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Debunking the clash of civilisations

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 16:45

Paradoxically, in the Western world, the fear of Islam and of terrorism carried out in its name are often strongest in places where there are hardly any Muslims.

A 2014 Bertelsmann Foundation study showed that the Germans most afraid of Islam live in places with the smallest Muslim populations. Those least afraid are found in regions with the biggest Muslim communities. Fear of Islam, it seems, is a virtual phenomenon, created neither by any risk of terrorist attack nor by personal experiences of being swamped by a supposedly growing Muslim population.

Westerners are of course not alone in this fear of the “other”. The deadly riots sparked by the publication of cartoons and other images supposedly depicting the Prophet Muhammad  are a clear sign of the inferiority complex in those who fear that Western culture aims to destroy the values of Muslim civilisation.

Although the perceived threat level is far from reflecting reality, there is some truth behind the fear on both sides. Terrorism in the name of Islam is a danger in Western countries, and the West often displays an arrogant superiority in its dealing with the Muslim world.  In places where very real and bloody wars are being waged, such fears are exploited by radicals who present conflicts in terms of a clash of civilisations between “unbelievers” and “pure Islam”. Underlying power struggles are being vested in this rhetoric, and the radical discourse becomes brutal reality.

This makes it very urgent that we debunk the overcharged rhetoric of what the Germans call “Kulturkampf”. There are two ways forward: we have to analyse what is really happening where Islam and the Western world meet, and we have to clearly identify the political dimension of current armed conflicts and search for pragmatic solutions.

The real clash of civilisations

We are living in a world that is ever-more closely connected, a world where economic interests are intertwined, where images from news events flash instantly around the globe and where migration has created diversified communities.

This confrontation unavoidably leads to tension, because the traditions, beliefs and economic and political outlook of someone who grew up in 1980s Frankfurt and, let’s say, Baghdad will differ considerably. Yet this cultural clash does not necessarily have to translate into violence.The cultural interchange between them has to be carried out on an intellectual, political and economic level. We need to develop an exchange of ideas, a space for debate and a serious respect for each other’s ideas and beliefs.

One often neglected aspect is the importance of us all knowing our own traditions and culture. We can only enter into dialogue if we have something to say about ourselves. This is a big challenge in a globalised world, and many radical movements on both sides are symptoms of this difficulty. Radical movements on all sides can prey on those searching for a communal identity, be it Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever. Often they offer easy answers that place blame on others, be it the “dominant West” or “violent Islam”. These rival radicalisations feed off each other: anti-Islamic sentiment adds to a sense of exclusion among Muslims, pushing them towards a radicalism that provokes a still more hostile reaction.

Like it or not, we in Europe have to recognise that we live in a multicultural society. This does not mean abandoning European traditions or giving up our identity, but it does involve sharing space with the traditions and identities of people from different backgrounds who are living alongside us. Immigrants should be better represented in the media, in public services and in academic and cultural institutions. It is vital that we form a genuinely European tradition of Islamic scholarship, that helps Muslims create an identity based both on their belonging to liberal, democratic Western societies and their traditions and beliefs as Muslims.

Identifying power struggles

But, of course, violence in the name of Islam is a bloody reality in many parts of the world, and we have to understand what is behind it. Much of what we see as Islamic terrorism is based on very worldly motives that feed off social injustice. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has deep-seated ideological roots, but its success is based on causes that have little to do with Islam. In Iraq, their military success was founded on the frustration of old Baathist cadres unseated after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their recruitment base includes frustrated young men from all over the world – many with criminal backgrounds – who are looking for an escape from their depressing personal situation. No amount of frustration can excuse IS barbarity, but we need to understand the motivations behind this recruitment.

The situation is similar with Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has built on longstanding power networks in the underprivileged north of the country. Support for its radical interpretation of Islamic values is dwindling, but it was able to resonate with a significant part the population because the political leadership was – justly – perceived as corrupt and unfair, spending the country’s resources on the predominantly Christian south.

Western support for such corrupt and authoritarian regimes makes “Muslim” arguments against the immoral West all the more convincing. Responsible leaders in the West have to carefully dissect the various layers of international conflict and address them in a pragmatic way that seeks dialogue even with groups whose beliefs we oppose.

We have to understand how these two levels of conflict – cultural and political – feed off each other if we are to tackle rising extremism in both “the West” and the “Islamic World”. We have to identify the real cultural differences and find ways to live with them, knowing they will evolve over time. And it is vital that we move away from the notion of a clash of civilisations, and recognise instead that there is a very worldly struggle for power that has to be resolved politically – and in some rare cases like IS militarily. We need patience, patience that will be rewarded by opening up new horizons for living together in a world that is growing smaller.



