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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.

Our Union, the European Union, is built on the same values, the same vision of a cooperative world order which led to the foundation of the United Nations, seventy years ago. In seventy years, the threats to peace have evolved continuously. So must we.

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

speaking at the UN Security Council on 9 March 2015

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.

Taking into account the UN’s agenda and global issues, each June, the Council of the European Union adopts EU Priorities for the UN General Assembly, which guides the delegation’s work for the year to come.

The 70th Anniversary of the UN in 2015 marked the start of the post-2015 framework that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals and integrated the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, both processes merged into the adoption of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Last September at the 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.

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 UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, the EU has established a broad relationship with the UN on issues ranging from development and climate change to conflict prevention, crisis management and peacebuilding, human rights, humanitarian assistance, the fight against corruption and crime, global health concerns such as AIDS/HIV or Ebola and issues of labour rights. Highlights of many of these joint activities are presented annually in the UN-EU report, Improving Lives: Partnership between the United Nations and the European Union.

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 $1.5 billion to support UN external assistance programmes and projects in 2014.

The European Union and its Member States retained their place as the world’s largest aid donor in 2014, according to OECD figures. In 2014, EuropeAid’s financial contributions to the UN exceeded €983 million, with the most funding going to UNDP (40%), UNICEF (18%), FAO (12%), UNRWA (10%), and WFP (8%).

In 2015, ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) provided €514 million (an increase from €452 in 2014) to UN agencies, funds and programmes, including €207 million to WFP, €127 million to UNHCR and €108 million to UNICEF.


With a strong conviction that the UN must be ‘fit for purpose’ as well as increasingly more effective and efficient in addressing emerging and growing challenges, the EU promotes the reform of the UN system and of its bodies and organs to make it fitter to address complex, multi-sectoral challenges. This should include the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council as well as the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly.

The EU also promotes relations with UN agencies, funds and programmes through strategic partnership frameworks and contributes to major UN-led initiatives such as Sustainable Energy for All, Global Education First initiative, Zero Hunger Challenge and the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.

The added value of the EU is to coordinate among its 28 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.


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 2015, the EU delivered more than 220 statements at the UN in New York, including 31 at the Security Council. Member States were united on 92% of the resolutions adopted by the UNGA in 2014.


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 will assume 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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