Rigid mandate for the European Commission was a mistake

Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Krisztina Vida
Weak outcome after ambitious preparations
Hungary shares the EU wide general perception that the outcome of the Copenhagen conference was a disappointment for the Union, which wanted to reach a target-specific and legally binding agreement there. Having said that, Hungary of course supported the conclusions of the March 2010 European Council, in which the member states subscribed to a swift implementation of the Copenhagen Accord and also to the gradual formation of the EU’s negotiating position during the next conference to be held in November 2010 in Cancun (COP16). In a stance similar to that of all member states, Hungary also agrees that the Cancun conference “should at least provide concrete decisions anchoring the Copenhagen Accord to the UN negotiating process and addressing remaining gaps, including as regards adaptation, forestry, technology and monitoring, reporting and verification.”[1]
While the official Hungarian position is not revealed at this point, Csaba Tabajdi, leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) within the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, emphasised in his speech[2] at the end of January 2010 that even though the Union’s ambitious goals were good, they were not convincing enough, due to the EU’s poor negotiating strategy. He pointed out that the EU “misunderstood” the commitment of China and other emerging countries, as well as the room for manoeuvre of the President of the USA. The EU was also unable to build a coalition with developing countries. In his view, giving a rigid mandate to the European Commission was a major mistake. A better result could probably have been achieved if the Commission would have obtained a more flexible mandate, namely, “elasticity” downwards from 20 percent emission cuts and not only upwards. According to Tabajdi, the EU’s negotiation strategy needs to be revised while preparing for Cancun. János Áder, another Hungarian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the European People’s Party (EPP), was even more critical, stating that the failure of Copenhagen was due to the lack of a single EU position.[3]
No change in basic policy targets but a more assertive attitude is needed
According to a high official at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[4] the European Union does not have to change its own energy and climate policy. The EU has actually been taking the lead in the fight against global warming and has done unilaterally the most since 2008 for global climate protection. The ambitious goals of the EU should be maintained and they should become acceptable for other countries, too, as there is no alternative to them. Furthermore, the EU must keep on striving for a legally binding outcome of the COP16 and following conferences. The EU should be open to various alternative solutions as well, such as technological development or a ban on deforestation.[5]
A global binding agreement within the UNFCCC should remain a priority
Hungary (together with all other EU member states, except for Malta and Cyprus) belongs to the so-called Annex I countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This means that Hungary is ready to reduce its green house gas emissions below 1990 levels. In full harmony with the EU position, Hungary is in favour of imposing binding agreements on all parties to the UNFCCC in the next conferences. According to a high official at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[6] in general, the UNFCCC framework is a good one, embracing in one way or another nearly all countries of the world. But this framework should be further tightened and in this respect the EU should assert its ambitious position more strongly, better reflecting its economic weight.
Political support and financial contribution

Despite its limited financial resources Hungary fully agrees with such efforts. Hungary takes part in the Union’s recent initiative to assist developing countries fighting climate change. In this framework, in December 2009, the 27 member governments committed 7.2 billion Euros for this purpose to be spent in the three years between 2010 and 2012. The Hungarian contribution to this envelope amounts to six million Euros in total.[7] During the European Council meeting at the end of March 2010, Hungary also subscribed to the Union’s joint commitment with other developed countries to “mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change.”[8]

[1] European Council: European Council 25/26 March 2010. Conclusions, EUCO 7/10, p. 8, available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/1135... (last access: 17 May 2010).

2] The speech of Csaba Tabajdi was delivered at a conference in Budapest, 26 January 2010.

[3] See the press communication of János Áder, 21 January 2010, available at: http://ader.fidesz-eu.hu/hu/cikk/20/ (last access: 10 June 2010).

[4] Interview done at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 12 May 2010.

[5] See the article on the Hungarian site EnergiaOnline, 21 January 2010, available at: http://www.energiaonline.hu/cikkek/84 (last access: 17 May 2010).

[6] Interview done at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 12 May 2010.

[7] See the report of the Hungarian electronic news magazine “Parameter”, 11 December 2009, available at: http://www.parameter.sk/rovat/kulfold/2009/12/11/eu-csucs-72-milliard-eu... (last access: 17 May 2010).

[8] European Council: European Council 25/26 March 2010. Conclusions, EUCO 7/10, p. 9, available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/1135... (last access: 17 May 2010).

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