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Nicolas Schmit, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, delivered a speech at a conference-debate on "The Spring Summit 2005 and the Environment in Europe" organised by Natura and the European Environmental Bureau in Luxembourg on Friday, 25 February 2005.
During his speech, Nicolas Schmit made a strong appeal for revitalising growth in Europe, albeit a qualitatively different growth. He stated that it was necessary to follow up words with actions, especially by mainstreaming concern for the protection of the environment into all actions, both at Member States' and Commission level.
Nicolas Schmit talked about the perception by European citizens of the current economic situation. In this perspective, he made an appeal for "the presentation of a renewed Lisbon Strategy that inspires optimism, because the future cannot be built on pessimism, it must be built on a vision."
He defended the idea that growth is necessary: "The absence of economic growth is not, as was thought back at the time of the Club of Rome, a method of resolving environmental problems. It is clear that we need more growth. (..) Today, we have the possibility of initiating a new technological revolution based on a different kind of growth. When the word growth is used, it should be mentioned that growth is not an end in itself. It should serve other interests. We must show how Europe can initiate qualitative growth by integrating the new technologies."
Nicolas Schmit also spoke about the need to integrate concerns regarding sustainability into all policies and actions of the EU, as well as of the members states. Using public procurement contracts as an example, he called on the State to lead by example, especially in the area of sustainability: "The State is often the last to apply its own legislation, to apply the same projects that it is trying to sell to private individuals. public procurement contracts should be more focused on the environment and on energy efficiency." The same is also true, according to the Minister Delegate, for cohesion policies or even for research projects. "We must verify to what extent the credits allocated to research programmes through the Seventh Framework Programme on research integrate concerns about sustainability."
As regards development aid, Nicolas Schmit called for the EU to better show the direction by "helping (developing countries) even more to invest in environmentally sustainable projects."
Lastly he launched the idea that it would be necessary "to reintroduce a green dimension into international trade negotiations. (..) It is in the interest of Europe and of the entire world that this environmental dimension be reintroduced into WTO negotiations. This must not be perceived by the developing countries as a form of disguised protectionism, but it must be done together with them to demonstrate that we have a common interest in this area."
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