From Asymmetry to Dialogue? Collective Imbalances, Common Challenges and Societal Mainstreaming in the Conceptual Evolution of the EU Development and Sustainability Agendas

Friday, July 14, 2017
Forehall (University of Glasgow)
Cristina Blanco Sío-López , European University Institute (EUI), Florence (IT)
This paper aims to analyse the historical evolution of the main conceptual premises guiding EU decision-making regarding its self-defining dimensions of development cooperation and sustainability. Furthermore, it examines the nature and implications of the key turning points and paradigm shifts in these EU's institutional premises and the discursive apparatus sustaining changing agenda-setting priorities. 1) First of all, it addresses the post-WWII de-colonisation context, examining how development concepts were markedly framed by the weight of past imbalances and asymmetries in the incipient European integration process. 2) Secondly, this paper studies the shifting paradigms of the diversity of (instrumental) meanings given to 'sustainable development' in EU policy-making in the post-Cold war period. These include: the EU agenda-setting focus on the unifying notion of the compatibility between environmental protection and economic growth; the 'democratic clause' for EU development cooperation and its conditionality implications; the 'ecological modernisation' (EM) paradigm shift and the inner hindrances to the EU 'sustainability governance' self-assumed principle. 3) Thirdly, this paper examines the innovation capacity of global and EU civil society and activist movements' mainstreaming of concepts with a determinant social impact, reaching also the collective imagination of agenda-setting in European representative politics in these key realms. The main sources for this paper come from the EU Historical Archives in Florence and from Oral History interviews with key EC/EU players, including an interview with the Development Cooperation Commissioner who proposed and internationally agreed upon the EU development cooperation 'democratic clause'.