The Brief, powered by Eurogas – The UN session, a missed opportunity

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The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Held every year in September, the annual week-long session of the UN General Assembly in New York is a key milestone in the political calendar. This year’s session, opening on 22 September, is special for two reasons. But it is also likely to be a missed opportunity.

First, it marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

On 26 June 1945, soon after Nazi Germany, defeated by the allies, surrendered, an initial 50 countries adopted the United Nations Charter which calls on member countries, now numbering 193, to maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law, and promote the expansion of human rights.

An anniversary is always a good chance to take stock of achievements and lessons learned – and look to the future.

But this session will be held against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders usually attend the session in person, it’s a matter of prestige. This time, most of them will attend online, and that includes EU leaders.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has tried to spearhead an initiative for a global ceasefire until the end of 2020 so countries can help fight the pandemic.

However, he recognized that opportunities would be lost – because presidents and prime ministers will not be physically in New York. A video message cannot replace physical meetings – and leaders at the UN usually have so many that diplomats call it “speed dating”.

US President Donald Trump is the only leader, except Guterres, who is considering delivering his address in person on the first day of the session.

The high priest of unilateralism will address the high forum for multilateralism, while many in the world will quietly keep their fingers crossed for his low approval ratings to materialize in an election defeat on 3 November. Had the US elections preceded the UN session, many world leaders would have probably attended the New York extravaganza, despite the health risks.

World leaders need to speak to each other, and this concerns the nuclear superpowers  because the international climate is becoming poisonous.

During the Cold War, there was the so-called détente and Europe eventually became reunited without war and bloodshed. There is a huge need for détente today – and the EU should be its engine. It has a historic duty to make it happen.


A message from Eurogas: Over €10 trillion in subsidies would be needed by 2050 to retrofit buildings if we electrify heat. Using gaseous fuels will significantly reduce this burden on society, while meeting carbon neutrality goals, shows the Eurogas study. And importantly Europeans are open to all cost-effective decarbonisation solutions.


The Roundup

Commissioners-designate Valdis Dombrovskis and Mairead McGuinness will face their European Parliament hearings to take over Trade and Financial Services on 12 October, with EU lawmakers to decide on their nominations the following week.

Empires are back and the EU has reached a critical junction in its relations with Turkey, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told EU lawmakers before a crucial EU summit next week.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has taken a stand in support of EU net neutrality rules in a case probing ‘zero-tariff’ deals, which give preferential treatment to the use of certain popular web applications such as Spotify, Netflix and Facebook.

French President Macron defended 5G technology in his speech to a French startup gathering, providing a clear answer to a moratorium on the rollout of the super-fast broadband network wanted by leftist and green parties.

New night-train services linking Switzerland with Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome are going to roll out by 2024, a Swiss-Austrian rail operator alliance announced.

Care for more transport news? Have a look at the latest edition of the Transport Vlog.

European Parliament lawmakers are considering asking the European Commission to step in and help nix any doubts about the terminology used for plant-based meat substitutes, which are gaining in popularity across the EU.

Look out for…

European Council President Ursula von der Leyen will give her first State of the European Union address at 9am tomorrow morning.

Tune in bright and early to our live coverage of the speech here and keep track of the site for all the analysis and reaction afterwards.”

  • European Parliament plenary session
  • Informal meeting of education ministers

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Benjamin Fox]

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