The Delegation of Freie Universität Berlin was welcomed by Mr Roland Tricot, Counsellor of the Delegation of the European Commission to the United Nations. He explained us how the mission of the Delegation functions. Concerning the structure of the representation of the European Union (EU) at the United Nations (UN), the European Commission (EC)-Delegation are with the European UN-Member State presiding the European Council the two visible pillars of the EU in New York. Additionally, the European Council represents itself on the ministerial level through the Liaison Bureau of the Council of Ministers. The mission of the EC-Delegation firstly is the co-ordination of the 27 EU-Member States within the UN. One main goal is to speak with a unanimous voice and therefore to avoid three way votes among the 27 countries. With other European States which are no EU-Member States, an influential ‘European bloc’ of about 40 states persists in the General Assembly. In addition, a minimum of two EU-States have permanent seats within the Security Council – France and the United Kingdom. At times, almost a third of the Security Council Members are European countries, currently Austria and Turkey in addition to the two permanent ones mentioned. Thus, European States have quite an influence when working and voting as a single bloc.
Furthermore, the monetary influence was underlined by Mr Tricot. About US$ 1 billion are made available by the EU and can be freely spent. This amount is an additional, voluntary contribution besides the regular Membership contributions. Regardless of their apparent grandeur and power, the European Union itself is not a Member of the UN. As an organisation, the European Community has been granted an Observer status which comprises no right to vote on substantive matters. Since the Observer status is the least powerful status, the European Community is always the last one to speak during UN-meetings. This situation might appear slightly illogical since there are certain projects exclusively funded by the European Union dealt with by the General Assembly and other UN-bodies.
Regarding the thematic work of the EC-Delegation in the UN, Mr Tricot presented three of their current involvements. Firstly, he spoke about the Disarmament Commission and the Counter-Terrorism Committee in whose work he is personally involved. The EC-Delegation’s interest is to promote and to implement the EU Strategy on Counter-Terrorism. Each year, target countries are being named who receive major funding to establish working structures on terrorism prevention. Currently, these countries are Madagascar and Nigeria.
Furthermore, the EU greatly contributes to international tribunals. The Court of Cambodia dealing with the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s was pointed out by the speaker. Overcoming the disapproval of both part of the Cambodian people and the Cambodian Government, the court was established as a mixed tribunal persecuting the crimes both according to Cambodian and International Law. Relatively high salaries for the employed judges where thought to prevent corruption but cannot, unfortunately, eliminate the problem completely. Sixty per cent of the tribunal’s funding is assured through the international community, forty percent by the Cambodians themselves. Another example of an international tribunal to which the EU contributes is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon dealing with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Another area of EU participation is the Working Group on Piracy. Mr Tricot pointed out that the European Commission follows the strategy that real development within the countries of origin of the pirates has to be part of the solution to solve the problem which threatens many countries. Nevertheless, it is an open question whether or not the pirates are going to abstain from piracy and live their former lives as peasants for example. Equivalences to the current high ransoms, up to US$ 60 million per ship that is released, cannot be paid. He informed us that it recently became necessary to quickly establish an international co-ordination office – which is going to be set up in Djibouti – to handle military operations and implement both local and regional development strategies.
Eventually, Mr Tricot covered various topics while answering our questions. Regarding the world’s disarmament engagement, he welcomed the new US disarmament policy announced by President Obama, especially the expression of the will of the US to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which was negotiated during the era of President Clinton. Nevertheless, he underlined that a world free of nuclear arms will remain unrealistic. Regarding the possible progress within the Doha Round, Mr Tricot discussed the possibility of the failure of the last WTO negotiation round because of the agricultural subsidies in the European Union and the concurrence in subsidy questions between the US and the EU.
Finally, Mr Tricot highlighted difficulties the European Commission experiences within the UN system caused by the representation of 27 Member States. On certain topics, the EC-Delegation strictly sticks to its position as an Observer and does not express an opinion of its own. This for example goes for discussions regarding the reform of the Security Council. Another question is nuclear disarmament because of the opposing opinions within the EU. No consentaneous position either is expressed on the questions of abortion. Also, regarding the question of a Turkish EU-Membership, the EC-Delegation remains quiet.