Gore doubts EU leadership abilities
By Honor Mahony
Former US vice-president Al Gore has raised strong doubts about the European Union's ability to give global leadership, particularly on climate change - an area where the EU prides itself as setting an example to others.
"Some have speculated that sometime in the future, if the European Union actually unifies to a much higher degree, and has a president, and an effective legislative body that has real power, they might somehow emerge, with potential for global leadership. I'm not going to hold my breath," he said during a testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on tackling climate change.
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"I don't want to be too proud, you know, to be chest-beating about that, but I think the United States is the only nation that can lead the world," continued Mr Gore, according to AFP news agency.
Referring to global warming, he said: "This is the one challenge that could completely end human civilization."
His comments come as the EU has just unveiled proposals for securing international agreement on how to tackle climate change after 2012, when the current arrangement expires.
The talks will take place in Copenhagen this year. Until now, the EU has made much of the fact that it has led the field in setting up an emissions trading system – where industry trades pollution credits – and agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the bloc by 20 percent by 2020.
It has also been easy for the EU to date to have the moral upper hand over the US on climate change issues with the previous US administration having a poor environment record.
However, US president Barack Obama has already sounded a different note and pledged that Washington will take the environment dossier in hand.
If Washington pulls its weight on climate change, it will throw Europe's green credentials into the spotlight, with individual EU member states often bickering over what green goals to set, how they should be achieved and who should pay for them.
The Gore comments also touch on a wider debate in Europe on EU leadership. A reform of the EU's institutional rules, known as the Lisbon Treaty, would give the bloc a permanent president and foreign minister and increase the power of the European Parliament.
But analysts wonder whether the 27 member states – particularly big players such as Germany, France and the UK – will ever be able to unite behind a president or foreign minister to give them the political room they need to be able to properly represent the European Union.