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The European Union at the United Nations

Published Friday, May 20, 2011

In May 2011 the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of Resolution A/RES/65/276, which granted the EU the right to speak at the United Nations. This Note looks at the background to the vote and the issues involved.

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The Treaty of Lisbon created two important new EU posts: the President of the European Council (Herman van Rompuy) and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton). The intention was to give the EU a stronger, more consistent and visible role in world affairs.

The European Community had had observer status at the United Nations (UN) since 1974, but after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the merging of the European Community with the European Union, the High Representative asked the UN to enhance the former EC’s observer status by granting the EU speaking rights at the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

In September 2010 the UN voted in favour of a CARICOM (Caribbean Community) resolution to postpone a decision on special rights for the EU and the EU was forced to revise its proposal.

In May 2011 the UNGA voted in favour of an amended resolution, Resolution A/RES/65/276, which granted the EU the right to:

• Speak and make interventions

• Participate in the general debate of the General Assembly

• Have its communications circulated directly as documents of the Assembly, meeting or conference

• Present proposals and amendments orally, which will be put to a vote at the request of a Member State

• Exercise the right of reply regarding positions of the EU on the basis of one intervention per item.

The European Parliament has suggested the EU should also be represented at the UN Security Council.

Commons Briefing papers SN05975

Author: Vaughne Miller

Topics: EU external relations, EU institutions, European Council, United Nations

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