Europe has positioned itself as a progressive global player in environmental and sustainable development (SD) policies, and SD strategies should play a key role in better coordinating policies horizontally across sectors and vertically across levels of government. This paper gives an overview of the objectives and indicators employed in 24 national SD strategies across Europe, covering five different welfare-state models. After highlighting some structural features of SD strategies the paper explores how coherently they address environmental and social policies, measured against the objectives and indicators of the EU SD strategy. It is shown that environmental objectives and indicators are more coherent than social ones. Regarding the five socioeconomic models it was found that the significant variance regarding social policy objectives and indicators is mainly because some SD strategies from Mediterranean countries ignore this dimension of SD. The paper concludes that SD strategies in Europe (in particular the EU SD strategy) unfold only a fraction of their potential to better coordinate policies vertically across different levels of government. As this conclusion is confirmed by more qualitative research approaches, the European governance architecture for sustainable development is questioned in fundamental ways. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.