1st Dec 2021

EU and Asia agree on 'vague' call on climate change

Asian and EU leaders have agreed to common action on climate change at a two–day meeting which finished on Monday (11 September) in Helsinki - but environmental groups have said the deal is "vague".

Leaders on both sides signed up to a lengthy declaration on the need to continue the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, saying they recognise "that climate change poses a serious threat to sustainable development and to the future of our planet."

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Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen said after the meeting that "the Asian countries have shown a greater determination than previously to emphasize the importance of tackling climate issues," according to Finnish newspaper Huvudstadsbladet.

But environmental group Greenpeace said the climate declaration was too vague.

"There are no timetables, no concrete content," said Mikael Sjovall from Greenpeace. "Words are fine but what is needed is commitment about how to implement this on the ground in each member country," he told Reuters.

Trade with Asia

According to new EuroStat figures, ASEM countries' goods account for 28 percent of imports into the EU while they provide a market for 15 percent of the bloc's exports.

90 percent of all EU imports from the 13 ASEM partners are manufactured goods, while machinery and vehicles account for more than half of EU exports.

European and Asian leaders are keen to improve their commercial relations even further, they said.

The stalled negotiations on trade liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation could be replaced by bilateral deals between Brussels and Asian countries of "the most dynamic area in the world", hinted Mr Barroso.

"The European Union cannot sit with its arms crossed while all the others seek to defend their interests with bilateral agreements," economic affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia echoed.

But recent moves from Brussels against Chinese and Vietnamese shoes sold under production price on the European market, has soured potential EU liberal trade plans with China.

"Free trade with China would be difficult to sell in Europe, due to the sensibility of the opinion when it comes to the import matter," a European diplomat in Beijing told French newspaper Le Monde.

Human rights

The ASEM meeting also showed continuing fundamental differences on human rights issues.

On Sunday, Mr Vanhanen called on Burma to release its political prisoners, while several other European leaders specifically called for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Ky who has been under house arrest since 1989 as a prisoner of conscience.

According to Mr Vanhanen, the Burmese foreign minister did not promise to enact any significant improvements during the talks.

Meanwhile, China's announcement made over the weekend of new restrictions on the activities of foreign journalists working in the country strained the atmosphere further, with a European Commission spokesman saying Brussels sees "real cause for concern."

Old EU states risk failing Kyoto targets

Most of the EU's 15 old member states will have a hard time reaching their 2012 Kyoto targets - designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and global warming - new projections say.

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