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Categories: European Union

Opening remarks by President Donald Tusk at the EU-CELAC summit

European Council - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 16:20

Es para mi un placer darles la bienvenida a Bruselas, la capital de Europa. Bem- vindos! Bienvenus! Welcome! Bienvenidos!

Antes de continuar, déjenme decirles lo contento que estoy de que nos reunamos hoy aquí, para fortalecer los lazos de nuestra asociación duradera, basada en objetivos comunes y el respeto mutuo. Me alegra ver que las diferencias que nos separaban en el pasado, se han ido disipando durante décadas y nuestras naciones se han ido acercando. Esta semana, nos reunimos no sólo para realzar nuestras buenas relaciones, sino también para mirar hacia el futuro; como les contaré enseguida.

Sixteen years ago, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries and a European Union of fifteen Member States, met in Rio de Janeiro for the first time, launching what has become a truly strategic partnership.

In the last two decades the world and our regions have changed. The EU has doubled its membership, introduced a single currency and adopted a new Treaty. In Latin America and the Caribbean most internal conflicts have been peacefully resolved, the region has grown economically and integrated further through the creation of CELAC.

I applaud these major developments. Our partnership has contributed to some of these important changes. The European Union is the main cooperator, largest direct investor and second trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean. We have an all-weather partnership, not just when things are going well, but also when there are clouds.

But we cannot rest on past achievements. Our partnership needs to be modernised along with the changes in the world. Our relationship is reinforced by the strongest bonds - those of our people. The involvement of our citizens and civil society is key for our partnership's success. The EU-LAC Foundation plays a special role. We hope that with the agreement to turn it into an international body, ownership and support for its activities will increase. The EU will continue its financial support to the Foundation, with €3 million over the next two years.

Our challenge now is to become a partnership for the next generation. A partnership that is symmetrical, balanced and equitable. This should be our ambition for the summit and our future work.

Our regions have a lot to gain from working closely together - and much to lose if we do not. Together the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean account for more than 1 billion people; form one third of the UN's membership, and generate almost one third of the world's GDP. Together our regions have the highest number of democracies, we both value regionalism, multilateralism and the principles of the UN Charter, and we seek sustainable and inclusive growth.

Of course, we have our differences. But there is much more uniting us than dividing us. And we have a duty to shape our common future and work for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies.

We are building on a solid basis. Our strategic association has a joint action plan, that we will modernise and expand at this summit, and bilateral and sub-regional agreements, promoting political dialogue, cooperation and trade. Now we need to move to the next level: increasing political dialogue, deepening economic ties and developing a new type of cooperation.

We will stand by the efforts of President Santos to achieve a lasting peace in Colombia. I am pleased to announce that the EU will set up a Trust Fund to support post-conflict actions in the country.  We support the process of modernisation in Cuba, and we are committed to conclude negotiations of our Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. We welcome the full normalisation of Cuba's relations with the United States and the end of the embargo.

We can do much to help each other to address important challenges we both face, such as reconciling growth with equity, modernising productive structures, generating quality jobs and protecting our environment.

We also want to stand by you in promoting citizen security. I am glad that an action plan to implement the EU citizen security strategy has just been adopted. This is complementary to the Central American and Caribbean countries' own strategies. In today's world, cooperation among like-minded regions is a must. So we need to find ways to partner more effectively on global issues.

Climate change is a common threat. We need to achieve an ambitious agreement for COP 21 in Paris. We both seek a transformative post-2015 development agenda combining poverty eradication and sustainable development. And we need to continue working for an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.

These are all issues that we will discuss and where we have to converge if we want to shape our common future. We also need to be more vigilant in promoting and protecting our common values. They are being challenged in many parts of the world. We cannot shy away from promoting and defending key principles such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law, sovereignty, and a strong and independent civil society. Part of the modernisation and updating of our partnership must be assuming joint responsibilities in promoting a fairer and rule-based multilateral order.

The European Union is not just a territory, it is a common endeavour in constant evolution; CELAC is more than just a group of countries, it embodies an ambitious vision of Latin American and Caribbean unity.

As the great Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez, who sadly left us last year, reminded us: "No es cierto que la gente deje de perseguir sus sueños porque envejece, más bien envejece cuando deja de perseguir sus sueños." - "It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they get older; we only grow old when we stop pursuing our dreams".

Despite being old partners, our partnership is not ageing, because our dreams and goals of regional integration, convergence in diversity, and a fairer multilateral order, are alive and well. And as we pursue them, we have to continue working on the promising and concrete reality of EU-CELAC relations. Both realms have the potential to keep changing our peoples' lives for the better.

