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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

The European Union’s commitment to effective multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, is a central element of its external action. This commitment is rooted in the conviction that to respond successfully to global crises, challenges and threats, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rights and values.

HRVP Mogherini at the UN

HR/VP Mogherini addresses the Security Council meeting on cooperation between the UN and the EU. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

The European way is also the United Nations’ way. This explains why all our actions, all our initiatives are always taken in full coordination and partnership with the UN. We believe in the UN, because we believe in the same principles, in the same values, and our communities are built upon the same fundamental ideals.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,

speaking at the UN Security Council on 9 May 2017


At this time of global divisions, the European vision of integration is more important than ever.

–United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

marking the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 2017


The European Union’s commitment to effective multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, is a central element of its external action. This commitment is enshrined in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union and rooted in the conviction that to respond successfully to global crises, challenges and threats, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rights and values.

Without global norms and the means to enforce them, peace and security, prosperity and democracy – our vital interests – are at risk. Guided by the values on which it is founded, the EU is committed to a global order based on international law, including the principles of the UN Charter. The EU will strive for a strong UN as the bedrock of the multilateral rules-based order, and develop globally coordinated responses with international and regional organisations, states and nonstate actors.

– EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy –

Multilateralism is also one of the core principles and priorities in the new EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy. To  respond successfully to global crises, threats and challenges, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rules and values. The United Nations is both: a key EU partner and an indispensable global forum for tackling global challenges, within the overall framework of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The EU thus works closely both with the UN and in the UN.

Each summer, the Council of the European Union adopts EU Priorities for the UN General Assembly, which guide the delegation’s work for the year to come. For the 72nd UN General Assembly, the EU will engage to reinvigorate multilateralism, supporting a strong UN as the bedrock of the rules-based global order.  It will focus on three interlinked and mutually reinforcing priority areas: stronger global governance; peace and conflict prevention; and enduring agenda for transformation.

During the previous, 71st, UN General Assembly, Heads of State agreed on the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 goals aimed at eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development in all its dimensions, covering issues that range from access to food, water, energy, health and education, to addressing inequalities, including gender inequality, and the needs of people in vulnerable situations. The EU stands ready to play its part and contribute its share to mobilising resources for putting the future agenda into practice.

The EU remains a determined leader in the fight against climate change.  On 4 October 2016, with the European Parliament’s approval of the Paris Agreement ratification – in the presence of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the President of COP 21 Ségolène Royal – the last hurdle was cleared. The political process for the European Union to ratify the Agreement was concluded, and on 5 October ambassadors representing the European Union and seven EU Member States deposited the instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement with the UN Treaty Office, thereby triggering the landmark deal to tackle climate change.

The EU envisions a new global partnership involving all countries and mobilising all means of implementation, including an enabling policy environment; mobilising domestic resources in developing countries; unleashing the potential of the private sector; trade; official development assistance (ODA); and unlocking the full potential of science, technology and innovation.


Working closely with the UN Secretariat and the various UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, the EU has established a strong
relationship with the UN. Cooperation takes place across a broad range of areas: development, human rights, climate change, peace building, crisis management, disarmament and non-proliferation, humanitarian assistance, fighting corruption and crime, addressing global health concerns, managing migratory flows and labour issues.

The Lisbon Treaty (2009), which gave the European Union a single legal personality and led to the formation of the External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, also paved the way for the EU to be part of an international convention or be an observer (most cases) or member of an international organisation where the statutes allow this, such as the FAO in Rome.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/65/276 upgrading the observer status of the EU’s participation in the UN to allow it to present common positions, make interventions, present proposals and participate in the general debate each September.

As an observer with enhanced status, the EU has no vote but is party to more than 50 UN multilateral agreements and conventions as the only non-State participant. It has obtained a special “full participant” status in a number of important UN conferences.

In additional to regular exchanges at the expert level, twice a year all EU Ambassadors in New York meet with the UN Secretary-General and his team for a working lunch to discuss issues at the top of the UN’s agenda. The UNSG and his team are also regular visitors to Brussels, meeting with the EU Council and Commission Presidents, the High Representative and EU heads of government or state. Regular UN Security Council meetings on UN-EU cooperation attended by the UNSG and the HRVP are further testimony to the deepening relationship and to the importance both place on it.

