Imagine you are part of the Japanese Delegation to the United Nations (UN), which essential information could you expect to receive from the European Commission? As we found out during the briefing with Mr. Emanuele Giaufret, who is responsible for cultural and social affairs at the European Commission’s Delegation to the UN, it is vital to know about the relationship between the European Union’s and the Japanese foreign policy. Since the NMUN Conference was to begin on the same day, we were very appreciative to learn about possible strategies of our fellow delegates from Europe.
The European Union is represented at the UN in many different ways. First of all, the state holding the presidency of the EU Council, which is shared by Slovenia and France in 2008, represents the EU in all Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) matters at the United Nations. At the Security Council (SC), elected or permanent members can put forward relevant issues for the EU. The European Commission, our presenter’s main focus, represents the European Community (EC) at the UN. The EC is, together with the CFSP and police and judicial cooperation, one of the three pillars of the EU created under the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The EC was founded in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome which created a common market without internal frontiers and with common policies. Today, it has been integrated into the body of the EU and it is characterized by the transfer of competences from the Member States to the community level. In addition, the EC has a legal personality and can, thus, appear internationally and sign international treaties. It is represented by the European Commission, which is an independent institution of the EC. The European Commissions consist of 27 Commissioners, one from each Member State, and all its policy decisions are taken collectively In the UN context, the European Commission can, obviously, not be a Member State of the UN, but it has been holding an Observer Status since 1974. The only exception is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), where EC is a full member, because of its exclusive competences to manage the Common Agricultural Policy. The European Commission has Delegations that are accredited to all UN bodies
To date, one of the main challenge of the EU is time: in CFSP matters all decisions are taken unanimously, which is problematic with 27 different national interests. It is difficult to find consensus on texts in an appropriate time frame. Much effort is put into these internal negotiations, more time could be spent, e.g., lobbying with other UN Member States in order to attract attention for urgent issues. Most of the time, the EU succeeds at finding a common position. If this is not the case, the EU cannot speak with one voice, as the following example shows: during a recent meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women there was no agreement on a statement on sexual reproductive health and rights because Ireland, Poland, and Malta were concerned that the language could be interpreted as somehow implying support of abortion. Hence, there could be no coordination of the entire EU. When Member States disagree on a topic and are divided, the influence of the EU on other UN Members might diminish.
Our French-Italian born speaker put emphasis on three pillars in which the UN activities is articulated: Development, Peace and Security and Promotion of Human Rights. These are also Japan’s main concerns.
First of all, development issues are of great importance to the EU because it is the main donor worldwide. Current main objectives are poverty eradication and improving aid efficiency. The Commission’s relationship with the UN has evolved moving from ad hoc cooperation towards more strategic and systematic partnership. The EC is a major source of financing for UN projects and observes very closely whether Official Development Assistance (ODA) is properly and efficiently used to implement the Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, 189 Member States agreed to try to achieve those eight goals by 2015, yet it has not shown much progress in Africa, absolutely and relatively compared to Asia and Latin America. Within the UN the recipient countries are in constant negotiations with the donor countries, which comprise inter alia most Members of the EU. The largest and most influential group in the General Assembly, as far as the number of votes is concerned, is the “Group of 77”, representing Developing Countries.
The G77 was established in 1964 by 77 Developing Countries and has accepted 53 more members during the last decades. It is a coalition that promotes the interests of the South within the UN system and South-South cooperation for development.
A second focus is peace and security with the SC as the main institution of negotiation. France and the United Kingdom have a different status because they are part of the Permanent Members in the SC and, thus, have a higher level of information. Therefore, Article 19 of the EU Treaty states that Members of the SC have to keep the other Member States fully informed and that Permanent Members shall defend positions of the EU. The most important task for the EU Presidency is to coordinate Member States and the flow of information. Furthermore, Mr. Giaufret underlined the EC’s commitment towards the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which was established in 2005 by the SC and the GA together. It is committed to help countries in resolving conflicts and building a sustainable peace. The need for such a commission has become obvious as it has been realized that an ending conflict does not necessarily cause peaceful stability in a country. The EC is has the status of a Participant as an institutional donors in all meetings, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The Union also plays an active role in the promotion of human rights in the proceedings of the UN Commission on Human Rights and in the 3rd Committee of the GA. Mr. Giaufret especially underlined the battle to promote the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. Combined efforts are directed towards universal abolition of death penalty, although in countries that still retain the capital punishment the EU is seeking, through regular demarches, to raising awareness on minimum standards, e.g. prevent executions of convicts below 18 years and those with a mental disorder. A significant step has been made by the adoption of a GA resolution on 18 December 2007 calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, though it is not binding.
During this informative briefing, the NMUN Delegation of Japan learned about its intersections with the European Community’s interests in particular, and the European Union’s in general. For the first time, we learned about our partners’ position and how we could approach them in finding a joint solution. We also understand the difficulties that the European Commission, as the diplomatic organ of the EC, faces within its structures. But more importantly, the Community is a model of regional cooperation and, hence, of conflict resolution.