For the last several years, the European Union's plan to tax the emissions of foreign airlines flying into or departing from EU airspace has been a sore spot with the United States, China, India, and other major powers. At certain points, it appeared that the dispute might end up in litigation at the World Trade Organization. In the U.S., both the Senate and House approved measures encouraging U.S. airlines not to comply with the EU scheme.
Under intense pressure, Brussels agreed to delay implementation of the proposed tax. The EU's executive arm, the Commission, has already endorsed what is referred to as a "stop the clock" approach. Now, the European Parliament is getting its say. Earlier this week, a key parliamentary committee approved the delay, and the full parliament appears likely to concur in April.
Europe did extract from key players a committment to engage in negotiations on an international aviation emissions regime. These talks will occur under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). An important negotiating session is scheduled for mid-March, and Reuters already has its hands on the initial U.S. negotiating position. It doesn't look likely to please Brussels:
A U.S. proposal for curbing aircraft emissions would exclude time spent flying over international waters, an approach that some environmental groups say is too timid in addressing the rise in greenhouse gasses from the aviation sector.
The proposal, seen by Reuters, would cover just a quarter of aviation emissions, according to some estimates, and is in sharp contrast to a European Union law that would require all airlines to pay a carbon fee for the entire flight if departing or arriving at EU airports.
In theory, the lingering threat that the EU will reactivate its emissions plan should spur negotiations; the parliamentary committee that approved the delay promised to reinstate the tax if the ICAO negotiations don't make "clear and sufficient" progress. But once talks are underway, it will be awfully tough for the EU to pull the plug. Washington, Beijing, Moscow, and Delhi may have succeeded in blunting Europe's emissions threat with a very European tactic: burying a contentious issue in endless multilateral negotiations.
Herman Van Rompuy, the head of the European Council, is headed to eastern and central Europe in an effort to counter the impression that Paris and Berlin have already sewed up a Eurozone reform package--the so-called "Competitiveness Pact"--with very little input from smaller members. As EUObserver reports:
Mr Van Rompuy hopes to undo the political damage done by Berlin and Paris' presentation of their pact as a fait accompli and to shepherd through a comprehensive solution for all EU countries.
In what he described as a "rethink" that restarts the discussion "from zero", the consultations will also be done in "association" with the commission. "I want to have an open and inclusive discussion with member states on how to achieve a higher degree of economic policy co-ordination," he said in a statement. "I will listen to all and I will also test my own ideas."
The success of the mission will likely hinge on Van Rompuy's credentials as an honest-broker. And judging by the anger he faced recently in the European Parliament--where one member compared the European Council to the Politburu--those credentials may not be all that strong.
U.N. defends Ban Ki-moon against charges of weakness on human rights.
Palestinian negotiator warns that U.S. will lose all credibility if it vetoes Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements.
The International Monetary Fund wants Europe to beef up its rescue fund.
The International Criminal Court has a new suspect in custody.
With UNICEF's help, it's back to school in the Swat Valley. But for how long?
Out from under sanctions, Uzbekistan's president meets EU leaders.
Germany's deputy foreign minister will chair G-20 working group on reforming international foreign exchange.
United Arab Emirates nuclear program gets a clean bill of health from the IAEA.
Euro drops after an International Monetary Fund official worries about continued investor skepticism.
G-20 finance officials struggle to come up with "indicative guidelines" for managing global imbalances.
Don't treat Greece and Portugal like Ukraine or Argentina, says EU president.
Haiti's president casts doubt on Organization of American States report on last year's elections.
World Bank finalizes $1.7 billion loan package to build roads and battle cyclones in India.
Another abduction of U.N. personnel in Darfur.
The battle for Cote d'Ivoire, seen through a financial lens.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is worried about Kazakhstan.
Hot potato: Senegal wants the African Union to handle the case of exiled Chadian dictator.
French Prime Minister François Fillon was in London today urging Britain not to stand in the way of efforts to forge greater eurozone cooperation. David Cameron's response, via the Guardian:
A strong and successful eurozone is in Britain's interests. We want the countries of the eurozone to sort out the difficulties they have and we won't stand in the way as we do that.
Indeed, we will be a helpful partner in making sure that happens.
But let me again be clear – that does not mean that Britain should be drawn into new mechanisms or new procedures or have to give up new powers.
That is absolutely not what we see as necessary as happening and throughout the European councils last year we made that point and secured that point on many, many occasions.
International Monetary Fund board approves funds for Georgia, warns about need for foreign investment.
U.N. peacekeepers ambushed in Cote d'Ivoire.
