The European Union and the United Nations: The choice of multilateralism

The European Union and the United Nations: The choice of multilateralism

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The European Union and the United Nations: The choice of multilateralism


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The European Union and the United Nations: The choice of multilateralism

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 10 September 2003 – The European Union and the United Nations: the choice of multilateralism [COM(2003) 526 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This Communication examines the means available to the European Union (EU) to contribute towards the continuous improvement of global governance, through the United Nations’ (UN) * governance system.

The EU therefore renews its support for the UN’s multilateral governance system * as an instrument for adopting concrete solutions at a global level, to the benefit of sustainable development, poverty reduction, peace and security, in particular.

Effectiveness of multilateral governance

The EU must increase its contribution with a view to adopting and applying multilateral policies and instruments. The EU’s influence could be a determining factor in the implementation of global commitments by its Member States and third country partners.

In addition, the EU must take a more active role in the institutional reform process of the UN in order to increase the effectiveness of the system, to adapt it to the development of multilateral reports, and to promote the international policy of development assistance.

Similarly, an improvement in coordination and cooperation at international level should facilitate the monitoring of commitments and strengthen actions for peace, security and human rights.

Lastly, European external policy supports the capacity-building of developing countries to meet their international commitments. In particular, the EU integrates the objectives of sustainable development, trade assistance, the promotion of decent working standards, and combating terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime into its external policy programmes.

Effectiveness of collaboration

The Commission presents a set of guidelines for greater partnership between the EU and the UN, in order to:

  • increase policy dialogue, through increasing high-level meetings and cooperation with UN agencies;
  • strengthen EU representation within the UN;
  • increase financial cooperation and the EU’s financial contribution to UN operations;
  • conclude strategic partnerships with UN agencies, funds and programmes in the areas of development assistance and humanitarian aid;
  • conduct a strategic dialogue on coordinating humanitarian aid activities.

Political and technical cooperation must also be increased in the area of peace and security, whether for conflict prevention, crisis management or post-crisis reconstruction. This partnership must be systematically extended to the competent regional organisations (such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe).

Promoting the values and interests of the EU

The EU contributes substantially to the development of policies adopted within the UN. However, it is still necessary to improve the coordination of its Member States’ positions, to ensure that the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) are consistent with the positions of the UN Security Council, and also to increase the role of EU delegations to the UN.

In order to increase the influence of the EU within the UN governance system, the Commission recommends:

  • coordinating the Member States’ positions and participating in the decision-making process as soon as possible, particularly regarding international social policy, health, human rights, development cooperation and humanitarian aid;
  • improving coordination and the EU’s dialogue with countries or groups of countries affected by specific issues;
  • ensuring that European policies are compatible with international policies, and ensuring that effective European representation is in place with regard to the work of the UN on subjects which affect the EU.
Key terms
  • United Nations governance system: a concept defined by the Commission as applying to the main bodies of the UN (the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and their subsidiary bodies, the Security Council and the Secretariat), and the programmes, funds and specialised institutions of the United Nations, including the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund).
  • Multilateral governance: a method of organisation of international relations, involving more than two States.

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