Barroso urges summit not to lose sight of climate crisis

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The main focus of the European Council next week will “rightly” be on the financial crisis, but “decisive progress” must also be made on the climate change and energy package and on the Lisbon Treaty, Commission President José Manuel Barroso stressed ahead of the summit.

Speaking at a Friends of Europe ‘VIP Policy Summit’ on 9 October, Barroso warned that the financial crisis should not distract leaders from the EU’s all-important climate change and energy package, saying the long-term problem of climate change remained and required an urgent “human rescue package,” despite the media focus on financial rescue measures.

The package helps foster long-term stability, because a low-carbon Europe would be economically stronger, the Commission president said. The EU already leads the world in climate policies and should exploit its “first mover advantage,” he stated, adding that the failure of the package would increase the cost of climate change adaptation and expose Europe to energy shocks.  

Barroso expressed concern that governments would become more sensitive due to the financial crisis at a time when strong commitment was needed from Europe’s leaders in addition to the Commission’s efforts to tackle climate change. The “real test of credibility” for the EU would be in translating unanimous agreements into concrete legislation.

Lisbon Treaty also key

Speaking to the Parliament on 8 October, Barroso also insisted that the financial crisis demonstrated “how Europe needs the Lisbon Treaty” in order to be more effective. Similar views were voiced by French EU Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet, speaking for the Council, as well as by many MEPs.

But progress on the Treaty seems to be off the cards as the Irish foreign minister implied that his country was retracting from a previous commitment to come up with proposals for a solution following the Irish ‘no’ in the 12 June referendum (EURACTIV 09/10/08).

Overcoming divisions on financial crisis

Addressing the financial crisis, Barroso stated that the “Commission has played its role to the full” and it was now up to the member states to end the fragmented system of regulation in Europe. He advised against unilateral action, arguing that this is not the time for “political posturing” and “grand initiatives that have no chance of being followed through”.

The European Council will take place in Brussels on 15 and 16 October.

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