The Delegation of the European Commission to the United Nations in New York is located on 222 East 41st Street on the 20th Floor. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by Information Officer Ms. Sarah Curran and Mr. Dominic Porter, who is the First Secretary for Social and Cultural Affairs. Our delegation was very much looking forward to this briefing at the Permanent Mission of the European Commission as we hoped to gain a better understanding of the working procedures at the United Nations.
Mr. Dominic Porter started his presentation by giving us an overview of the institutions of the European Union and their tasks. All EU Member States are members of the United Nations. The European Community has had permanent observer status at the UN since 1974. Since the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy had been established in 1992, EU Member States have moved increasingly towards the coordination of their actions in international organizations. In the UN, the EU member states, together with the Commission, regularly coordinate their positions, and the EU thus almost always speaks with one voice.
The Commission, which is responsible for the external representation of the European Community, has special responsibilities in areas where there is an exclusive Community competence, such as trade policy, fisheries or agriculture. Since 1991, the European Community is a full member of one specialized agency of the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reflecting the Community’s extensive responsibilities in the sectors covered by the FAO. Furthermore, the European Community is also a party to over 50 UN multilateral agreements. In general, the Commission’s task is to work towards a common European position and to promote European values in international relations.
The Community has obtained special "full participant" status and has taken part as regular participant in many UN Conferences, notably the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women, the 2002 Monterrey Finance for Development Conference, and the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development. In May 2001, the EU hosted a major UN Conference in Brussels, the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries. It retains this status in standing bodies such as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).
Nowadays the EU cooperates with all UN bodies, agencies and programs. The EU Member States as a group are the largest financial contributor to the UN system, as the EU members contribute 38% to the UN's regular budget, more than 2/5 of the peacekeeping budget and about half of all UN Member States' contributions to UN funds and programs. In 2005, the European Community contributed almost US$ 1 billion to the UN system.
Mr. Porter explained that the main difference between the everyday work at the mission of the European Commission and the work in Brussels was that they mostly worked on trying to find a common position of all EU Member States on the issues that were discussed at the UN in order to speak with one voice. With regard to the fact that the EU Member States and the EU as a whole are the most important Western allies of Morocco, this information was very helpful for our conference.
Concerning Morocco, Mr. Porter informed us that it had a kind of a special status as it was a member of a lot of different groups. He advised us to use this information and to look for the group that suited our interests best. Morocco is part of the African Group, but for rather practical purposes. Apart from that, Morocco feels dedicated to the Arab Group. Furthermore, it contributes to the work of Organization of the Islamic Conference and the G-77. Mr. Porter reminded us that Moroccan diplomats were very polite and moderate and that Morocco very often functioned as a bridge between the Western and the Arab-African World.
We were very grateful for the information given during the briefing, and hoped to be able to put his advice into practice.
Moritz Lohe and Natalie Spiesser