This page was archived on October 2020.


Key elements of the international system

55 - European policy at the UN (includes UNSC, GA, HRC, and UN reform)

Grade: B-
Unity 3/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 12/20

EU policy at the UN was largely driven by events and there was little progress on longer-term initiatives on UN reform and peacekeeping.

In 2012, EU member states had played a significant role in forging majorities in favour of resolutions putting pressure on Syria in the UNGA and the UNHRC. Similar diplomatic efforts continued in 2013, but with reduced momentum and expectations. In the UNSC, France and the UK remained active on Syria but were sidelined by Russia and the US during the chemical weapons crisis in September. Luxembourg, a temporary member of the UNSC, worked with Australia to raise the issue of the humanitarian fallout from the Syria crisis, despite Russia opposition. Moscow relented and backed a statement calling for humanitarian access to besieged communities in September, although this had little real effect.

Against this background, there was little serious discussion of UN reform in 2013. The main exception was an improvised proposal by France to place limits on UNSC vetoes during mass atrocities, which President François Hollande presented to the UNGA in September, but it is unlikely to make rapid progress. The president of the UNGA invited Belgium to sit on a special advisory group on UNSC reform in October, but the EU is split on this issue. Again, few major changes are likely soon.

Ireland tried to stir up debate about increasing European contributions to UN peacekeeping during its presidency. This had only limited impact, but the Irish offered troops to the UN at short notice when Austria pulled a contingent from the Golan Heights in June due to threats from Syrian rebels. The Netherlands and Nordic countries also offered troops to the UN peacekeeping force in Mali, and UN officials hope more EU members will follow suit after ISAF closes. Meanwhile, Britain continued to limit the ability of the EEAS to represent the EU at the UN, for example by arguing that the EEAS could not chair a sub-committee of the UN Peacebuilding Commission dealing with CAR. Overall, the EU is still not the sum of its parts across the UN.