16th Jun 2019

EU facing 'slow motion crisis' in UN

The EU is losing its ability to push through human rights projects at the UN, with Islamic, African and Latin American states increasingly alienated from Europe while Russia and China play a more assertive role, a new study says.

EU human rights positions gained over 70 percent support in the UN general assembly in the 1990s but just 48 to 55 percent in 2007 and 2008, while Russia and China have gone from less than 50 percent to over 80 percent in the same time, the report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) shows.

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  • The UN plenary chamber in New York - EU states vote together but have lost international support (Photo: wikipedia)

In what it calls the EU's "slow motion crisis," the ECFR highlights EU defeats on recent Iran, Burma and Belarus votes, where just 80 out of a potential other 165 UN member countries joined the EU position.

Russia and China's doctrine of non-interference in sovereign states has also attracted support in the UN security council, leading to EU setbacks on Sudan, Burma and Zimbabwe in the past year.

"If Europe can no longer win support at the UN for international action on human rights and justice, overriding national sovereignty in extreme cases, it will have been defeated over one of its deepest convictions about international politics as a whole," the study says.

At the UN level, the ECFR links the problem to confrontations between Europe and the Bush-era US as well as growing EU introversion, with European diplomats in New York holding over 1,000 internal meetings a year instead of focusing on outward diplomacy.

Looking beyond the UN, the think-tank points to EU foreign and immigration policies as bigger stumbling blocks, with Afghanistan, Bosnia and Turkey the only Muslim-majority states which still vote with the EU.

"This reflects not only disputes over the Middle East, but a fundamental clash over cultural and religious values," the ECFR says. "The EU needs an engagement strategy to win back the support of the African and Latin American countries that it has lost, and win over more moderate members of the Islamic bloc."

The report suggests a mixed bag of initiatives, including transparency-building measures such as an annual European Commission report on EU voting and coalition-building at the UN.

It also pushes for the appointment of two or three new EU officials to co-ordinate UN diplomacy with third countries, backed up by a panel of "senior Europeans" to draft and review strategies.

The EU's Cotonou Agreement - a long-standing development accord with African and Caribbean countries - should be used to expand coalitions on the model of old French and UK colonial ties, while moderate Islamic states such as Jordan and Senegal could help build new relationships in the Muslim bloc.

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