In New York, the expansion of the EU’s delegation from a small information office in 1964 to its present 60-person mission with enhanced observer status reflects the EU’s growing engagement with the UN and its role in coordinating Member States’ positions. In consultation with Member States, the delegation, which is staffed by officials from the General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States, delivers more than 200 statements annually in New York.


Collectively, the EU and its Member States are the single largest financial contributor to the UN system. The sum of the contributions of the 28 EU Member States amounts to 30.38% of the UN regular budget and 33.17% of the UN peacekeeping budgets. In addition, the EU and its Member States also provide about one-half of all the voluntary contributions to UN funds and programmes. The European Commission alone contributed more than $1.9 billion to support UN external assistance programmes and projects in 2015.

The European Union and its Member States retained their place as the world’s largest aid donor in 2015, according to OECD figures. In 2015, EuropeAid’s financial contributions to the UN exceeded €777 million, with the most funding going to UNDP (27.5%), UNICEF (21%) and FAO (15%).

In 2015, ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) provided €551 million (an increase from €452 in 2014) to UN agencies, funds and programmes, including €207 million to WFP, €127 million to UNHCR and €106 million to UNICEF.


The best way to preserve and reinforce its credibility is by making the UN system more effective. Therefore in the coming year the key EU priority will be to uphold, strengthen and reform the UN, empowering the UN Secretary-General to deliver on his reform proposals. The three reform tracks (peace and security, development, management) should be addressed together since they are mutually reinforcing.

The added value of the EU is to coordinate among its Member States to present a unified position. Enhancing public knowledge on the three UN pillars of work and EU priorities related to them is also highly important.

The EU strives for clarity, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability as the key principles guiding UN action. The
EU will use its political and diplomatic outreach to build a coalition in support of UN reform.


On 3 May 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/65/276 upgrading the status of the European Union’s participation in the United Nations. This resolution allows EU representatives to present common positions of the Union to the GA. In addition, EU representatives have the right to make interventions during sessions and to be invited to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly. It also permits EU communications relating to the sessions and work of the Assembly to be circulated directly as documents of the Assembly. EU representatives also have the right to present proposals and amendments agreed by EU Member States and to exercise the right of reply. However, they are not able to challenge decisions of the Assembly’s presiding officer or to have the right to vote or put forward candidates.

This landmark resolution allows the EU, its Member States, Candidate Countries, EFTA, and other aligning countries, a block of potentially 46 counties (1/4 of the UN membership) to leverage their positions towards common goals in the General Assembly. Working together with like-minded partners, the EU has gained significant momentum in the area of human rights with resolutions on the moratorium of the death penalty, rights of LGBT people, and freedom of religion and belief.

EU Delegations to the UN are responsible for the day-to-day coordination of the EU common position, including the drafting of EU statements and the adoption of EU positions on resolutions and other texts. These positions are generally established through EU coordination meetings. The EU Delegation plays an active role in defining EU positions, thereby contributing to the enhanced role of the EU at the UN.

In New York, the delegation hosts more than 1,300 coordination meetings annually so when the EU and its Member States speak at the UN, they will do so coherently and with one voice. In 2016, the EU delivered more than 240 statements at the UN in New York, including 32 at the Security Council.


Two EU Member States, France and the UK are permanent members of the Security Council. In addition, EU countries also serve as non-permanent members. Currently Sweden also represents the EU as a non-permanent member. In 2017, Italy assumed a one-year term in the UNSC to be succeeded by the Netherlands in 2018.  In a memorable display of EU unity, Italy and the Netherlands agreed on 28 July 2016 to split the two-year term with Italy taking the seat in 2017, and the Netherlands in 2018.

EU Security Council members keep the EU institutions and other Member States fully informed of the Security Council’s work and, as appropriate, reflect EU positions. Pursuant to article 34 of the Treaty on European Union, “when the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union’s position”.

The EU also has a wide range of tools available to solve crises, as well as its close work with international and regional partners. For this reason, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy provides regular updates to the Security Council and the EU is often invited to address issues of concern, such as regional cooperation. In 2016, the EU delivered 32 statements at the Security Council.

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