Expected Council Action
In May, the Council will hold its annual meeting on strengthening the partnership with the EU under its agenda item on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations in maintaining international peace and security. Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is expected to brief the Council.
The relationship between the UN and the EU has evolved over the years and has continued to grow in importance. Recognising this, starting in 2010, the Council has maintained the practice of holding regular–usually annual–briefings on cooperation between the two organisations. (These briefings were not held in 2012 and 2018.) The Council formally endorsed this relationship in 2014 when it adopted a presidential statement on EU-UN cooperation. Among other things, the statement welcomed the EU’s cooperation with the UN and its role in the maintenance of international peace and security and in the implementation of Council-mandated tasks. Since 2013, Council members have also held annual informal meetings with members of the EU Political and Security Committee.
This will be the first opportunity for Borrell to brief the Council on EU-UN cooperation. He assumed the position of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 1 December 2019, succeeding Federica Mogherini, who had been in office since 2014. The meeting was initially scheduled for February during Belgium’s presidency of the Council but was postponed.
The briefings on EU-UN cooperation generally follow a consistent pattern and cover areas of cooperation between the two organisations. Borrell is also expected to present the EU’s main foreign policy priorities and objectives and address current crises that overlap on the EU and the Council agendas.
Given the global reach of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that this issue will feature prominently during this year’s meeting. On 8 April, the EU launched a “Team Europe” support package worth more than 20 billion euros to support partner countries worldwide in their fight against COVID-19 and its consequences. The EU has pledged to promote a coordinated multilateral response to the pandemic in cooperation with the UN and other international institutions. The “Team Europe” package will focus on supporting COVID-19 response efforts by the World Health Organization and the UN, among others.
The EU has been engaged heavily in efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that places limits on Iran’s nuclear programme and provides sanctions relief. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy serves as the coordinator of the Joint Commission, which is composed of the parties to the agreement. The agreement, which the Council endorsed in 2015 in resolution 2231, has faced a precarious future since the US withdrew from it in May 2018. Iran has since gradually started to abandon its commitments under the agreement. On 5 January, it announced that it will no longer be bound by the uranium enrichment limits set out in the JCPOA while emphasising that it would return to compliance if other parties fulfil their obligations under the agreement.
On 14 January, France, Germany and the UK formally referred Iran’s non-compliance to the Joint Commission’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism, setting in motion a process that could eventually result in initiating the so–called “snapback mechanism” which could lead to reinstating the UN sanctions on Iran that were in place before the adoption of resolution 2231. While the agreement sets specific time limits for the resolution of disputes, that period could be extended almost indefinitely if all parties agree. Eventually, if the dispute is not settled by the Joint Commission, if one of the parties formally notifies the Council on Iran’s non-compliance, the Council would have 30 days to vote on a resolution that would either continue the lifting of sanctions, or would cause the sanctions that were in place prior to the adoption of resolution 2231 to “snap back”.
On 31 March, special purpose vehicle INSTEX—a mechanism established in early 2019 by France, Germany and the UK to mitigate the effects of US sanctions on Iran and facilitate legitimate trade between the EU and Iran—completed its first transaction between Europe and Iran. The transaction included the export of medical equipment to Iran, which is one of the countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the context of peacekeeping, cooperation between the EU and the UN is most prominent in Africa, where the two organisations work alongside one another in several countries. The EU provides training for security forces and assists in security sector reform in the Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia. The EU also provides salaries for the UN-authorised AU Mission in Somalia. Member states of the EU are the largest collective contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget, providing over 30 percent of total contributions.
Borrell is also likely to discuss the Middle East peace process, the situation in Libya, the humanitarian situation in Iraq, cooperation with other regional organisations, transnational crime, climate change, and sustainable development, among other issues.
The EU members of the Council have made a concerted effort to coordinate their positions and present a unified front on some issues on the Council’s agenda, such as Kosovo, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela. Another practice that has emerged over the past several years has been for the EU members of the Council (including incoming and recent former members) to make joint statements at the Council media stakeout, presenting the EU position on specific Security Council issues.
Currently, four Council members—Belgium, Estonia, Germany and France—are also EU members. The UK, which stopped being a member of this group on 31 January when it formally left the EU, has occasionally joined the four EU members in such statements.
UN DOCUMENTS ON EU-UN COOPERATION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 October 2019S/RES/2491||This resolution renewed the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.|
|20 July 2015S/RES/2231||This was a resolution that endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|14 February 2014S/PRST/2014/4||This was a presidential statement on cooperation between the UN and the EU, highlighting the EU’s comprehensive approach to maintenance of international peace and security.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 March 2019S/PV.8482||This was a briefing by Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.|
|9 May 2017S/PV.7935||This was a briefing by Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on cooperation between the EU and the UN.|