Expected Council Action
In June, the Security 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 relationship between the UN and the EU has evolved over the years and has continued to grow in importance. Recognising this, the Council has maintained the practice of holding regular—usually annual—briefings on cooperation between the two organisations since 2010. (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.
The briefings on EU-UN cooperation generally follow a set pattern and address areas of cooperation between the two organisations. Borrell is likely to present the EU’s main foreign policy priorities and objectives and address current crises that overlap on the EU and Security Council agendas.
The EU has been heavily involved in efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the agreement that limits 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, at present China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and Iran. The agreement, which was endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2231 (2015), has faced a precarious future since the US withdrew from it in May 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating terms of the agreement a year later.
Negotiations began in Vienna in April regarding the US return to the agreement with the fourth round of talks beginning on 7 May. Senior diplomats urged caution but expressed hope in a statement that there was some “tangible progress with the contours of a final deal emerging”. The negotiators emphasised a “soft deadline” of 21 May, when an agreement between Tehran and the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, on continued monitoring of some Iranian nuclear activities was set to expire. The E3 diplomats (France, Germany and the UK) underscored that it was “critical” for Iran to let the IAEA continue its monitoring and verification work. “IAEA access will be essential to our efforts to restore the JCPOA, as a deal cannot be implemented without it”, they said in a statement. On 24 May, the IAEA and Iran extended the monitoring agreement by a month, which avoided a collapse that could have sent wider talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal into a crisis.
Cooperation between the EU and the UN is especially evident in Africa, which Borrell described during his last briefing as Europe’s “sister continent” and a strategic priority for the EU. The EU provides training for security forces and assists in security sector reform in the Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia. The EU also contributes to salaries for the UN-authorised AU Mission in Somalia. Lastly, the 27 member states of the EU are the largest collective contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget, providing over 30 percent of total contributions.
During his briefing, Borrell will most likely address the Middle East peace process, particularly the Israel-Palestinian ceasefire, which went into effect on 20 May after 11 days of fighting. In a statement issued after the ceasefire, Borrell noted that the situation in the Gaza Strip has long been “unsustainable” and “restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution” is essential.
The EU members of the Council have made an effort to coordinate their positions and present a unified front on some issues on the Council’s agenda, including Kosovo, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Another practice that has emerged over the last 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 stakeouts.
Presently, four Council members—Estonia, Ireland, Norway, and France—are also European members. The UK, which is no longer a member of this group since its 31 January 2020 formal departure from the EU, has occasionally joined the four EU members in making joint statements.
UN DOCUMENTS ON EU-UN COOPERATION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 July 2015S/RES/2231||This was a resolution that endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|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|
|2 June 2020S/2020/489||This letter transmitted the briefing by Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.|