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Key elements of the international system

66 - European policy on UN reform

Grade: C-
Unity 2/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 3/10
Total 7/20
Scorecard 2010/11: C+ (9/20)

UN reform was a low priority in 2012 as diplomats focused on immediate crises, although the EU continued to split over even limited suggestions for Security Council reform.

UN reform was a low priority in 2012. In 2011, Germany and three partners (Brazil, India, and Japan) had made a major push to win permanent seats on the UNSC but this lost momentum. In 2012, the UNGA held desultory discussions of UNSC reform but made no real progress. While India continued to pursue the topic aggressively, German officials adopted a more cautious approach, in part because immediate concerns such as Syria dominated the UN agenda. This was a success for Italy and Spain, which are among the main opponents of Germany’s ambitions for a permanent seat on the UNSC. It is less satisfactory for the UK and France, which are increasingly convinced that UNSC reform is necessary to protect their interests at the UN (the other permanent members of the council, China, Russia, and the US, are less open to change). While the EU remained split, Belgium and the Netherlands have made a series of unsuccessful attempts to find ways to revitalise the debate.

The prospects of serious debates of reform of the UNGA receded in June, when the UN’s members elected Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic to act as the assembly president in 2012–2013. Jeremic, heavily supported by Russia, defeated Dalius Čekuolis of Lithuania by 99 votes to 85. This was widely perceived as a diplomatic defeat for the EU, and Jeremic is unlikely to initiate bold reform ideas.

The EEAS took a useful step towards improving operational cooperation between the EU and the UN in the first half of the year by devising a new agreement on collaboration in peacekeeping. But Scandinavian officials, leading advocates of EU–UN cooperation, were disappointed when Finland failed to win a seat on the UNSC this year (losing to Australia and Luxembourg), and Sweden was unable to secure a place on the UNHRC. This has led to talk of a decline of the “Nordic model” at the UN.