As recently stated by the European Commission, “sustainable development has since long been at the heart of the European project” (COM(2016) 793 final). Not only do the EU Treaties recognize sustainable development as one of the overarching goals of the Union, but the Commission has also constantly sought to design adequate policy frameworks for translating this objective into secondary legislation, thereby ensuring consistency between the EU’s internal policies and between these, the EU’s external action, and the policies of its Member States.
Ever since the first European Union Sustainable Development Strategy, formulated in 2001, sustainable development has therefore become an inescapable lens for the analysis of EU law. However, it appears that an integrated approach to the study of EU sectoral strategies, policies and programmes is still lacking in academic circles. More specifically, EU legal studies will require an increasing degree of interdisciplinarity and a cross-cutting assessment of the synergies and tensions between EU policies across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, to reflect their growing complexity and interdependence.
Advancing such an integrated approach to the study of EU law is especially critical in the light of the recent adoption by the UN General Assembly of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets will represent the constant reference point for the design and implementation of the module. As the European Union moves towards the implementation of the Agenda, a process in which it intends to act as a frontrunner, EU legal studies need to incorporate the Goals into their core activities, using them as both a research blueprint and a tool to promote knowledge and foster debate around legal solutions for sustainable development.
Against this background, the Jean Monnet module offered by the Department of Law of the University of Siena does not only provide students with notions about the emergence and evolution of the principle of sustainable development in international and EU law, but it specifically analyses EU internal and external policies through the lens of the SDGs and the wider post-2015 framework. In doing so, it bridges the gap between theory and practice by: (i) discussing current case studies and issues in class; (ii) engaging with experts and practitioners through keynote lectures and open roundtable discussions; and (iii) managing a dedicated website, as well as a series of webinars that facilitate the dissemination of teaching activities and promote dialogue with civil society, in collaboration with the Mediterranean branch of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).