Categories: European Union

Novel foods: Council presents final compromise text

European Council - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 15:31

On 10 June 2015, the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee approved a final compromise text on new EU rules for novel foods. The text includes the European Parliament's amendments acceptable for the Council and significantly improves the current rules on novel foods. Novel foods are foods not consumed in the EU to a significant degree before May 1997. They include for instance foods to which a new production process is applied.

Adding value

The Council accepted the Parliament's amendments that would make the placing of novel foods on the EU market faster and cheaper while preserving the high level of protection of human health.

Cutting red tape

The Council's compromise proposal would help to reduce administrative burdens by switching to a centralised EU-level procedure and providing for generic authorisations. This means that once authorised and added to the EU list a novel food could be placed on the market by any food business operator. This would avoid the re-submission of new applications by other companies for the same novel food and should benefit in particular SMEs. Under the current rules, novel foods are authorised at national level and valid only for the applicant.

Facilitating access to traditional foods

The new rules would also facilitate the access to the EU market for traditional foods from third countries having a history of safe food use. For these foods an applicant would have to demonstrate that they have been safely used in a third country for at least 25 years. 


The scope of the novel food rules would explicitly cover engineered nanomaterials. The Commission would be mandated to adapt the definition of engineered nanomaterials to technical progress or the definitions agreed at international level.  


The scope of the novel food rules would also explicitly cover food from cloned animals, until specific rules on food from cloned animals enter into force.

Next steps

The Latvian presidency will now inform the Parliament by letter proposing an agreement at first reading on the basis of the text approved by the Permanent Representatives Committee. The European Parliament is expected to consider and vote on the Council's compromise text in the week starting on 4 July 2015.


The novel foods authorised under the current rules in the EU include for instance "rapeseed oil high in unsaponifiable matter", "rye bread with added phytosterols/phytostanols", "milk type products and yoghurt type products with added phytosterol esters", "coagulated potato proteins and hydrolysates thereof" and "phospholipids from egg yolk".

Categories: European Union

Article - Watch live: MEPs debate Fifa corruption allegations

European Parliament (News) - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 15:04
Plenary sessions : Fifa, the world's governing body for football, is being investigated over corruption allegations. MEPs will discuss the accusations during a plenary debate on Wednesday evening, followed by a debate on the upcoming European Games in Baku in the light of host country's Azerbaijan's patchy human rights record. Watch the debates live on our website.

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Europe risks losing its global leadership on climate change

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:40

The COP 20 conference in Lima should stand as a warning to Europe that its leading role in global climate negotiations is being eroded. That is a consequence of Europe’s diminishing global importance, but also of its inability, and perhaps will, to create alliances.

The EU is still the only player fighting for a really ambitious and legally binding global agreement that takes the 2ºC goal seriously and accepts the findings and recommendations of all the IPCC reports. In short, everything needed to get the right result at COP 21 in Paris.

Europe held together in Lima, in contrast to before, and is still the region that has been the most successful in determining climate policies, setting binding targets and showing real results through falling CO2 emissions and the rising share of renewables. The 2020 targets are impressive and important beyond Europe too.

“The EU tends to misjudge its own strength in the world. It has to abandon the idea that it is enough to “be the best” and stand as the moral beacon”

But – and it is a big but – the EU tends to misjudge its own strength in the world. It has to abandon the idea that it is enough to “be the best” and stand as the moral beacon. It needs to increase its efforts to build strong alliances and that requires a climate policy focus that extends beyond CO2 reductions.

The U.S. and China have built a new political alliance, and as the two largest polluters they have unfortunately agreed not to commit themselves internationally to anything not already agreed upon at home. At the same time, polluters among the world’s emerging economies – including to some extent China – have hidden behind the protective G77 rhetoric that the rich countries are to blame and should commit to a special effort. On top of all this, the trend over the past 15 years has been against global agreements, notably in trade, and this is affecting the climate negotiations too. Yet the alternative would at best be regional climate change agreements.

The EU should arguably draw some obvious conclusions. The first is the building of alliances. A deal with Africa and with the world’s most vulnerable countries was reached in Durban, but it must now be re-established and enlarged to include countries in Latin American and Asia that really want an international agreement. COP 21 in Paris appears to be the last chance for a solid and effective global agreement, with the alternative being that China and the U.S., as the two big ones, set the agenda and decide on momentum. This would not be in the interest of the rest of the world.

