Climate change on back seat at EU-U.S. summit

STRASBOURG, France Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:11am EDT

President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso smiles during his meeting with Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius, March 29, 2007. Climate change will take a back seat to economic issues at next week's U.S.-European Union summit, Barroso said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso smiles during his meeting with Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius, March 29, 2007. Climate change will take a back seat to economic issues at next week's U.S.-European Union summit, Barroso said on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Ints Kalnins

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STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Climate change will take a back seat to economic issues at next week's U.S.-European Union summit, the head of the EU executive said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the 27-nation bloc would press Washington to curb greenhouse gas emissions but "deliverable" results at the meeting would be more likely in areas such as aviation and economic integration.

"To be honest, now we are concentrating more on the global agenda for the transatlantic marketplace because we saw that there was more, let's say, potential to achieve results in this summit there than in the other issue," he told Reuters.

"But this also helps the other part of the agenda, and we certainly will keep the debate on climate change as one of our main topics with our American partners," he said late on Tuesday during a visit to the European Parliament.

Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, had hoped the meeting could help formulate a global pact on climate change to be agreed at a summit of Group of Eight nations in June.

But the two sides have yet to agree on a statement on climate and energy issues just days before the April 30 meeting in Washington. Barroso said talks were ongoing.

Barroso acknowledged the United States was investing in climate change technology and said the EU agreed with Washington that big developing nations such as China and India should be involved in a pact to extend the Kyoto Protocol past 2012.

BIOFUELS, AVIATION

President George W. Bush pulled his country out of Kyoto in 2001, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy and unfairly excluded developing nations. He has called on Americans to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next decade.

Barroso said economic issues on the EU-U.S. summit agenda would help the climate change cause by touching on common standards for biofuels and renewable energy sources in addition to reducing regulation in a host of other sectors.

The two sides will also sign an "open skies" aviation agreement, which will allow EU carriers to fly to any U.S. city and vice versa.

Barroso said he was pleased with the pact but repeated the EU position that a second-phase agreement must allow EU investors to exert more control over U.S. carriers.

Current U.S. law limits foreign control over U.S. airlines to 25 percent voting rights.

"I think as a first step I'm very happy with it, but I think we should push for more, let's say, integration," he said.

"There are still some obstacles to European capital coming to the American companies and, while understanding fully some concerns of security of the United States, I believe that ...the integration of our economies should be pushed on both sides."

Bush, Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will take part in Monday's summit.

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