Posts tagged ‘Barroso’
The European Parliament’s convincing vote for Jose Manuel Barroso’s second term as European Commission president puts him in a stronger position than any candidate since Jacques Delors in the 1980s. To have secured the votes of the European Conservatives and their allies and an estimated 25 Socialists in addition to his centre right supporters in a secret ballot was a considerable achievement, at 382 delivering 13 more votes than an absolute majority.
Cometh the hour cometh the man. Barroso is no Delors, but can deliver the continuity which will be needed in a highly unpredictable period, where I see that the latest threat is from the Czech constitutional court which could delay Lisbon ratification for another six months even if the Irish vote “yes” on October 2.
Whatever the result of the referendum, Europe must get its act together for the Copenhagen conference on climate change, much as it did more than 20 years ago when the Vienna Convention on the ozone layer and the Montreal Protocol were negotiated.
I mention this because just 80 days before the opening of the Copenhagen conference the United Nations designated September 16 2009 as Ozone Day. The UN sees action on the ozone layer as a curtain raiser for Copenhagen, a model for what can be achieved through concerted international action in the face of a major environmental challenge.
It’s 24 years since the Vienna Convention for protecting the ozone layer was signed and 22 years since the Montreal Protocol, which set the timetables for phasing out of the man-made chemicals responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer. It is proving a remarkable success, although the task is by no means complete. A UN note gives more detail.
What does surprise me is the contribution that the ozone-depleting chemicals, and particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were making to global warming. CFCs have now been virtually phased out (January 1 2010 is the phase-out deadline of CFCs for the poorest countries) and scientists argue that this co-ordinated action has given the world up to 12 years of extra breathing space for arresting the process of climate change. They reckon its impact to be five or six times the impact of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.
The late 1980s were years when environment policy came of age. The Vienna Convention was first based on a scientific thesis of ozone depletion caused by man-made chemicals, and only proven as fact in 1988 when US spy planes confirmed the existence of a vast hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic caused by man-made chemicals. It will be many decades before the ozone layer is fully restored, but things are no longer getting worse and should progressively improve.
Of course tackling climate change is a vastly more complex challenge than reversing ozone layer depletion. Every country and every industry is involved, as is the whole human population, but there are some fundamental principles which have been established through the Vienna process which are relevant to Copenhagen:
A template was negotiated to assist developing countries through a combination of financial assistance and phasing to allow further time for adaptation, plus special help for the countries of central and eastern Europe.
The last twenty years have demonstrated industry’s remarkable capacity to adapt and innovate once faced with obligatory targets. Firms which at first resisted the proposed Montreal measures, arguing that there were no alternatives, have developed new products and new technologies – a process which must continue.
The international community found the political courage and the mutual trust to accept the scientific consensus and build a global policy in the face of inertia and downright opposition.
The European Community (as it then was) was a major driver in formulating an international agreement and seeing it through to completion. It’s a good precedent for the European Union to follow.
Rarely has the Brussels rentrée occurred in such a muddle of doubt and anticipation. Doubt because the October 2 Irish referendum could kill the Lisbon Treaty for good; anticipation because approval of Lisbon should open up new capabilities for Europe and settle the constitutional uncertainty which has dogged the EU for so many years – and provide some jobs for the boys.
The Irish Times reports that support for a “yes” vote slipped eight points in a recent opinion poll, with 46 per cent in favour, 29 per cent against and 25 per cent don’t knows – and that’s just four weeks before the vote. Irish political leaders have started to raise the tempo of their campaign, but the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has confirmed that contingency plans are being drawn up to apply the terms of the Nice Treaty in the event of an Irish rejection.
Of course even a “yes“ vote in Ireland is not quite the end of the affair. Germany, Poland or the Czechs could delay ratification well into 2010, raising the hopes of some British Conservative eurosceptics that a victory in a June 2010 general election would allow them to hold a referendum, steer a de-ratification through the Westminster Parliament and so block the treaty. A mouth-watering prospect for constitutional lawyers!
The hero of these eurosceptics is of course Czech President Vaclav Klaus who has so far refused to sign the act of ratification and is determined to be the last to do so. Germany now appears to be on the brink of approval having agreed more national scrutiny of EU legislation. The Polish president has yet to sign.
It’s looking inevitable that the present Commission, which would normally step down on October 31, will be asked to remain in office for some months until the treaty is fully ratified, taking its term beyond the Copenhagen post-Kyoto summit, but at least Barroso should provide continuity into a new college provided that he can secure the approval of the European Parliament on (probably) September 16 following this week’s meetings with the political groups.
I was particularly intrigued to learn that the EP vote on the Commission president would be through secret ballot. A defeat for Barroso would be an interesting test of party loyalty – but I suppose we’d never know who the rebels were.
Barack Obama definitely has the wind in his sails as he heads towards a possible (probable?) Democratic nomination. And an increasingly cool wind it is too. The latest foray of pop into politics sees hip-hop grandee, Wiil.i.am, front man for the Black Eyed Peas and producer of the Pussycat Dolls, lend his voice in support of Obama in the way he knows best; a pop video. The combination of Obama’s spoken words and singing raises the hairs on the back of the neck, recalling the great black-and-white orators of yesteryear, King and Kennedy, and bringing Obama a mantle of cool to which European politicians can only aspire. 13 million people have already seen this video, with one million a day logging on. What MEP would not give his or her eye teeth for that level of exposure?
For cool, also read sexy. Obama-Girl’s song “I have a crush on Obama” also gained six million hits or so on YouTube. Perhaps we will see “I have a crush on Barroso” by Barroso-Girl sometime soon, but somehow I doubt it.
As we head towards the dog-end of the second Bush administration, and as the US election battle becomes the greatest show on earth, there is no doubt that their politics is much cooler than ours. Annoying, but true.