“Follow-up mechanisms will therefore be extremely important, making the task of ensuring that Paris doesn’t become the end of the line a vital one”

A second EU conclusion should be that Europe must understand that climate adaptation has a major role to play. The EU must therefore be ready to speak loud and clear about the financial support it promised in Copenhagen. Yet in Lima it seemed as if this had been forgotten, and that financial aid for developing countries is not intricately connected to environmental and climate efforts.

The third, and most cumbersome, conclusion is that agreement in Paris will not prove as ambitious as it should be. Nor will it be as ambitious as we could agree on within the EU. Follow-up mechanisms will therefore be extremely important, making the task of ensuring that Paris doesn’t become the end of the line a vital one. The need will be for continued international negotiations, exchanges of experience, ever-greater global awareness and no let-up in the pressure for mankind’s largest transition project.

If we in the EU can draw these three conclusions in ample time before COP 21, we will have a chance to share our leadership with others. But if COP 21 is seen as merely a continuation of COP 20, we will be putting both our leadership and the world’s climate at risk.

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Categories: European Union

A strong dose of realism will determine the outcome of COP21

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:39

International climate negotiations are now in much better shape than before the 2009 Copenhagen conference, and that’s partly because there is now less emphasis on a legally binding treaty.

The big challenge in the run-up to the Paris conference is to understand the political issues and find realistic ways to resolve them through dialogue.  The conference itself would then be about removing any obstacles and celebrating its success.

A successful agreement in Paris would need four key elements. The first is for all countries, whether rich or poor, large or small, to commit to clear action on climate change. The second is to ensure that they all pledge to incorporate their commitments into national law. The third is to regularly review their cutting of emissions, while the fourth is to agree on robust financing in support of developing countries’ efforts on commitments.

“It will be crucial for the global community to meet every three years or so to review progress on the promises, and if necessary agree on further actions”

Financial support for developing and emerging economies is important, and to increase their access to climate finance, international organisations and agencies, including ourselves at the Global Green Growth Institute, are helping to develop investment-ready projects. Finance will be key to reaching agreement in Paris, but even if all these listed elements are met, Paris is unlikely to deliver on the 2ºC target. It will therefore be crucial for the global community to meet every three years or so to review progress on the promises, and if necessary agree on further actions.

The whole climate problem will not be resolved in Paris, and expectations for further emission cuts before 2020 are not very realistic. Asking countries like China, India and South Africa to reduce their emissions in absolute terms from 2020 onwards looks unrealistic. It would be more sensible to ask developing economies to limit their emissions growth in an initial time frame, and then start to reduce them in absolute terms.

Expectations in Copenhagen were too high and were not too clear. Six years on, there is more clarity on what the Paris conference should deliver, and when expectations are more realistic there’s a better chance of achieving results.

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Categories: European Union

The four elements of success in Paris

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:39

The world will agree a global climate deal in Paris this year; of that, I have no doubt. The question is whether that deal will be enough.

Let us imagine a deal with a commitment to reduce global warming to below 2ºC, emissions targets for all major economies, and a system for reporting progress against those targets. At first sight, this might sound like the comprehensive deal we need. Yet in reality we already have an agreement on did all of this – the Copenhagen Accord that leaders approved back in 2009.

“All countries will need to show more flexibility in their positions, rather than keeping their cards close to their chest ahead of a final showdown in Paris”

This shows how important the substance of the final deal in Paris will be. It’s what we agree to, rather than whether we agree to anything at all that will be important.

To get a deal that has real substance, we need four things. First, countries need to start making compromises sooner rather than later. I have been to three COPs (the annual climate change conferences organised by the UN) – two of them as Spanish Minister for Agriculture and Environment and one as the EU Commissioner for energy and climate change. The most important lesson I learnt is that you get the best results when you don’t leave all the negotiating until the last minute.

As we say in Spanish, ‘No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy’ – don’t leave for tomorrow, what you can do today. That’s why the EU submitted our contribution to the final deal back in March, including a legally binding commitment to reduce our emissions by at least 40% by 2030, well ahead of the deadline. We are now providing support to other countries preparing their own contributions.

All countries will need to show more flexibility in their positions, rather than keeping their cards close to their chest ahead of a final showdown in Paris. We cannot leave all the difficult decisions in Paris to the EU’s heads of state and government. Paris should be the icing on the cake, not the meat of the negotiations.

“It’s what we agree to, rather than whether we agree to anything at all that will be important”

Second, the final deal has to be worth the paper it’s printed on. It needs to be binding – a legal commitment and not just a loose aspiration. There are island nations whose very future depends on this. Without an ambitious deal they could literally disappear underwater by the end of this century. We owe it to them, and to industries whose companies are waiting to invest in our low carbon future, to give them long-term certainty.

