ISSN 2330-717X

Imminent UN Reform To Force European Re-Think

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(EurActiv) — Reform of the United Nations is “around the corner” and will force Europe to accept less influence on the Security Council there – senior diplomats within the institution have told EurActiv.

The development comes as the EU’s External Action Service (EEAS) responded to criticism that its observer status within the institution has downgraded its voice there.

“The Security Council as it is constituted today (see background) does not reflect contemporary reality, and therefore it lacks full credibility,” the Indian ambassador to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, told EurActiv.

“I have personally no doubt that reform is around the corner,” he added.

Europe can bag 30% of the Security Council

Although many diplomats at the UN are unconvinced that reform is possible soon, another senior UN diplomat said that the present system of European representation there “is not tenable” and any reform will compel the continent to re-think its approach radically.

“There are too many European seats – with Britain and France being permanent members of the Security Council and Europe having the possibility of taking 30% of the total seats,” the diplomat said.

The comments come as EurActiv was told by an EU diplomat, that EEAS’s new status as observer relegated it to speaking after the other nations and thus decreased its ability to be heard.

The diplomat claimed that although EU leaders are now permitted to address the UN’s General Assembly, the EU’s new ‘observer status’ had diminished Europe’s voice. Individual member states representing the EU as presidency nations previously spoke higher in the pecking order and carried more clout, the source said.

The diplomat also said that the UK was also adopting a difficult stance in the UN since it refuses to allow the EU to speak on its behalf on issues where it deems itself to have a national interest.

In relation to the EU’s new status at the UN, EU Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting insisted that it represented an important step forward.

He said that it had certainly not diminished Europe’s voice at the UN, but rather provided for greater continuity, through the EU’s institutional representatives.

“It also offers greater opportunities for synergies between the various fields in which the EU and its members are active at the UN. The EU as one of the major political groups at the UN is getting its voice heard across a very broad spectrum of issues, from the political challenges in the Middle East and Africa to humanitarian aid and development,” said Mayr-Harting.

On the UK position, Mayr-Harting said: “They have no problem with me or any other representative of the EU speaking; they want clarity whether in certain situations we speak on behalf of the EU or on behalf of the EU and its member states.”

Reform agenda not limited to questions about Security Council

The EU ambassador said that questions on reform covered a wide variety of areas. These range from the Security Council – where there is no agreed EU position – to issues surrounding administration and the budget, where there is more common cause among the member states.

Budget issues are “a special case”, Mayr-Harting said, since EU member states individually contribute almost 40% of the total regular and peacekeeping budgets of the UN.

“I think that, the UK included, everyone agrees that sometimes even where there is an exclusive competence of member states, such as on the budget, it may make sense that we co-ordinate and speak with one voice because it is in the interests of taxpayers in every single member state of the European Union,” he added.

EurActiv

EurActiv publishes free, independent policy news and facilitates open policy debates in 12 languages.

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