PM needled on climate, banking

The president of the European Commission engaged in some public arm-twisting of the Harper government Wednesday in advance of this summer’s G8 and G20 summits in Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso leave a joint media availability at the  European Union in Brussels

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso leave a joint media availability at the European Union in Brussels

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The president of the European Commission engaged in some public arm-twisting of the Harper government Wednesday in advance of this summer’s G8 and G20 summits in Canada.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the former Portuguese prime minister who now figures in the European Union’s new political council, says climate-change talks and a global financial-services tax need to be on the table when world leaders meet in central Ontario in June.

In an hour-long meeting with Canadian media before he sat down privately with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Barroso took careful aim at two of the Conservative government’s steadfast foreign-policy positions.

“I think the G8 and G20 can provide important political stimulus to global climate-change negotiations,” said Barroso, highlighting an issue that has barely registered on the radar for the summits.

Last December’s Copenhagen conference on climate change turned out “below our expectations,” said Barroso, but he thinks a basis for progress has been made.

“What we want is everybody to move, so I’m not going to finger-point Canada,” said Barroso, before indirectly critiquing the Harper government’s long-standing position.

“What we don’t like to see, frankly speaking, is that someone does not move because the others, they don’t move. If everybody says it, no one will move at the end: We are only trying to find the lowest common denominator, so we forget about our global responsibilities.”

The Conservatives have been steadfast in saying no global agreement can be achieved without all the major emitters onside, and that Canada can only bring in emissions targets in lock-step with the United States.

At a post-meeting news conference with Barasso and Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, Harper’s list of issues to be discussed at the summits ended with “and climate change.”

Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister, was only slightly more forthcoming.

“We touched base on the climate issue,” Rompuy said of their talks. “Here, the European Union remains very committed and ambitious, but also realistic on what to expect from the international negotiations this year.”