The EU announced in March that we would be aiming for a binding protocol. It is no secret that like the United States a number of countries are reluctant to agree to some forms of binding deal. We have been working with our partners to search for a solution that works for everyone. We are absolutely clear, though, that Paris cannot just produce another set of vague voluntary goals.

Third, Paris cannot be the final word in climate negotiations. We need to be realistic. At the Paris Conference, countries might not be ready to make the commitments that would put us on track to keep global warming below 2ºC. If this proves to be the case we must agree a process for reassessing ambition, and increasing commitments at regular intervals in the years that follow.

“It needs to be binding – a legal commitment and not just a loose aspiration”

The eventual deal can only be considered a success if it is truly universal – that means if it works for every country, not just a few. Throughout the years of climate negotiations different countries and regions have had different priorities. The EU is trying to build bridges to other countries and take on their concerns. We delivered more than €9.5bn in climate finance to other countries in 2013, and we are clear that their priorities and concerns should be reflected in the final deal agreed in Paris.

The current co-chairs of the negotiations have done an excellent job of making sure all views are included in the final negotiating text. This spirit must be taken forward right to the end. No backroom deals, no secret pacts, no private texts. If we have all these things – early compromise, legal certainty, scope for raising ambition at later date, and a deal that’s truly universal – then Paris will be a success.

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Categories: European Union

The EU’s internal debate is eclipsing its global leadership

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:38

Europe has for a quarter-century been at the forefront of climate change efforts, and the hope was that others would recognise its leadership and follow its example. Sadly, anyone attending international events knows that many non-European countries are finding chinks in Europe’s moral armour. The European Union may still be the global leader on climate questions, but its own internal policies, and its achievements, are falling short of its rhetoric.

First, there’s the question of headline emission levels. The EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of at least 40% by 2030 sounds the most ambitious of the “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) declared so far to the UNFCCC. But Europe starts in 1990 and spans the years to 2030, while the U.S., with its 26-28% reduction goal started in 2005 and aims at 2025.  Using a 2005 start point, the EU is aiming for a 34% reduction by 2030 and, interpolating between the 2020 and 2030 targets, a 23% reduction by 2025. That sounds rather less impressive.

“The rise in renewables has for a combination of reasons been accompanied by a switch from gas towards coal”

There is, of course, no theoretically correct baseline year, but the ambiguity makes the case for Europe’s leadership harder to argue. There is also the question of the coherence between the 2030 target and the longer-term aspiration to reduce emissions by 80-95% by 2050. Current targets envisage emissions falling by a fifth between 1990 and 2020, and by a quarter in the 2020s. To reach even its minimum long-term aim would mean emissions falling by a third in the 2030s and by half in the 2040s. It’s far from clear that such an acceleration of effort is feasible. If an 80-95% emissions reduction by 2050 constitutes a fair European contribution to the global effort, then far more attention to the “at least” part of the “at least 40%” target is going to be needed.

The second issue is the energy mix. Europe’s achievement in expanding its renewable energy generation has been truly impressive. But in the last few years, the rise in renewables has for a combination of reasons been accompanied by a switch from gas towards coal. Weaknesses in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) have resulted in carbon prices that are too low to discourage coal burning. Meanwhile, world prices have been depressed as shale gas has displaced coal at power stations in the U.S., and operators have taken advantage of low coal prices to use up remaining operating hours under the Large Combustion Plant Directive. EU member states with abundant coal reserves have been keen to enhance their energy self-sufficiency and construct new plants, so Europe’s arguments against coal elsewhere in the world have been weakened.

“Striving for internal policies that are ambitious, credible and effective is essential if European leadership is not only to be retained, but reinforced”

Third, effective carbon pricing is widely seen as indispensable to climate change policies, yet the over-allocation of emission allowances, the promotion of low carbon renewable energies and the effects of economic recession on baseline emissions have together created a perfect storm for the ETS. The backloading decision for Phase III and the proposal for a market stability reserve have been steps in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether these will rectify the fundamental structural weaknesses of the ETS. As other countries begin to introduce their own trading schemes, some of which may generate higher carbon prices than has the ETS, Europe’s leadership is once again coming under challenge. Some economists have argued for “border carbon adjustments” to compensate for differences in the stringency of national climate policies. It would be a shame if even a theoretical case could be made for applying these against, rather than by, Europe.

Leading by example is the key to effective leadership – and Europe’s halo has been slipping. Striving for internal policies that are ambitious, credible and effective is essential if European leadership is not only to be retained, but reinforced.


