After succeeding to allay the fears of smaller states that their influence would be eroded, the European Union has finally succeeded in its long bid to obtain a greater status at the UN – even if it’s only largely symbolic.
Now dubbed a “super-observer
”, the European Union will be conferred special rights in the General Assembly where it can now address UN meetings through its own officials, rather than through the country currently holding its rotating presidency, can present amendments orally, and exercise a limited right of reply.
However, this status upgrade is largely symbolic since it still will not have voting rights, shall remain seated on the margins of the chamber, and will not have the right to put forward candidacies nor to co-sponsor resolutions and decisions.
The resolution adopted today does not affect the UN's main decision-making body, the 15-member Security Council (UNSC
) in which France and the UK are veto-wielding permanent members and Germany and Portugal are non-permanent members until January 2013.
The EU has wanted to upgrade its status at the UN since its member states approved the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, when its introduction gave birth to its own permanent diplomatic service, the EEAS, to streamline the 27-member bloc's foreign policy processes. A first attempt by the EU to gain special rights failed in September 2010, when many developing countries voted against it – a result that surprised many EU officials
The UN motion (A/65/L.64/Rev.
) was passed last night with 180 votes in favour to none objections. Zimbabwe and Syria abstained and 10 further countries did not take part in the vote. The EU will now be on an equal footing with the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.
The adoption of the motion, announced by the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, via his Twitter feed (@EUHvR
), means that himself and Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief, now have the right to address the Assembly, and the EU will also be placed much higher on the speakers' list.
Baroness Ashton, who was in New York on lobby duty ahead of the vote, was on hand to address the General Assembly meeting and said that the adoption of the resolution will allow the EU to project a "clearer voice
" to the UN.
"I am very pleased that the United Nations General Assembly adopted today's Resolution, which takes account of the institutional changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty […] I have set great store by the EU's cooperation with the UN, so I am delighted that this Resolution will allow us to continue to support the UN's vital work in a coherent and effective manner
," she said
The decision, while still small, now opens the door for other blocs such as the Arab League and African Union to seek similar enhanced status.