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UN General Assembly pushes EU voice 'sound' button

Cathy Ashton speaking at the UN Security Council on February 8, 2011 (credit: European Union)

(BRUSSELS2) The UN General Assembly finally adopted today the resolution allowing the European Union to be more closely associated with the work of the international organization.

The last attempt will therefore have been the right one. A first project was, in fact, presented in September 2010 but was rejected following a request from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries by 76 votes to 71 and 26 abstentions. This time the resolution was approved by a large majority, without possible discussion: 180 votes in favor and 2 abstentions, according to the tweet from Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, who was delighted with the news.

Under this resolution, the European Union will thus have the right to sit as an observer (which it already had) but will see its rights reinforced. She will be able to :

  • to be included in the list of speakers with representatives of major groups, to make interventions;
  • “participate in the general debate of the General Assembly according to the established practice for observers;
  • "to request that their communications concerning the sessions and proceedings of the General Assembly and the sessions and proceedings of all international meetings and conferences organized under its aegis and of the conferences of the United Nations be distributed directly and without intermediary, as documents of the Assembly or meeting or conference documents;
  • “to submit proposals and amendments agreed by the Member States of the European Union;
  • “to raise points of order, but not to question the decisions of the President;
  • "to exercise a right of reply about positions of the European Union »

(Nb: in gray what was added between the March and April projects).

The possibility for other regional organizations to benefit from the same status

It should be noted that representatives of the European Union will, however, have neither the right to vote nor the right to present candidates. The resolution takes great care to specify that the UN remains a “ intergovernmental body whose membership is limited to States which are Members of the United Nations ».

And above all, it affirms the right for other organizations that take similar measures to obtain the same status. AT " At the request of a regional organization with observer status, the Member States of which have made arrangements authorizing its representatives to speak on its behalf and on behalf of the said Member States, it may arrange for the participation of the representatives of this regional organization terms » identical. This is where the compromise was made that changed the outcome of the vote between September 2010 and today.

An evolution not a revolution

This change is not a revolution in itself. It was in 1974 that what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) was granted observer status at the general assembly, under resolution 3208. The EEC was then “ the first organ other than a State to enjoy permanent observer status » explains someone close to the case. The status will evolve over time, moving from the EEC to the EC – the European Community – then to the EU – the European Union. But the weight of the EU which increased did not find its equivalent within the United Nations system. What was, in 1974, an important innovation was in 2011 nothing more than common order. The EU only spoke like this among other groupings. And its position remained expressed by the EU member state which assumed the presidency.

The Treaty of Lisbon changed the situation because, as the resolution notes, "the Member States of the European Union have delegated the functions of external representation of the European Union, which were previously entrusted to the representatives of the Member State exercising the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. This change will allow the EU to gain a few ranks among observers, and to express itself close to the Member States, and directly this time. But the question of the place of the European Union within the Security Council remains unresolved.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).