Saturday

4th Feb 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us