Tuesday

11th Dec 2018

'Ramshackle' EU efforts at UN annoyed allies

  • UN plenary hall in New York (Photo: Yang and Yun's Album)

The European Union's surprise upset in New York this week in its attempts to win expanded rights at the United Nations was a result of "ramshackle" strategy that even disgruntled some of the bloc's closest allies, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, according to diplomats close to the proceedings.

"One word describes how the EU acted there: Confusion, overall confusion," one diplomat told EUobserver.

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"It was a ramshackle, pretty disorganised EU strategy," the official continued. "The process fell apart. It was not thought through properly and their people just did not consult widely."

"They did not really consider the possible objections, especially from the Caribbean, and thought they would just die away."

Another diplomat described it as "an absence of tactical nuance".

The three British Commonwealth countries are some of the European Union's closest global allies and ordinarily very rarely vote against the bloc, but on Tuesday in New York they all abstained on a motion delaying discussion of a UN General Assembly resolution that sought to allow European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to address the UN chamber.

The motion was narrowly defeated 76-71, with 26 countries abstaining.

The resolution would also have awarded the EU, which currently only carries observer status at the UN, the right to make proposals and submit amendments, the right of reply, the right to raise points of order and the right to circulate documents. Together, the resolution would have given the EU almost all the rights that a sovereign member state of the UN enjoys.

There would also be additional seats put in the chamber for the EU's foreign policy chief, High Representative Catherine Ashton and her officials.

However, the three countries viewed the implications for the structure of the UN from the resolution as profound, given the movement on all continents of the world towards regional integration.

With a very large number of countries in the General Assembly uncomfortable on waving the motion through without further consultation on what it means for them and, indeed global governance, "it would have been a very bad idea straight out of the starting gate to have much of the world in opposition to the EU on this."

It is understood that the delegations received the wording of the EU motion very late the night before the vote, which was to take place early the following morning.

Annoyed at the way the EU handled itself, the three Commonwealth countries consulted each other before taking the decision to abstain.

The three remain "fully supporters of the EU. There was no opposition to the issue itself by any means. The issue was process, not the content."

It is not thought that the countries' own efforts at regional integration in North American in the case of Canada and the Asia-Pacific region in the case of the antipodes presented any stumbling blocks.

"If done in the right way, the resolution will of course be supported."

Other regional blocs, notably Caricom, feel it is unfair that the EU be awarded extra rights at the UN and not themselves as well.

Caricom, a gathering of Caribbean countries, had floated the idea of a delay, but only for a few days so that there could be additional consultations. As well as being close to the EU, Ottawa is also very tied to the Caribbean.

According to a Canadian diplomat, "We are supportive of the EU on the substance, and would have supported the draft resolution if it had come to a vote."

"This being said, it was clear a large number of delegations were not yet on board and wanted more time."

"Canada in consultation with Australia and New Zealand decided to abstain to respect the desire of much of the membership to have more time for consultations in an effort to reach consensus."

The issue is likely to return to the agenda in the coming days, not as late as next year as originally thought.

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