Russia says Iran's nuclear facilities invite is interesting -- but can't replace IAEA inspections.
China would like to "participate actively" in any new euro stabilization activity, signals willingness to buy Spanish bonds.
Will the United States veto Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements?
Hillary Clinton warns that attempts to derail U.N.-backed Lebanon tribunal will fail.
World Bank expects global GDP growth to slow slightly in 2011.
Jimmy Carter says Southern Sudan might not sign on to the International Criminal Court, so as to keep dialogue open with Bashir.
International Monetary Fund and United States criticize Pakistani climbdown on fuel prices.
Pakistan must be thrilled: India to chair Security Council committee on counter-terrorism.
Indonesia wants ASEAN to spotlight human rights.
Report: The next Arab League summit will be in Baghdad.
Serbia's arms industry has recovered nicely from NATO's 1999 bombing.
Do Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund have an unhealthy relationship?
U.N. peacekeeping chief wants more troops for Cote d'Ivoire; Security Council sounds positive.
Bad Euro news: Euro-zone retail sales drop unexpectedly.
A full plate: World Bank president wants the G-20 to help stabilize food prices.
Kidnapped U.N. employee in Darfur is released.
Indonesia is hosting an ASEAN ministerial retreat next week.
A report on the jostling and secret negotiations over the international tribunal for Lebanon.
Organization of American States report on Haiti elections expected soon.
The International Criminal Court calls to account six Kenyans, including senior ministers, for 2007-2008 election violence.
The U.N. Security Council tied up some loose ends on Iraq yesterday.
The World Bank announces new funding pledges for the International Development Association.
After long battles, the European Parliament agrees to an EU budget.
Venezuela's opposition appeals to the Organization of American States.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has an important opening.
Hope: Oxfam calls Cancún "an important chapter in the epic story to tackle global climate change."
Funny money: Sarkozy wants IMF "special drawing rights" to play a greater role in the international monetary system.
African Union drafts model law criminalizing terrorism and banning ransom payments.
Opium on the rise in Southeast Asia, says new U.N. drugs report.
A look at Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff's new brand of multilateralism.
What is NATO's real aim? asks (wacky) op-ed in Pravda.
Reading diplomatic body language in Cancun.
After prolonged negotiations, U.N. Security Council issues statement on Ivory Coast elections.
EU criticizes (bizarre) Czech Republic refugee screening procedures.
A Russian foreign ministry official explains why his country could join NATO.
ICC prosecutors move against Sudan rebels.
Sarkozy charms India, not least by offering more backing for its Security Council bid.
IMF chief Strauss-Kahn criticizes the EU's "case-by-case" response to the financial crisis.
On Sudan, Human Rights Watch pleads with the Security Council not to forget the ICC.
In the 1950s and 1960s, China talked about an alternative to the U.N.; now, it's promoting an alternative Nobel Peace Prize.
El Tigre: Meet the African Union's new peacekeeping chief.
"Issues are resolved": EU backs Russia's WTO entry.
German finance minister argues that "limited sovereignty" is the wave of the future.
The P5 +1 are talking with Iran today.
The African Union's Mbeki struggles to mediate election dispute in Ivory Coast.
U.N. peacekeepers won't be safe if there is strife in Lebanon, warns prominent politician.
With cash from Warren Buffett, International Atomic Energy Agency approves plans for nuclear fuel bank.
IMF's Lipsky insists that fears of a Euro collapse are "wildly exaggerated."
P5+1 set to meet Iranian representatives in Geneva next week.
Who should control an international climate fund? Not the World Bank or IMF, say many developing countries.
Interpol issues 'red notice' for Julian Assange.
Security Council willing to increase African Union troop level in Somalia; plus, United States takes over presidency of the U.N. Security Council today.
Will the Shanghai Cooperation Organization launch its own development bank?
Uruguay's Senate ratifies UNASUR treaty.
East Timor wants to join ASEAN next year, while Indonesia is chairing the group.
U.N. cites "numerous incidents" during Haiti elections; no public report yet from OAS and EU election monitors.
Top U.N. envoy reports on his talks with Myanmar's military government.
U.N. marks International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Sudan announces boycott of European Union-African Union summit, citing Europe's "colonial mentality."
Will the next head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe be Turkish?
World Bank official wants to boost African power.
U.N. warns that cholera in Haiti is spreading faster than expected.
At a crossroads: the IMF explains what Greece still needs to do.
"We are prepared to go as far as NATO is prepared to go," Medvedev reportedly said to NATO leaders in Lisbon.
On eve of climate talks, China boasts about emissions reductions.
