Eurostat, 2020: Sustainable Development in the European Union – Monitoring Report on Progress Towards the SDGs in an EU Context

This publication is the fourth edition in Eurostat’s series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) monitoring reports, which provide a quantitative assessment of European Union (EU) progress towards reaching the SDGs. The 2020 edition is based on a set of around 100 indicators that have been selected taking into account their policy relevance from an EU perspective as well as their availability, country coverage, data freshness and quality.

This 2020 edition of the EU SDG monitoring report begins with a synopsis of the EU’s overall progress towards the SDGs, followed by a presentation of the policy background at global and EU level and the way the SDGs are monitored at EU level. It also contains a brief overview on interlinkages between the SDGs. The detailed monitoring results are presented in 17 chapters, one for each of the 17 SDGs. The 2020 edition includes for the first time a chapter on the status and progress of EU Member States towards the SDGs.

The findings presented in this publication are based on developments over a five-year timespan. Over this five-year period, the EU made progress towards almost all goals. Progress in some goals has been faster than in others, and movement away from the sustainable development objectives occurred in specific areas of a number of goals.
The EU has made strong progress towards fostering peace and personal security, access to justice as well as trust in institutions (SDG 16) over the past five years. Progress towards the other goals was markedly slower. Out of the remaining goals, good progress over the past five years was visible in reducing certain aspects of poverty (SDG 1) and in improving the health situation of the EU population (SDG 3). The advances in these areas have also helped to increase the quality of life in cities and communities (SDG 11).

These favourable trends can be seen against the background of a continued improvement of the EU’s economic situation up to 2019, which was also reflected in the labour market (SDG 8). Improvements were also visible in the viability and sustainability of the EU’s agriculture sector (SDG 2), although some of its environmental impacts have further intensified.

Progress towards the EU’s climate and energy targets (SDG 7 and SDG 13) as well as the shift towards a circular economy (SDG 12) has slowed to varying degrees. Meanwhile, ecosystems and biodiversity (SDG 15) remain under pressure from human activities.

The goals on education (SDG 4), innovation (SDG 9) and global partnerships (SDG 17) show an equally slow overall EU progress, which is a result of mixed trends during the past five years. The slow progress towards reducing inequalities (SDG 10) reflects a growing divide between EU nationals and non-EU citizens in relation to poverty and employment. Similarly, in relation to gender equality (SDG 5), the gap between men and women in acquiring education and on the labour market has been widening. Since SDG 5 shows more unfavourable than favourable trends for the EU, the aggregate past five-year progress has been moderately unsustainable.

In the case of two goals — SDG 6 ‘clean water and sanitation’ and SDG 14 ‘life below water’ — overall EU trends cannot be calculated due to insufficient data for the past five years.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have negative implications for the EU’s overall progress towards the SDGs. However, the 2020 SDG monitoring report only describes the situation in the EU and its Member States up to the year 2019 at the most, the year before COVID-19 containment measures were widely introduced by EU Member States. As a consequence, first findings of any COVID-19 related implications will only be possible in the 2021 edition of the report, with the full scale of the crisis being revealed in later editions only.

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