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The EU, the UN and Collective Security. Making Multilateralism Effective

Rome, 13 May 2013

Lack of legal personality is an obstacle that is still keeping the EU from having more decision-making power in addressing the international challenges tackled by the United Nations Security Council: from climate change to water security, from organized crime to democracy building. In spite of this, the EU 27 contributes 40 per cent of the UN budget.

This was one of the central points discussed in Rome on May 13 at the Italian headquarter of the European Institutions, during the presentation of the book, The EU, the UN and Collective Security. Making Multilateralism Effective, edited by Joachim Krause, professor of international relations and director of the Institute for security policies at Kiel University, and Natalino Ronzitti, professor of international law and scientific consultant to the IAI.

According to Michele Baiano, central director for the UN and human rights at the Italian Foreign Ministry, the UN Security Council lacks representativeness and therefore democratic credentials. Its difficulty in representing the 193 member countries is evident. For Italy, the long-term solution is to establish some longer-term or semi-permanent seats, while the short-term solution is to create consensus for Italy to obtain a non-permanent seat on the SC in 2017-18, for which two other EU countries are candidates as well: Sweden and the Netherlands.

For Sandro Gozi, Democratic Party MP, the stance of France and Great Britain, the two permanent EU members of the SC with veto rights, is short-sighted. They do not seem to realise that the multifaceted and multicultural international scene today is very different from the one in 1945 when the United Nations was born. They do not want to acknowledge the current deficit in geographic representativeness, democracy and legitimacy. He noted, however, that the idea of a single seat for the European Union still seems a long way off.

Agostino Miozzo, managing director of Crisis Response at the European External Action Service (EEAS) spoke about the role of regional realities in the United Nations. The EEAS, set up two years ago, after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, is trying to bring together the various foreign policy cultures and is coming up against the difficulty in getting the EU 27 to use the same linguistic codes. He said that the EEAS decided to “pull the brake on foreign policy” just as the Arab Spring broke out. Yet, no single country alone could find solutions to international problems.

The book, in which the problems of multilateralism intersect with the difficult relations between the EU and the UN, also allows for some thoughts on cooperation between NATO and the UN. According to Ettore Greco, director of IAI, various considerations come to mind: the multilateral system has survived through the years and the UN has turned out to be the backbone of today’s world as well as a point of reference for its members. In the meantime, new regional organizations and new tools of regional and international governance have been created. Yet, the birth of regional powers has been perceived as a threat and has triggered further divisions at the international level. Therefore, the problem remains of how the UN can cooperate with regional organizations, which are playing an increasingly important role.

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