Read the conclusions, do not trust press conferences. That is good advice when it comes to understanding political decisions – in the EU as well as in domestic policy.
José Manuel Barroso and Fredrik Reinfeldt claimed success on climate after the European Council. `The difficult question of “climate financing” has been resolved and the EU’s climate package is thus complete.´, the Swedish Presidency states on its website.
The text gives another impression. Fredrik Reinfeldt had to weaken key paragraphs considerably. As a result, there is no clear commitment from the EU on financing in the run-up to Copenhagen. This will complicate tomorrow´s talks with Barack Obama, as well as negotiations with other major emitters.
The European Council agreed on the overall amount needed for 2020, including private financing through emission trading and other means. But more importantly, there was no decision on the short-term financing, crucial for a political agreement in Copenhagen.
Before the EU Summit, Sweden had proposed the following wording:
`The European Council appreciates the Commission´s estimate of an overall financing need of EUR 5-7 billion per year for the first three years following an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen and underlines that the EU in this context is ready to contribute its fair share of these costs´
This text met strong resistance from Germany, Poland and others. As a result, there was no agreement on the financing need, in contrast to what the Swedish Presidency claims on its website. The paragraph in the final conclusions is:
`Taking note of the Commission estimate that a global financing of EUR 5-7 billion per year for the first three years is needed following an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen, the European Council underlines that a figure will be determined in the light of the outcome of the Copenhagen conference.´
Der Spiegel is right in describing the outcome as a success for Angela Merkel, who did not want concrete figures decided at the Summit. The Guardian, among others, gives a good overview of the failure to reach agreement on financial commitments.
There was also no agreement on the controversial issue of `hot air´, emission allowances in the Kyoto protocol not used by countries.
What does this mean for Copenhagen?
Fredrik Reinfeldt´s adviser for climate, Lars-Erik Liljelund, rules out a legally binding agreement. `It was somewhat stupid to make Copenhagen a bigger event than it is´, he says to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
How wise is it then to abandon the Kyoto protocol (which does not end in 2013) without securing an alternative?
Briefly on other issues at the European Council:
Fredrik Reinfeldt was more successful on institutional issues. The Lisbon Treaty is almost in place, a significant achievement by the Presidency. Another positive result is the progress on guidelines for the External Action Service.
On migration, the Summit agreed wording supporting tough border controls, but did not specifically mention the Geneva convention in a significant step away from earlier EU commitments.
The Baltic Sea Strategy was endorsed, a vague, non-committal document.
If the final hurdles for the Lisbon Treaty are cleared, there will soon be a decision on the new posts. However, dark clouds still loom over the climate negotiations in Copenhagen.