RELATIONS BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE UNITED NATIONS
01 September 2011
The United Nations i and the EU share the same fundamental values, including international peace and security, the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international cooperation in solving economic, social, and humanitarian problems.
The EU and its member states play an important role within the UN. The 27 EU countries command more than one eighth of the votes of the UN General Assembly i, in which each of the 193 UN members has an equal vote. The EU members vote unanimously on nearly all (97%) resolutions put to the UN General Assembly.
Among the 15 members of the UN Security Council i, there are currently four EU states: permanent and veto-wielding members France and United Kingdom as well as Germany and Portugal, whose membership runs until 31 December 2012.
At the same time, the EU is the single largest financial contributor to the UN system. The 27 EU member states fund 38% of the UN's regular budget, more than two-fifths of UN peacekeeping operations, and about half of all UN members' contributions to UN funds and programmes.
EU status in the bodies of the United Nations
Since 1974, the EU has been a permanent observer at the UN, like many other regional organisations such as the ACP group of states or the Council of Europe i. The Union also has observer status in most of the UN specialised agencies. However, it is a full voting member of two UN bodies: the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation i, since 1991, and the World i Trade Organisation, since 1995. The EU is the only non-state party to more than 50 UN conventions, for instance the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
EU obtains right to speak at the UN General Assembly
On 3 May 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 65/275 on the participation of the European Union in the work of the UN by a majority of 180 out of 192 votes in favour.
The resolution sets out working modalities that allow the EU external representatives - the President of the European Council i, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy i, the European Commission i and the EU delegation - to present the positions of the EU and its member states at the UN. This does not alter the EUs observer status in the UN General Assembly.
The resolution gives the EU the ability to speak early among other major groups, when speaking on behalf of the 27 EU states, and invites the EU to intervene in the general debate at the opening of the General Assembly. Previously, Palestine and the Holy See were the only observers that could take the floor in that debate.
In addition, the EU has obtained the right to orally present proposals and amendments, a possibility that no other observer has at its disposal, and the right to reply once to a speech regarding EU positions.
The resolution does not give the EU a right to vote or to co-sponsor draft resolutions or decisions in writing. It applies to the participation of the EU in the sessions and work of the UN General Assembly, its committees and working groups, in international meetings and conferences convened under the auspices of the General Assembly, and in UN conferences. Finally, the resolution has no direct implications for the EUs participation in the work of other bodies or multilateral fora.
The resolution was adopted following a collective EU effort to engage all UN members, after a procedural setback in September 2010. It will allow the EU and its member states to act more effectively and coherently at the United Nations.
The Lisbon Treaty brings changes
Since the Treaty of Lisbon's entry into force on 1 December 2009, the European Commission delegation and EU Council liaison office have merged into the EU delegation, under the authority of Catherine Ashton i, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The EU delegation to the UN has started to represent the EU in most areas of UN activity, when consensus has been reached among all EU member states. This task used to be reserved for the rotating Council presidency. Pursuant to article 34 of the Treaty on the European Union, "when the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union's position".
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