ASEAN and China schedule another meeting to talk about proper manners in the South China Sea.
The Washington Consensus is alive and well, says leading IMF critic.
As Charles Taylor trial continues, Washington funnels needed cash to the Sierra Leone tribunal.
African Union apologizes for civilian casualties in Mogadishu.
Warming? Argentina asks the usually despised IMF for technical advice on inflation.
With EU's Ashton in the lead, P5+1 may have agreed on a date for talks with Iran.
Full speed ahead on WTO, says Medvedev.
Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti blamed for spreading cholera, attacked by crowd.
Argentina will negotiate oustanding debt with the Paris Club -- and without the despised International Monetary Fund at the table.
Barbara Crossette worries that the hybrid U.N.-Cambodia tribunal is faltering.
The World Bank struggles to save Asian tigers (real ones).
Bomb in the basement: WWII-era explosive found at construction site for new NATO HQ.
After G-20 extravaganza in Seoul, Japan offers low-key APEC summit.
NATO parliamentarians convene in Warsaw, strive to appear non-threatening to Moscow.
Turkey's still wrestling with NATO missile shield decision.
At United Nations, U.S. opposes resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Obama's new envoy to ASEAN is very experienced -- in raising money and securities litigation.
African Union and United Nations team up on Sudan negotiations.
EU investigators bust organ-trafficking ring in Kosovo.
An argument that the G-20 has already failed on bank reform.
German foreign minister still wants NATO nukes out of Germany.
Does the U.N.'s nuclear agency need more cash?
APEC ministers vow to complete Doha by the end of next year.
The case that won't die: WTO hears appeal on Airbus-Boeing subsidies dispute.
The European Union is getting the cold shoulder from Asia.
World Bank president expands on the role for gold.
Don't forget Bosnia: A warning that the Balkans could disrupt EU and NATO festivities this month.
Forward or backward? ASEAN welcomes Myanmar's elections as a "significant step."
Gutsy: Spanish warship on EU mission attacked by Somali pirates.
European auto industry emitting less CO2, says the EU.
Portugal struggles to keep the "IMF scenario" at bay.
Russia ready to open transit routes for Afghanistan-bound NATO vehicles.
With NATO summit around the corner, a pessimistic look at European military spending.
Are Germany and the United States drifting apart as the G-20 approaches?
Charlemagne worries about the power of European constitutional court judges.
EU border guards arrive to stem flow of immigrants into Greece.
Mutual, I'm sure: Belarus's Lukashenko can't imagine his country in the EU.
Irony watch: China accuses the United States of reverting to age of "planned economies." Brazil is also peeved at U.S. monetary policy and will have words with Washington at the G-20; meanwhile, big business wants the G-20 to pressure China on rare earth exports.
Conference call: the P5 + 1 talk about next steps on Iran.
International contact group on Somalia piracy meets -- in Copenhagen.
OECD reveals that its information system was hacked.
Organization of American States tries to mediate Nicaragua-Costa Rica dispute.
Preparing to take over leadership of the G-20, Sarkozy rolls out the red carpet for China's Hu.
All together now: The U.N., WTO, and OECD plan joint warning to G-20 on growing protectionist pressure.
IMF officials talk taxes with Pakistan, which badly needs the next tranche of a loan.
NATO says that Russian agents can continue drug raids in Afghanistan.
Singapore again tops World Bank report on ease of doing business; Kazakhstan is most improved.
Israel suspends ties with UNESCO after decision on holy site designation.
U.N. refugee agency slams Kenya for forcing back Somali refugees.
The Telegraph is dissecting the budget of the EU External Action Service -- and doesn't like what it sees.
Hu greets Ban Ki-moon in Beijing: "China has always advocated, supported and practiced multilateralism."
Futility alert: African Union will train 800 new Somali cops to secure Mogadishu.
"I cried tears and Korea's national anthem echoed in my heart when South Korea was selected to host the G-20 summit," writes Korean fourth-grader.
Experts group tasked with reenergizing Doha round of WTO negotiations.
Report: Strauss-Kahn friends expect IMF head to run for French presidency, noting that he's on a diet.
I've argued previously that Steve Walt is too eager to sound the NATO death knell (in part, I think, because NATO's continued existence is nettlesome for realists). Apparently, his students are of the same mind. But Walt himself remains skeptical that the alliance has a future, in large part because there isn't an obvious next mission:
If the Afghan war ends in a defeat or even some sort of messy compromise, then more people will ask if the Alliance ought to be in the nation-building business at all. And if it's not performing some sort of global policing duties, then what is it for? Finally, as the Asian balance of power starts to loom larger in everyone's consciousness, NATO's relevance will almost certainly decline even further. NATO may be willing to give the United States some modest assistance in the Gulf or in Central Asia, but it is hard to imagine Europe doing much of anything in some future conflict over Taiwan or the South China Sea. Indeed, they'd be more likely to stand aloof and trade with both sides.
