EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XLI. (December 2014)

Written by | Monday, December 22nd, 2014
European Values

EU and U.S. Avoiding Crucial Questions in the Politics of Global Climate Change Governance: Avoiding the Crucial Questions
Lucia Najšlová (Istituto Affari Internazionali)

In autumn 2015, another UN summit will take place in Paris whose common theme will be the climate change. A recently published study by the leading Italian research institute Istituto Affari Internazionali argues that despite the efforts of the scientific community, which warns against the direct effects of climate change and the pressure from states that are starting to be directly existentially threatened, it does not seem the world forum could unite and agree on common binding steps designed to mitigate the impact of climate change. The reduction of CO2 emissions, which are the main contributor to global warming, is the primordial task.

The EU and U.S. have quite a developed strategy on combating climate change. What is missing is stronger joint efforts in the international arena, which would be able to exert pressure on other major global players. For quite a long time, it has no longer been the case that the U.S. and the EU were the major contributors in emissions. Instead, India, Brazil or states collectively called the “Asian Tigers” jumped or moved closer to the original leaders in the rankings. According to data from 2012, China is actually in the first place.

The unwillingness of China and other countries to join the desired effort that could slow or halt climate change is one of the main arguments put forward by the U.S. government in explaining why they have a reserved attitude towards new agreements. The forthcoming trade convention (TTIP) between the U.S. and the EU is also an interesting factor that will affect the future agreement.

We cannot talk about some common struggle by western countries against climate change. The main points of bilateral negotiations still remain economic growth and energy security. In the future, the latter priority would also shape the U.S. decision on the extraction of shale gas. Nevertheless, these circumstances cannot reverse the ongoing climate change and will have minimal impact on the reduction of the emissions.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://www.iai.it/pdf/Transworld/TW_WP_44.pdf)

Priorities for the Juncker Commission: Policy Recommendations and Advice
CEPS Research Team (The Center for European Policy Studies)

The priorities of Juncker’s Commission include improving the foreign and security policy, tackling the EU’s democratic deficit, supporting economic growth, reducing unemployment, and dealing with the energy and environmental challenges facing Europe. This study analyses the Commission’s priorities and delivers a series of recommendations and advice how best to accomplishing them.

Concerning the foreign and security policy, it will be necessary to simplify decision making in the European Council. Federica Mogherini, the Commission’s High Representative, should improve cooperation between the Union’s institutions and individual member states. She should also seek to enable the European Council to decide by simple majority rather than only unanimously. Another priority lies in reforming the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy, where it will be necessary to offer non-EU members some kind of attractive alternative to seeking a full EU membership. The EU should strengthen the new bilateral approach by clustering relations with neighbouring countries in a functional, sectoral approach rather than in a static and purely geographical sense.

The democratic deficit should be lowered by changes in the functioning of individual EU institutions and the cooperation between the latter. The Commission should improve its relations with the European Council and the European Parliament. It is also necessary to increase transparency of the Union’s decision-making processes and ensuring an effective functioning of the rule of law and the principle of subsidiarity. This last point will also be tackled by the Czech Commissioner V?ra Jourová. One of her key tasks could be ensuring that EU institutions do not overstep their boundaries.

Although this does not directly fall into the Commission’s purview, it should nevertheless pay attention to urban governance. Cities account for 80 percent of the EU’s HDP, consume 80 percent of the energy production and are responsible for 75 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Governance of European cities will therefore be key for resolving some of the EU’s economic, social, energy, and environmental challenges. The Commission should look into supporting the growth of the so called ‘smart’ cities as well as aid the growth of information and communication technologies and ‘smart’ electric grids, support programs aimed at more effective governance and enabling greater inclusion of the private sector in finding innovative solutions.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.ceps.eu/book/priorities-juncker-commission-policy-recommendations-and-advice)


EU Sanctions against Russia: Europe Brings a Hard Edge to its Economic Power
Kristi Raik, Niklas Helwig and Juha Jokela (The Finnish Institute of International Affairs)

For the first time in its history, in recent months the European Union has taken an active part in an attempt to resolve a conflict that could potentially endanger the whole of Europe. Its only possible foreign policy reaction were sanctions, which took on clearer outlines after Russian attempts to annex Crimea in March 2014 and whose scope is still increasing. Firstly, it was the interruption of preparations for the June G8 summit in Sochi (3 March), followed by the interruption of negotiations on visas and future cooperation between Russia and the EU (6 March) and finally the bank accounts of the first 21 (now 119) persons were frozen (17 March). During the summer, more complex economic sanctions on the imports from Crimea and Russia were implemented.

In the absence of joint armed forces, sanctions have become the most feasible instrument of EU foreign policy that should fulfill three main functions: constraining in terms of punishment of those responsible for the crisis, limiting in terms of interruption of acts of those responsible for the crisis and ultimately signaling in terms of adopting a clear stance against the violation of international norms.

Ukrainian crisis has verified the uniformity of the EU regarding the positions of individual states, and not less importantly the flexibility and agility of its institutions. It was also the European External Action Service (EEAS), one of the subsidiary bodies of the EU, created after the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in order to assist the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which played a significant role in the creation of the sanctions.

However, despite the improved coordination of the efforts, the interim results of EU sanctions are unsatisfactory. The authors note that despite the still dire situation in Ukraine, the sanctions will have a significant impact on long-term economic development of the Russian Federation, which may become even more apparent in a not-so-distant future. While the question remains as to whether Europe has really succeeded in this test, all in all, it seems that it is on the right track.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/450/eu_sanctions_against_russia/)

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