Rhein on Energy and Climate

The 19/20 March 2009 European Council Meeting was a rare show of European unity and resolution to tackle unprecedented challenges Europe and the world are confronted with.

It was visible in declarations of the leaders and the resolute Presidency Conclusions. The accusations of protectionism and the frictions between the French President and the Czech Presidency seemed forgotten for a while. Apparently, all the felt the need to huddle together against the economic and financial crisis and US reproaches of inadequate European action.

Against all odds, the EU 27 has proved its capacity to decide and act when being forced to under stress.

  • It has defined a common position (“agreed language”) for the crucial G20 Summit meeting in London April 2. This is a remarkable achievement. It would have been unimaginable a year ago to find such commonality on issues of extreme sensitivity which remain mostly in national competence.
  • It has enhanced its capacity to bail out failing member states by doubling the ceiling for EU interventions to € 50 billion, a gesture meant to assuage the anxieties in some new member states.
  • It has taken overdue step decisions to complete the common energy market, build the necessary interconnections, including a new gas pipeline to the Caspian Sea, and improve the safeguard mechanism against interruptions of supply.
  • It has given its blessing to launching the “Eastern Partnership” with its six eastern neighbours at a Summit to be held in Prague, May 7th.This decision is of great political sensitivity. Russia does not at all seem to appreciate the way the EU is trying to improve its links with countries that Russia considers as part of its “influence sphere”.
  • Last not least, it has wisely taken a cautious stand on an urgent appeal from the UN Climate Secretariat for financing climate projects in developing countries, asking for more clarification before taking any concrete decisions.

In addition, the positive signals for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of the year also give the EU a feeling of self-assurance.

One swallow does not make the spring! So let us hope that the EU machinery will be effective in transforming these political declarations into effective legislation and effective executive action!

Brussels 22.03.09 Eberhard Rhein

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