Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN: EU Promotes Ambitious Aims Despite U.S. Skepticism

The European Commission today unveiled its "wish list" for a three-day UN summit starting in New York on 14 September. Originally vaunted as an occasion for thoroughgoing reform, the summit is now thought unlikely to introduce marked change to the way the United Nations is run or how it interacts with the world. The pessimism is largely caused by a rejection by the United States of some of the most ambitious ideas for change. However, the European Commission said the bloc is unwilling to lower its sights.

Brussels, 12 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Privately, EU officials have long accepted that without U.S. backing, no significant reforms are possible at the United Nations.

But that does not appear likely to stop EU leaders from pressing at the summit for some goals for which Washington has shown little enthusiasm, such as aid increases.

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said today that the EU will use the summit fight for just such increases.

And he called on other developed nations to do the same.

"My message on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals [to bring aid levels to 0.7 of GDP] is clear," Barroso said. "Europe is doing a great deal. The European Union is the world's biggest aid donor, responsible for 55 per cent of all overseas development aid. We're also the biggest trading partner for developing countries, and world's biggest provider of trade-related assistance."

The EU currently on average contributes 0.36 per cent of GDP to aid. Barroso has also repeatedly pledged that aid will be doubled by 2010 -- to reach 66,000 million euros annually -- and reach the 0.7 per cent of GDP target by 2015.

The United States, which has previously said it will not make any firm commitments on aid, gives 0.16 percent of its GDP in development assistance. That level has increased in recent years, but largely due to measures benefiting allies in the war on terror -- for example Pakistan -- or aimed at reconstructing countries such as Afghanistan.

The United States has also featured as the implicit foil for other EU priorities, chief among them "multilateralism," or giving international bodies a greater voice in world affairs.

Barroso and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU is a "natural partner" for the UN, highlighting its preference for multilateral action -- not war -- as the preeminent foreign-policy tool.
Barroso and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU is a "natural partner" for the UN, highlighting its preference for multilateral action -- not war -- as the preeminent foreign-policy tool.

Ferrero-Waldner ascribed this to historical experience shared both by the United Nations and the EU.

"The United Nations was founded with the aim of avoiding armed conflict between states. The European Union is therefore a natural partner for the United Nations, because our organization also was born out of the same experience of war, it is founded on the same conviction that acting together, we will achieve more by acting together," Ferrero-Waldner said. "Together we're not only, as the president [Barroso] said, the most substantial contributor to the UN budget, its funds and projects, we're also, as a community, the most important, the major peace-building [partner] in our own right."

The commission would provide sustained long-term assistance to nations emerging from conflict. Ferrero-Waldner said the EU envisages a "full spectrum" of policies ranging from immediate humanitarian relief to military peacekeeping and later on to institution building, election observation, etc.

The EU is also seeking to strengthen the United Nations' role in enforcing respect for human rights in the world. It supports the creation of a new "human rights commission."

EU officials accept that both the peace-building commission and its human rights counterpart can only have an advisory role in its dealings with the UN Security Council. However, Ferrero-Waldner indicated the EU is keen to provide the bodies with optimal moral credentials. Hence, she said, one of the key EU demands is that only countries with clean records can serve on the human-rights commission.

"Candidates for the new human-rights council should have to demonstrate that they carry out their own human-rights obligations," Ferrero-Waldner said. "This will be a crucial, fundamental difference to the existing human-rights commission."

There will be no joint EU position on the reform of the UN Security Council. Two EU member states -- France and Britain -- hold permanent seats. Earlier this year, Germany mounted a campaign to be assigned one, too, but it quickly transpired there is not enough support among existing Security Council members for an expansion of the body.

See also:

"Still Haunted By Iraq, UN Hosts Summit On Reform"

For RFE/RL's full coverage of the United Nations, see "News And Features On The United Nations "