and transport performance, monitored by the indicators of SDG 9.

In the case of the three remaining goals – SDG 6 ‘Clean water and sanitation’, SDG 14 ‘Life below water’ and SDG 16 ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’ – trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data over the past five years

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