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Categories: European Union

The overriding need is to shift the environmental frame to an international level

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:38

Climate change is an area where no nation can afford to be inward-looking. Noble though they may be, countries’ individual initiatives are virtually ineffective if taken in isolation. The abatement measures taken so far by individual nations will not achieve the policy-based 2°C goal needed to just reduce the effects of climate change. In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, the aim should therefore be to include all major “economies and economic sectors” in an international climate change agreement with legally binding emission reductions.

All the world’s major economies, including Brazil, China, India and the U.S., but far from them alone, should set legally binding goals on emissions reduction in the medium and long term to relieve the problem of carbon leakage and open up new cost-effective reductions.

“Fundamental to climate change mitigation is education, and although some commendable educational efforts are being made the focus must shift to moving away from traditional concepts of outreach”

An international commitment of this sort would filter down to regions, cities and even individual industrial sectors, and ensure they all play a proactive role in the future. The submission of ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ by individual countries as a bottom-up approach that includes robust compliance and enforcement would then have to follow. Such a system should ensure that all countries in the climate change agreement comply with their commitments; support should be given where needed, but all countries should be held accountable for non-compliance.

For the international negotiations on the 2015 agreement to succeed, the financing of climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries is key. Disadvantaged states have in the past rightly voiced their concern about the lack of financial help from industrialised countries, yet the reality is that modern economies do indeed ‘exploit’ their natural and human resources, and one of the main victims of this has been the environment.

A two-pronged approach is needed when helping under-developed nations. The first is cleaner extraction at source, and the second is financial aid for cleaner energy. At the Cancún conference back in 2010, the EU and other developed countries said they would mobilise $100bn every year by 2020. However, since then progress on this has been slow if not non-existent. Those negotiations mainly revolved around the structure of the Green Climate Fund, a new multilateral fund meant to channel climate finance to developing countries.

“For the international negotiations on the 2015 agreement to succeed, the financing of climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries is key”


The need to shift the environmental focus away from the national to the international – from the individual to the collective – is now overriding. The nature of climate change means new policies needs to transcend geographic borders. Fundamental to climate change mitigation is education, and although some commendable educational efforts are being made the focus must shift to moving away from traditional concepts of outreach. A holistic approach is needed to bring together community and business leaders, and of course the younger generations.

What we Europeans should be creating is a profound dialogue with developing countries that addresses the negative connotations of climate change. A successful EU climate pledge must therefore look beyond emissions within Europe, towards a collaborative approach with developing nations.

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Categories: European Union

Climate change doubts have given way to a richer debate on actions

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:38

Climate change isn’t new – the science has been known for a long time, and governments have been negotiating what to do about it for more than 20 years. What has changed, though, is that climate change is no longer a far-off problem. It is also just one manifestation of a plethora of inter-related issues. Development in rich and poor countries alike is pitting short-term gain against the wise use and equitable sharing of the world’s natural resources.

Opportunities for countries to collectively change course are rare. Yet 2015 offers a number of opportunities to abandon business as usual and set a common course of global action. The Paris conference in December could cap a year in which the world’s governments chart an ambitious course to eradicate extreme poverty while shifting to clean, affordable and renewable energy.

“The previously unshakeable belief that action on climate change was in opposition to economic growth has given way to a growing understanding that both goals are achievable”

The debate over whether climate change is real has given way to a richer discussion of the costs, benefits and actions needed. The previously unshakeable belief that action on climate change was in opposition to economic growth has given way to a growing understanding that both goals are achievable.

There are significant issues still to be addressed. There remain profound differences on how to assess the obligations and responsibilities of each country, and it is still an open question where the financing will come from. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has consistently called for a universal climate agreement in Paris, and his preparatory climate summit last September brought together a hundred national leaders to boost the level of political ambition on climate change. Governments and corporate CEOs announced eight action areas that included climate finance, energy, transport, industry, agriculture, cities, forests and building resilience.

When negotiations came together again in Lima, Peru, last December, change was very much in the air and the Lima-Paris Action Agenda was established to increase momentum. The good omens now include early agreement on a baseline negotiating text, increased levels of ambition from China, the U.S. and from European countries, and $10bn pledged to the Green Climate Fund with the prospect of more to come. But of course Paris is not the destination. It is just a very necessary way station on the road to a sustainable world.



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Categories: European Union

Three tipping points Paris must achieve

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:37

The EU expects the Paris climate change conference to show that all major economies are leading the rest of the world in a new global agreement to prevent dangerous climate change. The science tells us that success depends on limiting the global temperature rise to below 2ºC by gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions to near zero before the end of this century. But will the emissions reduction targets announced by Paris put us on this pathway?

On their own, the Paris targets are unlikely to meet this challenge. For many countries, whether industrialised or developing, this will be the first time they act domestically and commit internationally to limiting their greenhouse gas emissions. And for most, the Paris targets will set goals only until 2025 or 2030. Paris can nonetheless be judged a success by reaching three critical tipping points.

