Sarkozy moves to enlist Eastern EU members on climate change

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French President and EU presidency holder Nicolas Sarkozy will this weekend make a dramatic attempt to obtain the agreement of the bloc’s Eastern countries on the bloc’s climate change package, ahead of a crucial EU summit on 11-12 December, sources told EURACTIV.

The meeting will take place over a lunch hosted by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in the Polish city of Gdansk on Saturday 6 December. 

The two leaders will be joined by the prime ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia. 

Yesterday (1 December), Tusk made optimistic statements, insisting that the Union was “very close” to a deal on the climate and energy package. Poland was recently offered concessions on the package, triggering fears from some member states that France, which holds the presidency of the European Council until the end of the year, was dismantling some of the basic architecture of the European Commission’s original proposal in order to reach a deal before the end of 2008 (EURACTIV 27/11/08). 

Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia also want to receive greater recognition for efforts already made to reduce CO2 emissions. At the 15 October EU summit, they tabled a joint paper, which states that any EU climate deal “should respect the differences of member states’ economic potential” (EURACTIV 16/10/08). 

Even if he had already reached an agreement with his Polish host Donald Tusk, it is less clear what concessions Sarkozy is prepared to make to the other Eastern European countries. A diplomat from a smaller EU country told EURACTIV that a compromise was still expected, because current burden-sharing is considered unfair by the Eastern group. 

If no deal is reached at the 11-12 summit, the Czech Republic will inherit the climate change dossier. Although Prague is not particularly active on the file and has not been fighting along with the rest of the Eastern group for special treatment, diplomats said France “absolutely” wanted to close the dossier during its presidency. 

Recently, the Polish press even reported that an extraordinary EU summit may be held on 27 December in Brussels to wrap up the climate change deal. 

On the eve of the Gransk summit, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called on Eastern European leaders to reach out for the benefits of low carbon economies rather than try to hold the line for continuing high emissions and the economic model of a century ago. 

"There is a unique opportunity for eastern European countries to decide if they want to belong to the group of leaders moving to a low carbon economy, or to the countries lagging behind with economies stuck in the past," sais Delia Villagrasa, a senior advisor at WWF. "The host of the UN conference has the obligation to propose measures that will deliver us a safer climate future." 

"Eastern European countries can also use the upcoming EU budget negotiations to ensure that billions allocated to them are substantially used for energy efficiency measures, which will increase living standards and alleviate fuel poverty. It is not about lack of money, but of political will," said Villagrasa. 

On 23 January 2008, the European Commission presented a series of proposals designed to transform into law the political commitments made by EU member states in March 2007 to reduce the EU's emissions of CO2 and related greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 20% by 2020, while boosting the bloc's share of renewable energy use to 20% over the same period. 

A proposal to revise and strengthen the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on EU ETS), the 'flagship' EU policy to tackle climate change, as well as a proposal that outlines how member states should divide the 'effort' of sharing CO2 reductions in sectors not affected by the ETS between themselves, is the mainstay of the so-called 'climate and energy package'. 

A proposal on a legal framework to regulate the geological storage of CO2 captured during power generation is also part of the package. 

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