Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't be fooled: Bali was no breakthrough

by Simon Tilford

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali produced as much as it was ever likely to do. There was no breakthrough, contrary to the claims of some that attended the conference. Nobody should read too much into reports that the US administration fears its negotiators gave too much away. This is just news management, an attempt to create the impression that the US moved further than it did. The US gave nothing away. The aim of the US negotiating team in Bali was to prevent any international agreement that might demand the US cut its emissions, despite the fact the country could do this at relatively moderate cost according to its own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This opposition stems partly from the personal intransigence of President Bush, but also reflects a deep-seated reluctance to allow the country’s freedom of action to be constrained by international agreements. It is another big blow to US soft power in the world.

Of course, on current trends the proposed target of a 25-40 percent cut in developed country emissions by 2020 is nonsense. There is no chance whatsoever of such targets being met unless EU governments get very serious, very quickly about curbing emissions. The construction of new coal-fired power stations would not be compatible with meeting such a target for example, so governments in Germany and the UK would have to scrap plans for a new generation of such plants. Germany would also have to overcome its squeamishness about nuclear power. Energy efficiency standards, for everything from cars to buildings would have to be ratcheted-up very aggressively. Crucially, the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) would need very tight emissions caps. Only then will businesses be confident that the price of carbon will rise steadily, providing sufficiently strong incentives to invest in low-carbon technologies.

However, notwithstanding question marks over the realism of the 25-40 per cent target, the US position – that targets are meaningless without policies can be put in place at the outset to met those targets – is hugely cynical. It is impossible to agree policies to reduce emissions until governments know which targets their economies have to meet. Similarly, the US knows as well as everyone else that the commitments to curb emissions it wants to see from developing countries will only happen if the developed countries take the lead. It is simply not plausible for the US to turn to China and India and demand they commit to mandatory cuts before it does. Per capita US emissions are at least 4 times Chinese levels and more than 10 times Indian ones. Research from the EPA calculates that the US could cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050 at a cost of just 3.2 per cent of GDP. To put that in perspective, US GDP will rise by nearly 200 per cent over this period (assuming annual real GDP growth of 2.5 per cent.) For the world’s only superpower to rule out such action almost looks like a calculated snub to the rest of the world and will prove a big blow to its moral authority.

However, it is still early days – the timetable for agreeing a replacement for Kyoto stretches into 2009, and hence beyond President Bush’s time in office. Whoever replaces him will have to be more open-minded about international action to challenge climate change, even if only for questions of political expediency. With only 18 months left in office Bush can afford to dismiss the damage being done to the US’s international standing and influence. The next president will not have such a luxury and, regardless of how seriously he/she takes the threat of climate change, will calculate that the costs of refusing to join the EU in its attempt to orchestrate international action to address climate change will outweigh the perceived costs of signing-up.

The EU can do much to ensure that the costs of US inaction are steep. The best way to put pressure on the next administration is for the EU to persevere and impose big unilateral cuts in its own emissions. This will not impair the competitiveness of the EU or cost it export markets. Indeed, the opposite is much more likely. The US is unwilling to take action, but neither does it want to see the EU building on its lead in energy efficient technologies. In an age of mounting energy scarcity, geo-political tension and ever more environmentally conscious consumers and businesses, aggressive emissions targets by the EU will be positive for Europe’s authority in the world and for its long-term economic prospects. The Chinese and Indians might not be ready to sign up to mandatory caps on their emissions, but they are only too aware of the need to make their development more environmentally sustainable. The EU is well placed to supply the technology. The more successful it is at doing this, the quicker the US will come to its senses.

Simon Tilford is chief economist at the Centre for European Reform.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Should Europol and Eurojust merge?

by Hugo Brady

Governments increasingly use Europol, the EU’s police office, and Eurojust - its prosecution unit - to investigate criminals operating across borders and bring them to justice. At Europol, national police and crime analysts gather intelligence on crimes ranging from drug trafficking to counterfeiting and terrorism. Eurojust mostly helps prosecute cases across national borders within the EU. All 27 member-states send police and prosecutors to the offices of Europol and Eurojust, each located separately in The Hague.

In 2008, new EU legislation is planned to give Europol wider investigative powers, cut bureaucracy, and give the body more freedom to gather intelligence and information like DNA data. It will also report yearly to the European Parliament and brief national parliaments, making it somewhat more accountable. But the new-look Europol will not be able to arrest people or start investigations independently of the member-states.

Plans are afoot to make Eurojust work better, too. Governments are pondering how best to guarantee the national prosecutors seconded to it have proper powers from their home authorities to be able to work effectively at international level. All Eurojust prosecutors should be invested with a basic level of powers, including powers to issue formal requests for evidence and authorise surveillance, phone taps and undercover operations. This is not currently the case and hampers Eurojust’s considerable potential: the unit’s caseload inceases by an average of 40 per cent yearly.

Such reforms are useful. But they fail to address a basic problem of cross-border crime fighting. Prosecutors and police across the EU have differing roles and powers and this is often an obstacle to effective co-operation between counterparts. In some countries police investigate but also have quasi-judicial powers; in others, prosecutors do police work as well as bring cases to trial. Take surveillance. Police at Europol can be unable to track a drug delivery properly from the Balkans to the Nordics because in some countries only the prosecutor can organise a cross-border surveillance operation. As a result, police can begin to doubt that cross-border co-operation is worth the hassle and uncertainty.

A radical way to address such problems would be to merge Europol and Eurojust into a single European law enforcement co-ordination body. A single body could ensure more coherent co-operation across the EU, whatever the division of labour between national police and prosecutors. It would also mean simpler procedures for dealing with intelligence, less duplication of efforts against the same criminals and better follow-through from investigation to prosecution in cross-border cases. Most member-states would be dead against such a move, however. Britain and Ireland do not want prosecutors to oversee the work of their police, even if only at European level. Others – like Spain and France – fear a merger that could mean the reverse: police investigating cases without the say-so of prosecutors.

But these difficult political issues could be circumvented and better co-ordination ensured by a more modest move. Europol and Eurojust should be re-located to the same building and some of their resources and facilities amalgamated. Each member-state would have a single national office made up of both police and prosecutors without any change to national hierarchies. Eurojust and Europol could simplfy data protection requirements by drawing up a single data protection regime for sharing information across borders to replace the current separate procedures. And intelligence-sharing could be made more secure and cost-effective with a common IT system.

How well Europol and Eurojust co-operate matters. In November 2007, a joint Europol-Eurojust operation (Operation Koala) destroyed a child pornography network that had disguised itself as a respectable international child modeling agency. Based on high quality information, Europol helped national police to identify customers buying illegal and abusive videos of children filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands. Eurojust helped co-ordinate judges and police from 28 countries that had with some connection with the network. As a result, multiple arrests were made – carried out simultaneously in several countries – and thousands of computers, videos and photographs seized as evidence.

However cases like Koala, where the two bodies achieve a high-level of co-operation, are the exception rather than the rule. According to one prosecutor, police and prosecutors working together on cross-border investigations “is the kind of thing that should be our bread and butter but unfortunately we’re not there yet.” Co-location might seem too basic a solution to boost co-operation. But police attest that Europol’s main value is the simple reality of having colleagues from 27 European countries working together on the same corridor in The Hague, an unparalleled resource in day-to-day police co-operation. The addition of prosecutors to this mix would produce a powerful synergy in law enforcement co-operation.

Hugo Brady is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.