EU-UN Cooperation

SECURITY COUNCIL AND WIDER UN STRUCTURE

EU-UN Cooperation

Expected Council Action 

In March, the Council will hold a meeting on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, with a focus on strengthening the partnership with the EU. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will brief the Council. The Secretary-General may also brief. 

No outcome was expected at press time.

Background

Meetings on cooperation between the EU and the UN are starting to become a regular feature of the work of the Council, illustrating the growing importance of this relationship for both organisations. This will be the sixth formal meeting on EU-UN cooperation. With the exception of 2012, the Council has been holding these meetings annually since 2010. The Council formally endorsed the relationship in 2014 when it adopted a presidential statement on cooperation between the EU and the UN. Since 2013, Council members have also met informally on an annual basis with members of the EU Political and Security Committee.  

Key Recent Developments

The precarious situation in the Middle East caused by fallout from the Syrian conflict, as well as the refugee crisis in Europe and the heightened threat of terrorism, continue to occupy a great part of the agenda of both the EU and the Council. In 2015, Mogherini frequently visited the UN and met with the Security Council. This demonstrated the growing interaction and relationship between the two organisations in tackling challenges to international peace and security.   

In March 2015, Mogherini briefed the Council specifically on cooperation between the EU and the UN. She used this opportunity to reiterate the importance of the partnership with the UN and other regional organisations in dealing with a variety of challenges. Mogherini outlined the main issues faced by the EU, such as the situation in Ukraine, extremism, terrorism and the migration crisis. In addition, Mogherini also spoke about cooperation between the two organisations in peacekeeping and managing the Ebola crisis.  

Mogherini was back in New York on 28 April 2015 to attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference and used the opportunity to meet with some Council members, in particular its EU members—France, Lithuania, Spain and the UK. The primary issue during these meetings was migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the Mediterranean, including possible endorsement by the Council of the eventual EU enforcement operation aimed at disrupting “the business model” of the smuggling. The negotiations on the draft to authorise such an operation took several months and a resolution was adopted in October 2015.

Dealing with the escalation of the migration crisis and incidents of migrants’ drowning in the Mediterranean became one of the EU’s main priorities in 2015. On 11 May 2015, Mogherini briefed the Council on the integrated strategy of  the EU to address the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean. Following the briefing, the Council held an informal interactive dialogue with Mogherini and the AU representative.  

In June 2015, the EU authorised EU NAVAFOR (renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September), an operation aimed at identifying, capturing and disposing of vessels as well as disabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. On 9 October, the Council provided legal backing for Operation Sophia by adopting resolution 2240. It authorised member states and regional organisations to inspect and seize vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya if it is suspected and confirmed that they were being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya.

Though consumed by the migration crisis in 2015, the EU continued its significant diplomatic efforts in Ukraine. The leaders of EU members France and Germany played key roles in reaching the second Minsk agreement in February 2015, which significantly reduced hostilities in eastern Ukraine and created a roadmap for a solution. Pending full implementation of the Minsk agreement, the EU maintains sanctions on Russia because of its involvement in eastern Ukraine. The EU also provides significant financial assistance to Ukraine and maintains the EU Advisory Mission, whose aim is to assist security sector reforms in Ukraine.

EU coordination and its diplomatic efforts were instrumental in the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue, which led to agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015. After verification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA on 16 January, the EU lifted all nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran.

Cooperation between the EU and the UN is most evident in Africa, where the two organisations work together on several peacekeeping issues. The EU provides training for security forces and assists in security sector reform in the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and Somalia. In 2014, the Council authorised an EU military mission in the CAR with responsibility for security in the Bangui area. The mission ended in March 2015. In Somalia, the EU also provides salaries for the UN-mandated AU Mission to Somalia.   

In addition to the aforementioned issues, Mogherini will likely emphasise the importance of dealing with other matters on the agenda of both organisations. These are mainly a political settlement in Syria, establishment of a unity government in Libya, counter-terrorism, countering religious extremism and the Middle East peace process.    

Key Issues

Considering the growing number of challenges and threats faced by both the EU and the UN, the main issue is to generate a constructive discussion about cooperation between the two organisations. Another issue is how to strengthen this relationship and make it more effective, especially in situations where there are overlapping agendas.    

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council has been generally supportive of the cooperation between the UN and the EU. Considering the multitude of threats to international peace and security and the challenges they pose to both the EU and the UN, Council members seem to be eager to hold a meeting with Mogherini.

The Council’s dynamics with the EU have been affected by the rift between Russia and Western members of the Council over the crisis in Ukraine. The EU has maintained sanctions on Russia since July 2014 because of its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The lifting of sanctions is contingent on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and Russia’s compliance in that regard. Russia holds the position that sanctions other than those imposed by the Security Council are counterproductive and undermine the primacy of the Council. Despite some hostility between the EU and Russia over Ukraine, the two have managed to cooperate on other issues. During the March 2015 briefing, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that cooperation with the EU continues on an array of issues, such as “terrorism, religious extremism, piracy, drug trafficking, transnational crime, illegal migration, combating the Ebola virus, dealing with the Middle East peace process and resolving the situations in Libya and around Iran’s nuclear program”. Russia is likely to emphasise the subordinate role of regional organisations based on the provisions of the UN Charter, in particular Chapter VIII.

UN Documents
Security Council Resolutions
9 October 2015 S/RES/2240 This resolution authorised the interdiction of vessels used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
17 October 2005 S/RES/1631 This resolution addressed the issue of cooperation between the UN and regional organisations and stressed the role of regional organisations in addressing the issue of small arms.
Security Council Presidential Statement
14 February 2014 S/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
11 May 2015 S/PV.7439 This was a briefing on the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.
9 March 2015 S/PV.7402 This was a briefing by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, on cooperation between the EU and the UN.