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Recherche et développement régional durable

Corinne Larrue


The implementation of sustainable development through public policies: the territorial dimensions

Dominique Bureau

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  • 1 Directeur des études économiques et de l’évaluation environnementale, Ministère de l’Aménagement, (...)

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

2This third symposium: “Regions – Cornerstones for Sustainable Development” brings together science and action from three points of view.

3As the name of the Symposium suggests, it brings together scientists and actors in regional sustainable development. We will therefore examine how public policies are called into question by this concept.

4As usual, this third symposium has been organised in the country which holds the Presidency of the Union, which is currently France. It demonstrates the renewed interest of the Presidency for regional sustainable development as both the object and subject of research and action by the Commission. We shall therefore be looking at how this synergy between national and community authorities (DG REGIO and DG RECHERCHE) works.

5Finally, it provides an important opportunity for preparing the 6th framework programme for research, which is currently working towards a common goal of creating a European Research Area.


6Sustainable development is a concept which owes much to both science and politics. At a global level, new forms of governance imply renewed dialogue between the scientific world and institutions arising from major conventions. The Rio Summit clearly posed the problem of mobilising all the actors.

7At the European level, the Amsterdam Treaty included sustainable development in its introduction and in Union and Community objectives, and incorporated the environment into the other policies of the Community.

8At the European level, the new Charter of Basic Rights recognizes the citizen’s rights to the protection of the environment according to the principles of sustainable development. This places the citizen at the centre of governance Systems, from local to global (respecting the principle of subsidiarity). Consistency between these levels of governance is essential for the preservation of the ecosystem in all its territorial aspects, and is emerging as a subject of research in itself.

9There are five main difficulties facing the introduction of regional sustainable development in regional government policies, and these will be looked at during the seminar:

  • The irreversibility of decisions and responsibility to future generations. In session 1, J. Theys’ presentation and T. Moss’ summary of it in relation to the pilot regions for objective 2, appraise and put the policies into perspective.
  • Uncertainty, especially scientific. Session 2 offers an illustration of applying the precautionary principle.
  • The conflict of objectives between environmental, economic and social values. Session 3 will examine the early results of recent institutional innovations.
  • The diversity and complexity of problems regarding the geographie and temporal dimensions of the environment. CREST, the common European research authority for the Council and Commission drew attention to this issue in its 1998 report. Session 4 will look at a potential solution at the regional level. The over-lapping of regions from the point of view of certain public policies such as taxation and the difficult question of zoning. This issue will not be examined during this symposium in view of the specific attention it deserves, but it should be kept in mind. Within this context, hierarchical and top-down solutions cannot work, and the role of governance as a new system for building relationships between actors questions the different branches of research.
  • The decompartmentalization of government policies and the implementation of sustainable development at different levels of governance are placed in a new local/global relationship, and call for a repositioning of the issues, methods and instruments of government policies. This procedure will be covered in Session 5, which looks at measuring regional sustainable development.


10France, as President of the Union, supports the Commission’s initiative in organising these meetings between European regional policies and research. T. Moss will present the study carried out in the 12 pilot regions chosen by DG Regio in cooperation with DG Research, and G. Meadows, Director at DG Regio, will chair the round table discussion: “What research for regional sustainable development ?”.

11In France, the Minister for the Environment and Regional Development, Mme Dominique VOYNET, currently President of the European Council for the Environment, is responsible both for the departments which deal with the environment and for the Delegation for Regional Development, which liaises with DG Regio. In 1999, the law for regional sustainable development created greater awareness of the environment in regional development. The contracts which link State and Region (for 2000-2006), drawn up within this framework, coordinate European and French policies.

12DATAR has been involved in the preparation of this symposium, and Bernard Morel, ex-Director of the French Institute for the Environment and now Director at DATAR, has agreed to chair the third session.

13It is therefore my pleasure to open proceedings within the three-fold perspective of environmental, regional and research policies in Europe. The driving force behind the organisation of this symposium has been the research and forward planning department of my office, in cooperation with the University of Tours and DG Research.


14The project “Towards a European Research Area” which provides the context for preparing the 6th Framework Programme for research (2003-2008) aims to bring together national and European research, and research and action.

15In January 2000, the Commission and several member States held a seminar on the topic ‘science and action’, with the aim of bringing closer together the European Action Programme for the environment and the Research and development framework programme. It is too soon to say if the sixth generations of these two major programmes will meet our expectations, but there are grounds to suppose that the territorial, regional dimension will have an important place.

16I am sure that this symposium will meet its objective in contributing to the elaboration of sustainable development policies based on a new approach to science, based on citizenship.

17I would like to thank all those who have contributed to preparing this symposium, in particular the University of Tours which is our host today, as well as DG Research and all our European colleagues who have come here today.


1 Directeur des études économiques et de l’évaluation environnementale, Ministère de l’Aménagement, du Territoire et de l’Environnement, France.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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