Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Opinion

Ashton should green EU diplomacy

  • Ms Ashton (c) and Mr Van Rompuy (r) have new powers under the Lisbon Treaty (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The European Union punched below its weight in Copenhagen. When Barack Obama did the climate deal with China, India, Brazil and South Africa, European leaders were caught by surprise.

In a changing world, Europe needs stronger green diplomacy to move the global environmental agenda forward. In addition, a greening of foreign policy would increase security, as many conflicts arise over scarce resources and degradation of ecosystems.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Lisbon Treaty gives new opportunities. As high representative for foreign relations, Catherine Ashton should move quickly to make environment a test case for a more coherent foreign policy, working closely together with EU commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Council chairman Herman Van Rompuy and with member states.

EU governments have already agreed guidelines for the new European External Action Service. One of Catherine Ashton's first tasks is to propose how it should operate.

Responsibility for sustainable development should be placed close to the high representative in a strategic unit. The External Action Service needs not only skilled diplomats, but also experts on energy, transport, agriculture and environmental protection. Staff resources for sustainable development should be increased, both in the EU institutions and in national foreign ministries.

Member states can co-operate better by for example sharing environmental attachés in key countries. The existing Green Diplomacy network is an asset in this regard. By pooling resources and improving coherence, it will be easier for Europe to convince partners on climate, biodiversity, chemicals and other important issues.

In substance, there is much for the high representative to do. The EU needs a strategy for green diplomacy, similar to earlier programmes for conflict prevention and the fight against terrorism.

Security policy must address new threats such as climate change. The process for assessing potential conflicts needs to be improved. Situation reports must include environmental aspects to a larger extent. One urgent task for Catherine Ashton is to increase analytical capacity in this area. Climate and resource security should more regularly be on the agendas of foreign ministers and of geographical working groups.

Improving trust in the European Union among developing countries is key to agreement on trade and environmental issues. The treaty changes might make it easier to co-ordinate development policy and traditional foreign affairs, bringing about organizational and cultural change in both areas. Although the Council has agreed guidelines, it is still unclear as to exactly how this will be done. However, links between security, environment and development experts must be reinforced.

Environmental aspects should be better integrated in external programmes and policies, whereas poverty reduction must remain the main goal for development policy. This new approach should be applied already during the current mid-term review of country strategies.

Climate negotiations will continue on their established track. Environmental ministers and the skilled climate experts in the European Commission have crucial roles. However, the new possibilities in the Lisbon Treaty should be exploited to their full extent. It's time for Catherine Ashton to seize the opportunity and strengthen green diplomacy.

Mats Engstrom is the former deputy state secretary for the environment in Sweden

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

How long can Bulgaria keep facing both East and West?

Sofia may be wearing out its welcome with Western democracies by playing both sides - seeking closer integration in Europe while cosying up to Moscow and Beijing, claiming to work towards hitting EU targets while putting its own interests first.

What Salvini teaches us about Operation Sophia

It seems as if the EU and some member states are trying to 'sell' European external action in Italy, Austria, Poland and Hungary as a key to solving internal issues – and thus pulling these missions into today's populist debates.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

EU's moment of truth in Khan al-Ahmar

EU states have spoken out in strident terms against the Israeli demolition of another Palestinian community - but what are they prepared to do to stop the war crime?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us