Protecting the Interests of Future Generations by the European Union

Our newest report sets out to integrate formal representation for Future Generations within the European Union’s institutions, rooted in an ethical commitment to consider the long-term impacts of today’s decisions. It highlights the need for institutional mechanisms to address potential conflicts between the interests of current and future generations.

Achieving representation for Future Generations in the EU requires a legal foundation that confirms the EU’s competence and mandate to act. This document provides a legal rationale, identifying existing EU laws that relate to Future Generations and pointing out areas where legislation is lacking.

The report argues that the EU already possesses the legal foundations to incorporate a long-term perspective into its legislation, through existing references in the Treaties and potential new sources of law. It also proposes the creation of new EU institutional arrangements to ensure that long-term interests and intergenerational equity are central to the legislative process.

The protection of future generations could be enhanced by recognizing the EU’s current powers to mitigate long-term risks across various policies like environmental protection, agriculture, climate action, and digital transformation. Furthermore, the report suggests that the EU could adopt legislation to protect future interests under the flexibility clause of Article 352 of the TFEU, even without explicit Treaty powers, as long as it serves the Union’s objectives, including sustainable development and human rights protection.

The report further emphasizes the EU’s obligation to consider scientific evidence in policymaking, highlighting the importance of acting on scientific data to prevent long-term harm. It points to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as a potential source for deriving obligations to protect future generations’ interests. The precautionary principle and the prohibition of age-based discrimination are also identified as legal bases for proactive measures to safeguard long-term interests.

Moreover, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)’s role in developing positive obligations and new general principles of law, such as intergenerational equity, could further future-proof EU law. The evolving field of international law regarding duties toward future generations could also influence the EU’s legal landscape, suggesting a dynamic interplay between EU law and global legal developments in protecting the interests of posterity.

We express our gratitude to Katalin Sulyok, LL.M., PhD, for her indispensable research and dedication in preparing this paper. Our appreciation extends to Andrea Carta of Greenpeace and Adam Weiss of Client Earth for their insightful feedback on our initial draft. Their contributions have been crucial in refining our arguments and enhancing the overall quality of the report.

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Protecting the Interests of Future Generations by the European Union