Saturday

15th Dec 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

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

How EU agriculture policy endangers migrants' lives

Most migrants, like most European citizens, would rather have proper contracts, pay taxes and benefit from the social services rather than toil in the fields for up to 15 hours a day, in dangerous conditions, for meagre pay.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Brexit, migration, cities - and the UN pact

It's not surprising that a handful of nationalist European governments – Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy – have followed Trump's lead in rejecting the UN's migration pact, to be formally adopted in Marrakech next week.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us