Good Morning, Mr. President: What Europe Wants from Obama
Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
Stavros Dimas, a native of Greece, is the European Commissioner for the Environment.
The European Union has been waiting for a long time for America to join us in taking serious action to address the world's environmental challenges.
The need has never been greater. The world is facing a double environmental crisis involving accelerating climate change and unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Yet the US has ratified neither the Kyoto Protocol nor the international Convention on Biodiversity.
The US elections come at a crucial time. For climate change, 2009 is the final year of negotiations that should culminate in agreement on a strengthened multilateral climate change regime for the period after 2012. We need the new US administration to seize the opportunity and position itself on the side of the global environment.
Certainly there has been some cause for optimism. Both presidential candidates have been on record as saying they support mandatory reductions that would cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This is a start, though it falls far short of what is needed to tackle climate change seriously. Both have also come out in favour of "cap and trade" systems like Europe's emissions trading system as an important part of the solution. This is a significant and positive change.
Above all we need to break the vicious circle whereby the US on the one hand and the major emerging economies on the other refuse to take action unless the other moves first. It is time for the US to show leadership on this.
The developed world not only bears the greatest historic responsibility for climate change but also possesses the financial and technological means to tackle it. We in the EU have shown our determination by committing to cut our emissions by at least 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. We will increase this cut to 30 percent if our partners in the developed world commit to making comparable reductions.
To prevent the worst consequences of climate change the world will need to lower total emissions by at least half of their 1990 levels by 2050. To achieve that we have to move fast: Global emissions need to peak within the next 10 to 15 years. This can only be achieved if the US and the major emerging economies join the EU in taking bold action.
Eckart von Klaeden is the foreign policy spokesman in the parliamentary group of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parties.
No matter whom the American voters elect on Tuesday, a radical change in Washington's foreign policy towards its European allies is unlikely. Both John McCain and Barack Obama would generally continue to follow the multilateral course pursued by President Bush in his second term and President Clinton before him. Both will, if elected, seek to further intensify trans-Atlantic relations. The new president will give Europe greater opportunities to participate, without, however, abandoning America's claim to leadership. But this also means that the European side will be expected to contribute more than in the past. There is a real need for this, whether in policy towards Russia or Iran, regarding climate protection and energy security, in the Middle East or Afghanistan. If, in the words of the German government's coalition agreement, we are committed to "effective multilateralism," then the United States must be willing to take a multilateral approach, but we must also be willing to take effective action. Fears, however, that one of the first decisions taken by the new president will be to call for more German troops in Afghanistan are exaggerated and indicate a lack of self-confidence. We should seize this opportunity for closer cooperation, because we need the United States to be a strong partner -- but the US also needs us Europeans as a strong partner.
Although US power is likely to decline in relative terms in view of the rise of emerging countries, primarily in Asia, the United States will remain the leading Western power and force for international stability for a long time to come. Its military dominance will continue in the coming decades. Despite the current financial crisis, the US economy will continue to lead the world for many years to come due to its great potential for innovation. Despite the structural changes in the international system following the end of the Cold War, there are no two regions in the world which have so much in common as Europe and the US and which enjoy such close political, economic, cultural, strategic and historical links. The trans-Atlantic partnership is also important for purely pragmatic reasons, since the strengths of both partners complement each other well.
Although the EU is prosperous and holds a powerful attraction for its neighbors, it is not yet a genuine strategic actor on the world stage. Strategic operations such as the current operation in Afghanistan can only be carried out under US leadership or within the framework of NATO. However, since the fiasco experienced by the US in the first few years following the Iraq war, it has become increasingly clear that the US cannot forgo the legitimacy and support provided by the major European nations. This is all the more true given that Europe enjoys a higher standing than the US in certain regions of the world, and involving Europe significantly increases the chances of joint success -- in the Middle East, for example. The EU possesses significant resources and expertise in the field of civilian crisis management and reconstruction. The current situation in Afghanistan and the Balkans, in particular, makes clear the importance of linking military and civilian measures. Trans-Atlantic cooperation should not, however, be limited to Europe and the United States; other democratic and like-minded countries should also be involved, such as Japan and India, Australia and New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico.
Robert Badinter, 80, is a French senator and member of the foreign affairs and defense committees who, as justice minister under President Mitterrand, achieved the abolition of the death penalty.
My expectation of the new president is that he:
1. Withdraw US forces from Iraq;
2. Close the prison at Guantanamo and give all inmates the rights to which they are entitled under US law;
3. Through his emphatic support he must achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians;
4. Take an energetic approach to the fight against climate change and ratify the Kyoto Protocol;
5. Support the International Criminal Court;
6. Appoint independent and progressive judges to the US Supreme Court.
- Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama
- Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
- Part 3: 'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'
- Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'
- Part 5: 'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'
- Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
- Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
- Part 8: 'Please Don't Bomb Iran'
- Part 9: 'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC'
- Part 10: 'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'
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