This page was archived on October 2020.


Key elements of the international system

9 - European policy at the UN

Grade: C+
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 2/5
Total 9/20
Scorecard 2015: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2012: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C+ (9/20)

Facing Russian obstructionism at the UN, Europeans are plugging away at institutional reforms

European member states struggled to shape key political debates at the UN in 2015. They faced growing Russian obstructionism in the Security Council on issues extending beyond Syria and Ukraine. Moscow used its veto twice in August, blocking a British resolution commemorating the Srebrenica massacre, which took place during the Bosnian War, and blocking a proposal backed by the Netherlands for an international investigation of the destruction of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. China abstained on both issues, suggesting growing displeasure with Russia’s belligerence. However, Beijing and Moscow largely cooperated over the Syrian conflict and the crisis in Burundi (see Central Africa).

Germany made another push for a permanent seat on the Security Council in 2015 in cooperation with Brazil, India, and Japan. It made minor progress in General Assembly discussions, but China quashed the initiative to spite Japan. Italy, a longstanding opponent of Germany’s claim, again played a prominent role in blocking it. France enjoyed greater success in gathering international support for a moratorium on the use of the veto in mass atrocity situations, but the US, China, and Russia remain sceptical (the UK also has doubts, but edged towards the French position).

European diplomats continued to use the UN’s human rights mechanisms to highlight atrocities in Syria and abuses in Ukraine. Lithuania took advantage of its temporary seat on the Security Council to press Russia on Ukraine, while Spain advocated for a Security Council resolution condemning the use of barrel bombs in Syria, although Russia ultimately prevented this from going to a vote. Outside the Council, Germany became increasingly vocal about the need for the UN to resolve its divisions on Syria, reflecting its rising engagement with global security issues.

Eastern European nations made progress in convincing others that the next UN secretary-general should come from the region (Latin America has also been pushing hard) and a growing number of candidates have emerged. However, it is not clear if any of them will be acceptable to both Moscow and the West.