February 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2023
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EU-UN Cooperation

Expected Council Action

In February, the Security Council will hold its annual meeting on strengthening EU-UN cooperation under the agenda item “Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security”. Malta’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade Ian Borg is expected to chair the meeting. Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is expected to brief.

No formal outcome is anticipated.

Background and Key Recent Developments

For at least the past decade, the relationship between the EU and the UN has continued to develop. The Council has maintained the practice of holding annual briefings on cooperation between the EU and the UN since 2010, although these briefings were not held in 2012 and 2018. Since 2013, Council members have also held annual informal meetings with members of the EU Political and Security Committee.

In 2014, the Council adopted a presidential statement on EU-UN cooperation. Among other things, the statement welcomed the EU’s cooperation with the UN and its contributions towards the maintenance of international peace and security, along with its involvement in international negotiations and mediation processes.

In July 2022, emphasising the universality of the principles of the UN Charter, the EU adopted its priorities for 2022-2023, which include, among other things, “upholding the UN Charter and the rule of law, addressing the global consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and promoting sustainable development and human rights”.

During the Council’s 14 December 2022 open debate on “New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism”, EU Ambassador Olof Skoog noted that the basic principles of the UN Charter remain at the core of renewed multilateralism, which includes “a commitment to maintaining international peace and security, upholding international law, promoting sustainable development, defending and promoting human rights, and respect[ing] obligations arising from mutually agreed commitments and treaties”. He further shared the EU’s commitment to supporting “African-led Peace Support Operations and ongoing discussions to use UN assessed contributions for operations authorized by the UN Security Council”.

In remarks on 7 July 2022, Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the EU and the UN share in-depth cooperation not only on peace and security, sustainable and inclusive development, and human rights, but also on addressing the challenges emerging from COVID-19 and climate change.

During the last Council briefing on EU-UN cooperation on 16 June 2022, Borrell highlighted the EU’s contributions towards complementing the UN’s effort with regard to crisis management, implementing arms embargoes, countering piracy, peacebuilding, and peace-making, among others. In addition, he stressed the need to strengthen multilateralism in respect of climate change and fighting pandemics.

The EU has been heavily involved in efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy serves as the coordinator of the Joint Commission—composed of the parties to the agreement, which at present are China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and Iran—and oversees the implementation of the JCPOA. In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the agreement in May 2018, the coordinator has been leading the diplomatic efforts to negotiate the return of the US to the JCPOA and seeking to ensure full implementation of the agreement by all parties.

In early August 2022, the EU put forth a compromise text in an attempt to restore the JCPOA. This text laid down the necessary steps for the US to return to the JCPOA and for Iran to resume full implementation of the agreement. In the latest Council briefing on the JCPOA on 19 December 2022, Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, the deputy head of the EU delegation to the UN, noted that since the submission of the compromise text, “developments have added significant new layers of complications that makes it increasingly difficult to reach a deal”. Moreover, he said that the EU Council has decided that “any transfer of certain combat drones and missiles to or from Iran without prior permission by the UN Security Council is in violation of Resolution 2231 [which endorsed the JCPOA]”. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 18 December 2022).

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU has issued a wide range of measures against Russia and Russian officials, including freezing assets, imposing travel bans, disconnecting Russian financial institutions from SWIFT (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), and imposing export controls on dual-use goods and technologies that have both civilian and military applications. In the most recent round of sanctions, introduced on 16 December 2022, the EU imposed bans on, among other things, the export of drone engines, transactions with the Russian regional development bank, and investments in the Russian mining sector. At the time of writing, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against a total of 1,386 individuals and 171 entities as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Cooperation between the EU and the UN is especially evident in Africa. The EU considers Africa a “geopolitical priority”. The EU provides training for security forces and assists in security sector reform in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Somalia. On 15 October 2021, the EU launched a new military training mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique) to help address the situation in Cabo Delgado, where violence perpetrated by non-state actors has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The EU also contributes to the salaries of the personnel of the UN-authorised AU Mission in Somalia.

In a 10 November 2022 Council briefing on counter-terrorism in Africa, Benedikta von Seherr-Thoss, the managing director for common security and defence policy and crisis response at the European External Action Service (the EU’s diplomatic service), emphasised that the EU’s strategic partnership initiatives with the UN in Africa, such as EU-UN Global Terrorism Threat Facility and Global Counter Terrorism Forum, have created important synergies between the UN and EU missions on the ground.

EU member states provide a significant collective contribution to the UN’s regular budget (38 percent) and more than two-fifths of the budget for UN peacekeeping operations. At the time of writing, the EU has deployed around 4,000 personnel in 18 EU-led CSDP missions, of which seven are military operations. (CSDP refers to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.)

Council Dynamics

Presently, two Council members—France and Malta—are EU members. The UK, which has not been a member of the EU since 31 January 2020, has occasionally joined EU members in making joint statements. Albania has been an official candidate for EU accession since June 2014, having applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009. The first intergovernmental conference between the EU and Albania was held in July 2022, which opened the accession negotiations.

At the June 2022 briefing on EU-UN cooperation, Russia said its relations with the EU were “tunneling below rock bottom”. The relationship between the two deteriorated precipitously following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. In response to the joint declaration signed by the EU and NATO on 10 January, which aims to strengthen and expand the strategic partnership between the two organisations, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that “the Joint Declaration…has reaffirmed the EU’s full subordination to the bloc, which is a military instrument being used to ensure US interests”. Russia is expected to criticise the EU’s use of sanctions and its supplying of arms to Ukraine at the annual meeting.

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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
19 December 2022S/PV.9225 This was the biannual Council briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231 of 20 July 2015.
14 December 2022S/PV.9220 This was an open debate titled “New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism” under the agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security”.
10 November 2022S/PV.9188 This was a debate titled “Counter-terrorism in Africa: An imperative for peace, security and development” under the agenda item “Threats to international peace and security”.
16 June 2022S/PV.9065 This was the annual meeting on strengthening EU-UN cooperation.