The European commitment towards multilateralism is clearly at the centre of the EU external policies. In 2003 the Commission adopted a Communication on “EU-UN relations: The choice of multilateralism”, which focused on a comprehensive strengthening and mainstreaming of EU-UN relations. Effective multilateralism is also one of the central pillars of the European Security Strategy, adopted in December 2003.
The past years have seen a steady increase of interaction and co-operation between the EU and the UN at all levels. The EU has had a key role in the elaboration and implementation of new UN instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court, and has taken an active part in making a success of international conferences such as the Financing for Development (Monterey 2002) and the World Summit for Sustainable Development (Johannesburg 2002).
The EU has similarly been actively involved in the UN Summit preparations, with the aim of ensuring an ambitious outcome and intends to remain actively engaged in the follow-up thereto. The Commission has provided substantive contributions to the definition of EU positions, including through the 15 June Communication of the Commission on ‘The 2005 Summit-Addressing the global challenges and making a success of the reformed UN’ and the three communications on the ‘development package’ adopted on 12 April. The Commission aims to accelerate the process to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, focus on increasing aid volumes and improve aid effectiveness and policy coherence, with a particular focus on Africa.
The EU’s commitment to the UN also translates into significant financial support to the UN system. EU Member States provide around 38% of the UN regular budget and around 50% of all UN Member State’s contributions to UN funds and programmes. In addition, significant contributions to the UN-system (UN agencies, funds and programmes) are provided by the European Community (around €874 million in terms of contracts awarded and signed in 2004, outside the scope of the EC humanitarian assistance where approximately €90 million were provided through cooperation with the UN in 2004).
The long-standing relationship of the EU with the UN encompasses strong Commission support for UN efforts in the areas of development assistance, food aid and humanitarian assistance. In this regard the Commission presented in 2001 a Communication on ‘Building an Effective Partnership with the UN in the field of Development and Humanitarian Affairs’. The Commission has since concluded strategic partnerships in the field of development and humanitarian aid with several UN agencies, funds and programmes (UNDP, WHO, FAO, ILO, UNHCR) with the aim of further developing policy dialogue and co-operation. Other agreements/exchanges of letters (ILO, WHO, UNODC, UNEP, UNHCR) have been signed and facilitate regular policy dialogue and cooperation. Discussions are ongoing about enhanced cooperation between the Commission and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
The intensification of the relations between the Commission and the United Nations system has also been enhanced by more regular high-level dialogue: twice-yearly meetings were initiated in 2001, permitting regular contacts between the UN Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General and the Commission. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Brussels twice in 2004, and UN Deputy Secretary General Louise Fréchette last visited in February 2005. The UN Secretary-General met President Barroso in New York in May and Commissioners Ferrero-Waldner, Michel and Mandelson in June 2005.
Intensified EU-UN cooperation extends also to conflict prevention and crisis management. Examples are the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina which took over from the UN task force, as well as the MONUC take-over from the EU military operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Further momentum was gained by the signing of the “Joint Declaration on EU-UN Cooperation in Crisis Management” on 24 September 2003, focussing on practical cooperation in the field of crisis management and related issues such as planning, training, communication and best practices. An overall increase in cooperation extends to exchange of information, coordination of activities and priorities as well as an increase of contacts at all levels, including implementation of conflict prevention and peace building support, desk-to-desk dialogue on conflict prevention and field level cooperation.