There's an important point here. Since the Cold War ended and NATO's principal strategic purpose ended with it, the alliance has always seemed to have some project or another to bind it together and hold the attention of policymakers and the public: stabilization in the Balkans and the expansion push dominated the alliance agenda for much of the 1990s. Walt is right that post-Afghanistan, there's no obvious new focus, and I've wondered myself whether NATO needs some kind of new crisis. But I also think Walt here is implicitly assuming the inevitability of the past. Alliance expansion, Balkan peacekeeping, and the Afghanistan mission were choices, not inevitabilities. At discrete moments, the key players in the alliance decided to direct the alliance toward these not obviously appropriate challenges and missions, sometimes in the face of determined opposition. I see no reason why they could not make the same choice about a whole host of future challenges.
After "profound and difficult" conversation, EU leaders agree to treaty tweaks.
IMF urges exchange rate changes "in earnest."
At the U.N., Susan Rice blasts Syria and Hezbollah.
Our work here is (almost) done: NATO is cutting its force in Kosovo down to size.
Shashi Tharoor previews India's coming turn on the Security Council.
Romanian government survives no-confidence vote -- and improves odds of keeping IMF loans.
Fireworks: NATO responds to Gorbachev's gloom and doom on Afghanistan.
East African summit moved to help Kenya avoid awkward ICC questions.
Baroness Ashton lays out her vision of the EU External Action Service.
U.N. General Assembly again condemns U.S. embargo on Cuba.
Georgia keeps up tough talk on Russian WTO accession.
Japan prepares a Plan B in case the G-20 fails.
Interpol opens a regional bureau in Buenos Aires.
The price of international carbon reduction credits is in flux.
Can't live with them, can't live without them: Concern as U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic pack up.
Mikhail Gorbachev warns: NATO victory in Afghanistan is impossible.
Does the public care about climate change negotiations anymore?
International Criminal Court rebukes Commonwealth head for going soft on duty to arrest indictees.
The EU reaches agreement on hedge fund regulations.
India ready to sign international convention on nuclear damage.
One of the more concrete outcomes of last week's G-20 ministerial meeting in Korea was an agreement on changes in IMF governance, which managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn called "the biggest reform ever in the governance of the institution." The months-long U.S.-led effort to shift power from what it considers overrepresented European states to emerging economies resulted in agreement to transfer two of the 24 board seats from Europe to emerging economies and to increase emerging economy voting share by at least six percent (although this may not be completed until 2012).
It's still not clear which European countries will lose their executive directors, though speculation is focused on Belgium and the Netherlands. (There are reports that the two might consider joining forces to retain a place at the table.) Nor is it clear who will fill the two soon-to-be-vacant board seats, although Strauss-Kahn suggested recently that Turkey would be a "good candidate."
Given that formal votes at the Fund are conducted on the basis of voting share, rather than board seats, it's easy to see all the jockeying over seats as a bit silly. But an IMF official recently reminded me that formal votes are rare and that, for the most part, the organization runs by consensus. The give-and-take in board meetings can be significant and executive directors with little voting power can, by dint of experience and expertise, "punch above their weight." Having a voice in the board room matters, and the jostling for seats will continue.
Celebrating U.N. Day in Sudan.
Feeling jilted by Obama, is Europe flirting with Moscow?
Survey says: The Czechs still believe in NATO.
He knows of what he speaks: Sarkozy calls a Security Council without a permanent African seat a "scandal."
A good analysis of the IMF's new centrality -- and new dangers.
ASEAN gets a talking to on Myanmar's elections, and its own policy of non-interference.
U.N. negotiations on combating animal and plant extinction struggle.
As G-20 summit begins, China seeks to avoid Japan's mistakes on revaluation.
The Euro is close to being overvalued, says the IMF.
Basel banking committee insists that its banking standards are 'minimums.'
China rejects "groundless" accusations on weapons in Darfur.
Germany wants EU treaty changes to deal with spendthrifts.
Washington supports more African Union troops for Somalia.
Security Council reform: Old U.N. hand Shashi Tharoor reminds optimists of past failures.
The World Bank apologizes for photos depicting Ghana as "full of hungry and miserable people."
The way is clear for another trial at the International Criminal Court.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.