Divided we fall silent

Published on 23 October 2009 at 13:17

Now that the Czech President Václav Klaus seems resigned to ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, the entire European Union seems to be breathing a sigh of relief. Optimists will say that the European project is destined at last to become reality, that the EU can finally live up to its ambitions and make itself heard. However, others will point-out that during this very same week the Union once again demonstrated that it was unable to speak with a single, united voice.

On the 20th October, negotiations between Europe’s finance ministers – on the issue of how much financial aid the EU should give to developing nations so they can fight global warming – failed. Even a sum revised downwards by half, compared to the one estimated by experts (€30 bn), could not be approved: too many states are worried that contributions will not be divided evenly. Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos termed this lack of consensus “shameful”, while his Swedish counterpart said he was “very disappointed”.

The following day history repeated itself, when the ministers for the environment were unable to reach an agreement on the thorniest issue: greenhouse gas emission rights not used by Central European states. Negotiations also show that “small” states tend to shift the weight of responsibility on the backs of “big” states. While the recent failure on the part of the finance ministers could be put down chiefly to the reluctance of Germany as it awaits the formation of a new government, one can’t help thinking that foot shuffling elsewhere is merely a pretext to postpone the adoption of a joint position, and a lack of political will to reach a consensus. In the run-up to such events like the Copenhagen conference on climat change, it above all betrays an inability to understand that if Europe does not speak in unison, it will never be heard. J.S.

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