The first tipping point is regulatory. The targets set in Paris should demonstrate that more than 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions will for the first time be regulated domestically for their effect on the global climate system. This means that governments in all the major economies are acting to limit emissions in the near-term, and it implies that policymakers must continue to act within the timeframes and emissions limits determined by science.

“The Paris conference should provide evidence that a combination of regulatory push and consumer pull is driving down the costs of the low carbon technologies essential to decarbonisation”

The second tipping point involves markets and the technological innovations driven by market forces. The Paris conference should provide evidence that a combination of regulatory push and consumer pull is driving down the costs of the low carbon technologies essential to decarbonisation. Together, public and private investors, multinational companies that command global supply chains and governments that procure products and services need to demonstrate that demand is growing inexorably for alternatives to fossil fuels, and for the technologies that will deliver carbon neutrality.

The third tipping point is political. Paris should show that it’s no longer possible for any political leader to deny the science of climate change, or to shirk its country’s responsibility to be part of the solution. The key evidence for this will be the commitment by all governments to a legally binding system of transparency and accountability that will hold each party to account for meeting its targets, and to return regularly to the negotiating table to strengthen their targets over time, in line with what the science requires.

While the Paris agreement will represent a first step, it may also be our last chance to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at safe levels.


IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – Asian Development Bank


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Categories: European Union

The key is another EU alliance with the developing world

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:37

All eyes will be focused on Paris in December when leaders from almost 200 countries that are parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) next meet. Their challenge is to agree a new phase of the climate change treaty that is ambitious enough to keep global temperatures below to 2ºC by the end of this century instead of the nearly 4ºC we are currently heading to.

The deal to be negotiated in Paris needs all countries to substantially reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, a goal attempted unsuccessfully a few years ago in Copenhagen.

“The good news is that the basic negotiating text has been agreed, and all countries are putting forward their own emission reduction pledges”

Among the sticking points in these global negotiations is the famous phrase Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, or CBDR, which means that while all countries should do what they can, some, mostly rich ones, should bear a greater responsibility and should do more than the others. Developing countries are a single negotiating bloc called the “Group of 77 and China” (although there are now well over 130 countries in this group), which has a number of sub-groups like the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, the Alliance of Small Island States, (AOSIS) and others.

When the UNFCCC process began over 20 years ago, this division between rich and poor countries made sense. But then things have changed dramatically. China is now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, having overtaken the U.S., while countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia are becoming bigger greenhouse gas emitters than many rich western countries.

The time has therefore come to de-emphasise the “Differentiated” and re-emphasise the “Common” in CBDR. This may require new alliances that will break the traditional rich versus poor dichotomy. Just such an alliance happened already at the UNFCCC meeting in Durban a few years ago when to break the deadlock between the rich countries and the G77 plus China the European Union allied itself with the LDC group. This led to agreement on the Durban Platform which set in train the negotiations now due to be finalised in Paris.

The good news as we head for Paris is that the basic negotiating text has been agreed, and all countries are putting forward their own emission reduction pledges. These are positive signs, but the trick will be to create alliances and coalitions of the willing. The hope must be that once again the LDCs and EU could form just such an alliance.



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Categories: European Union

And it’s alliances that bridge the climate talks divide

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:37

Climate change is posing unprecedented challenges in two ways. There is a growing body of knowledge on the consequences of climate change, and there is the imperative need to act on mitigation and adaptation due to related disasters.

The negotiations between parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) need to find of solutions to a series of issues. These include differentiation, which is closely related to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, the legal nature of the agreement, the political balance between mitigation and adaptation, and ways to finance loss and damage. In any negotiation, groups build alliances to find consensus that would be the basis of an agreement.

“The solution to the problem of climate change extends beyond the inter-governmental process”

Of course, the solution to the problem of climate change extends beyond the inter-governmental process. It affects the everyday life of people, their livelihoods and economic stability, for developed and developing countries alike. The impact of climate change will deeply affect our ways of life, but so too will the solutions. That’s why many stakeholders have recognised this challenge as an opportunity to tackle climate change outside the formal UNFCCC process.

The alliances between the different stakeholders at all levels, both state and non-state actors, can give inputs that complement the inter-governmental process. These alliances should be at the heart of the development process, with inputs from all stakeholders recognised. We should foster the creation of more spaces for policymakers and environmental experts to exchange their concerns, and hopefully this will lead to new practices and paradigm shifts.

