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Where will the EU sceptics take Britain?

Jan 22th 2013 - by Dr. Oliver Schmidtke, director of the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria.

"British Prime Minster David Cameron much anticipated talk on Britain's future role in Europe and in the European Union seems to be ill-faded: Already once postponed before (when British officials realized that the talk was scheduled on the fiftieth anniversary of the Elysee Treaty) it was cancelled again last Friday in light of the unfolding crisis in Algeria and Mali. Yet, already the announcement of this repeatedly postponed 'historic speech' has created a lot of political chatter nationally and internationally: While it is not even clear yet how far Cameron will take his announcement to re-negotiate Britain's relationship with the EU (some even speculate about a referendum on the country's EU membership) some key actors have already positioned themselves in the debate: On the one side of the spectrum are the EU skeptics representing a formidable faction of the British Conservative Party. They have pushed the Prime Minister into demanding a re-nationalization of key policy competencies, - if not re-considering British membership in the EU altogether. On the other side, a considerable part of the country's elite has raised serious issues regarding the effects of the tough position that Cameron is expected to communicate this Friday: Nick Clegg, the deputy ministers from the Liberal Democrats, has warned of a 'chilling effect' on the British economy that the announcement of a referendum and lengthy Treaty negotiations about Britain's role in the EU would produce. From continental Europe and even the United States there are alarmist announcements pointing to the damaging consequences that the United Kingdom would have to face embarking on a course toward self-marginalization in the EU. They paint the ominous picture of Britain as moving towards political and economic isolation in Europe.

Not at least driven by the concern to appease a rampant speculation of what he is about to announce Prime Minister Cameron has just leaked parts of his speech to the press. At the core of his announcement seems to be a profound anxiety about, first, the insufficient response of the EU to the current economic crisis and the inability to promote Europe competitiveness in the global economy. Second, Cameron emphasizes the lack of popular, democratic support of the EU, a "lack of democratic accountability and consent" that, in his view, is gradually undermining the authority of the EU. So far the messages coming out of London are short of specifics with respect to what this means for Britain. One thing is certain: Everybody will listen very carefully when the British Prime Minster - eventually - will outline his master plan for Britain's future in Europe."

Dr. Oliver Schmidtke is director of the Centre for Global Studies. He is leading the research team "Immigration and Social Policy", that is part of the SSHRC Strategic Research Cluster "Canada Europe Transatlantic Dialogue" and is one of our main experts for the "Europe Canada Network" (EUCAnet).

For more information follow us also on Twitter @CdnEurDialogue and like our Facebook page Canada Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.

Can the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) deliver a global emissions trading system (ETS) ?

Jan 11 2013 - by Dr. Armand de Mestral, McGill University

Of all the members of the international community the members of the EU have been the first to take up the challenge of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For some years the EU scheme excluded civil aviation - said to be responsible for 3% of all emissions, but in 2008 the EU acted to extend the scheme to civil aviation; after waited a decade for ICAO to adopt a global ETS scheme, the EU proceeded unilaterally on January 1, 2012 to impose a scheme applicable to all civil aviation in and out of EU territory.

Even before the scheme entered into force, cries of indignation were heard around the world. Opposition reached a crescendo with the adoption of a 27 state declaration in early 2012, strong statements of opposition from India and China in the same year and the adoption of legislation in December by the US Congress prohibiting participation by US airlines. In the face of all this opposition Commissioner Hildegard announced in December 2012 that the EU was "stopping the clock" temporarily in oder to give ICAO a chance to develop an international scheme.

The controversial ball is now in ICAO's court. ICAO has announced the formation of a "high level working group" to review possible approaches to the planning of a global ETS scheme. Several approaches are reported to be under review: 1) a Global Mandatory Offsetting Scheme, 2) a Global Mandatory Offsetting Scheme with a Revenue Generating Mechanism, 3) a Cap-and-Trade System, and 4) Baseline and Credit Systems.

The first practical deadline will be the convening in late September 2013 of the triennial ICAO Assembly of its full membership of 192 states.
Seldom has the EU's position as an international actor been put to a more severe test as the EU purports to be fulfilling its mission to be a good environmental citizen of the world by respecting the Kyoto Protocol. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the EU, as a non-state actor, cannot be a member of ICAO, even though it has become the principal regulator of civil aviation in Europe and, as such, the second most important regulator of civil aviation in the world.

The next months will be a crucial test both for ICAO and for the environmental diplomacy of the EU.

Dr. Armand de Mestral is Emeritus Professor and Jean Monnet Professor of Law at McGill University in Montreal. For his more in-depth analysis please contact him via email.
Dr. de Mestral is part of a cross-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, within the Economic Cooperation and Competition research group of the Canada-EU Transatlantic Dialogue.

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