Wednesday

25th May 2022

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.

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?

As the world continues to seek productive ways to provide assistance to the beleaguered citizens of Ukraine, the Hungarian government is now using the humanitarian crisis to further its own authoritarian ambitions.

What Europe still needs to do to save its bees

On World Bee Day, it is essential to pay homage to a variety of pollinating insects crucial for our food security. A number of EU projects contribute to their sustained survival.

More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes

A Joint Investigation Team combines prosecutors, police and judges from different countries who come together under the coordination of Eurojust to synchronise cross-border investigations — with a track record of achieving results: from the Bataclan attacks to the MH17 investigation.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. France 'convinced' Ukraine will join EU
  2. Von der Leyen: Russia hoarding food as 'blackmail'
  3. Legal action launched against KLM over 'greenwashing'
  4. Orbán refuses to discuss Russia oil embargo at EU summit
  5. Turkey's Erdogan snubs Greek PM
  6. ECB: Crypto may pose a risk to financial stability
  7. UK PM Johnson faces renewed questions over Covid party
  8. Sweden gives 5th Covid shot to people over 65, pregnant women

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  2. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June
  3. 'No progress in years' in Libya, says UN migration body
  4. Toxic pesticide residue in EU fruit up 53% in a decade
  5. Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental
  6. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back
  7. EU aims to seize Russian assets amid legal unclarity
  8. Close ties with autocrats means security risk, Nato chief warns

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us