Climate change is a two-sided problem that has to be addressed from both ends. For many years, the identification of mitigation measures has shown progress and countries around the world are working on them to a varying extent. On the adaptation side, the need for peoples, ecosystems and economies to respond to the adverse effects of climate change means we must improve our resilience at all levels.

There is a causal relationship between mitigation and adaptation; the more we mitigate, the less adaptation will be required. There is, of course, a gap in terms of the timing as the causality is not immediate, the alliances between mitigation and adaptation experts can be win-win ones.

We can expect to see more alliances, and Peru’s contribution to the engagement with state and non-state actors is being made through the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA). Launched by the governments of Peru and France representing COP20 and COP21 presidencies, the LPAA aims to stimulate new initiatives, showcase existing partnerships and engage with the public sector to scale up finance for climate mitigation and adaptation.

IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – Gerard Van der Leun

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Categories: European Union

Answering the key question of what India wants

Europe's World - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 14:37

What will India’s position be at the Paris conference? The fact is India is a victim of climate change, with unseasonal rain and weird, erratic weather resulting in huge crop losses. Farmers have been taking their own lives because they cannot face the prospect of penury and debt. It is time we should accept this changing weather as part of the catastrophic future that awaits us all. It means, too, that India must take a proactive position so the world understands that it has become a victim of climate change while the world continues to do too little to reduce greenhouses gases.

This doesn’t mean that India will not be part of the effort to reduce emissions. India should present its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to demonstrate its own seriousness, but it is also clear that this target for emission reduction has to be based on an equitable sharing of the burden.

“India must take a proactive position so the world understands that it has become a victim of climate change while the world continues to do too little to reduce greenhouses gases”

The U.S.-China agreement on climate change is highly unfair and not at all ambitious enough. It puts the world at risk, for China and the U.S. have agreed to “equalise” emissions by 2030. In other words, China will be allowed to increase carbon dioxide emissions until then so as to reach the same level as the U.S. In turn, the U.S. will by 2025 reduce its emissions by 26-28% from its 2005 levels – when they peaked.

The Chinese will thus go from roughly 8 tonnes per capita of carbon dioxide now to 12-13 tonnes in 2030. The U.S. comes down from 17 tonnes per capita of carbon dioxide to 12-13 tonnes in 2030. The cake is being carved up in such a manner that each country would occupy equal atmospheric space by 2030. The U.S.-China deal makes it clear that each of the two countries get 16% of the atmospheric space.

This will leave little for the rest of the world’s economic growth. At this rate of emissions, there is no way the world can stay below the guardrail of a 2°C rise in temperature that would keep us all safe.

So what should India do? Its current per capita emissions are roughly 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide. New Delhi must argue that all countries, including India, agree to cut emissions, based on their past contributions so that all can share the common atmospheric space. It is what the Narendra Modi government has promised to do, and it is what must be supported internationally so that the rich world is taught to walk the talk and not just talk the talk.

IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – Tawheed Manzoor

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Categories: European Union

Indicative programme - TRANSPORT, Telecommunications and Energy Council of 11 June 2015, Luxembourg

European Council - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 11:43

Place:        KIRCHBERG building (KCC), Luxembourg
Chair(s):    Anrijs Matīss, Minister for Transport of Latvia  

All times are approximate and subject to change  

+/- 09.35     Doorstep by Minister Matīss
10.00           Beginning of Transport Council meeting
+/- 10.10     Adoption of A items
+/- 10.15     Air passengers rights (in public session)
+/- 10.45     Inland waterway vessels (in public session)
+/- 11.25     Fourth Railway Package (in public session)
+/- 12.25     AOB
                     EU road safety
                     TEN-T & CEF
                     ASEM Transport Ministers meeting (poss. in public session)
                     Work programme of the incoming Presidency

+/- 14.00     Press conference

Categories: European Union

Trade marks reform: Council confirms agreement with Parliament

European Council - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 11:42

On 10 June 2015, the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved a compromise agreement on the reform of the European trade mark system.

The reform of the current system will improve the conditions for businesses to innovate and to benefit from more effective trade mark protection against counterfeits, including fake goods in transit through the EU's territory.

The new legal framework is also aimed at making trade mark registration systems throughout the European Union more accessible and efficient for businesses in terms of lower costs and complexity, increased speed, greater predictability and legal certainty.

Next steps

After endorsement of the compromise agreement by the Legal Affairs committee of the European Parliament, the legal texts will come back to the Council for  political agreement, followed by the usual legal-linguistic revision before the formal adoption of the Council's position at first reading.

Afterwards, the texts will be put for a vote in second reading at a plenary session of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

EU-CELAC, facts and figures

EEAS News - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 11:26
Categories: European Union