A Special Partnership with the UN: A European Perspective

When Ban Ki-moon was appointed eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations on 13 October 2006, he declared: "The world's people will not be fully served unless peace, development and human rights -- the three pillars of the UN -- are advanced together with equal vigour". Germany and its European Union partners support this ambitious goal he has set for his tenure at the helm of the United Nations.

The European Union (EU) is deeply committed to UN goals and principles. We are convinced that the United Nations is and remains the central institution for effective multilateralism, the "centre of gravity" of the multilateral system, as described by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Cooperation between these organizations has increased very significantly and will continue to do so. It is in their interest to have an evolving framework for their ever closer ties in addressing common challenges.

The expectations addressed at the United Nations and the Secretary-General have risen considerably in recent years. The UN role in ensuring peace and security and in shaping globalization to the advantage of all people in the world has been growing. To be able to fulfil the high demands placed on the Organization, its internal structure needs to be made fit for the twenty-first century. United Nations reform thus remains a top priority. A number of important aspects of this reform project have been achieved during the sixtieth General Assembly, for example the establishment of the Human Rights Council. The Peacebuilding Commission has been created to marshal the international community's resources to advise and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict recovery in countries emerging from conflict. The Central Emergency Response Fund, created to ensure a predictable and timely response to humanitarian crises, and the Democracy Fund, designed to support democratization throughout the world, both celebrated their first anniversaries a short while ago. The European Union is determined to advance the outstanding issues on the reform agenda, such as management reform, mandate review, environmental governance, the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence report and Security Council reform.

An important reform project of the Secretary-General took a significant step forward when the General Assembly endorsed his plans to designate a high representative for disarmament affairs and to restructure peacekeeping functions within the UN Secretariat. These proposed changes are designed to provide better planning, faster deployment and improved assistance to field missions. The European Union will continue to support any effort to make UN peacekeeping as effective as possible. With the number of peacekeeping operations having reached an all-time high, with almost 100,000 personnel in the field and a possible increase by as much as 40 per cent over the course of the next year, the European Union is called upon to provide yet more capabilities and troops.

The United Nations needs the capacities, experiences and skills that the European Union can provide, and the EU is ready to respond to that call. Therefore, EU Member States not only contribute well beyond one third of the UN peacekeeping budget, but also take part in various peacekeeping operations. For example, they assumed significant roles in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon in 2006. In addition, almost 3,000 German soldiers serve side by side with soldiers from many other EU Member States in the UN-mandated mission in Afghanistan. The European Union also responded favourably to the United Nations call to support its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before, and during, that country's elections. In the Balkans, both the United Nations and the European Union have been working hand in hand to restore peace and stability.

The Secretary-General, in a recent speech, listed the successful conclusion of the process to establish the future status of Kosovo as one of his top priorities for 2007. From a European point of view as well, solving this difficult conflict in the immediate neighbourhood of the European Union is long overdue. A solution will not only be in the interest of the people of Kosovo, but is also of vital importance for peace and stability in the region. After intense negotiations with the parties, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, presented his status proposal to the Security Council. The Secretary-General expressed his full support for both the comprehensive proposal and the recommendations made by Mr. Ahtisaari. As a member of the Balkans' Contact Group and with its current EU presidency, Germany will remain closely involved.

As for the United Nations, the quest for a peaceful, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict is of paramount importance to the European Union. While it is engaging both parties to the conflict in political matters, the EU is also tackling the humanitarian challenges on the ground, providing substantial assistance to UN agencies in the field and to households, and social and health-related services. However, it is through the framework of the Middle East Quartet that the United Nations and the European Union, together with the Russian Federation and the United States, are preparing the way ahead. In 2007, the Quartet set out with renewed determination to help the conflicting parties in bringing about peace and stability -- a determination we share with a number of neighbours and regional parties. Uniting in this effort to advance the peace process could well prove to open a new and promising perspective on solving the conflict.

The search for a negotiated diplomatic solution to the dispute concerning the Iranian nuclear programme will remain one of the most urgent challenges. Germany, with France and the United Kingdom and supported by the United States, the Russian Federation and China (the so-called E3+3), has been working intensively on this issue. E3+3 shares the Secretary-General's deep concern over the fact that Iran has been failing to suspend its uranium enrichment and related activities, and has repeatedly not complied with Security Council requirements. No one wants to deny Iran its right, laid down in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, the Council has made it clear that the international community expects cooperation and transparency from Iran. Thus, it has asked Iran to take the steps required by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which are essential to building confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme. The European Union, therefore, calls upon Iran to comply with these requirements, thereby opening the way to finding a negotiated long-term solution to this nuclear issue. The international community must continue to stand united and firm in supporting this aim.

The situation in Sudan is at the top of the EU's African agenda. The European Union shares the Secretary-General's concern about the continuing deterioration of the security and human rights situations and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur that afflicts millions of people. We support his call for a re-energized and inclusive political process in Darfur and share his expectation that the Sudanese Government accepts the three-phase approach to enhance peacekeeping in Darfur. After having made available some 400 million euros to the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS), the European Union remains committed to contributing further, financially, to AMIS in the period leading up to the deployment of African Union and United Nations hybrid force. On Somalia, the Secretary-General and the European Union share the conviction that every effort must be made to bring about a genuine and credible dialogue for reconciliation. A comprehensive and inclusive political process, reaching out to all sectors of Somali society, is a necessary precondition for the achievement of lasting stability in the country. The EU stands ready to assist in this process.

The European Union is also committed to working on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and therefore has continuously increased its official development assistance, with the objective of reaching 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2015, the target year for the achievement of these goals. While the progress that has so far been made in Asia and Latin America is very encouraging, challenges remain great in Africa and Oceania. The European Union fully supports efforts to increase assistance for these regions. Under the German presidency, the EU has made it a top priority to intensify the development partnership with Africa.

On the environment, the European Union is also committed to achieving significant progress in upcoming discussions in 2007. In early March, the European Council took far-reaching decisions on climate change and energy policy. The European Union will strive for progress on energy efficiency and renewable energies during the 15th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. It is constructively engaged in discussions of a more coherent institutional framework for the environmental activities of the UN system. It is committed to strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme and upgrading it to a UN organization on an equal footing with other UN economic and social bodies.

The European Union has been a staunch supporter of the Global Compact since its inception and is pleased with how the Compact office has evolved over the years. The idea of business responsibility in a globalizing world has far-reaching economic, social, political and security ramifications. We see the Global Compact as an innovative way of extending the role of the United Nations. By engaging the private sector in UN activities, it can offer valuable services to the Secretary-General.

It is Germany's responsibility to organize and coordinate the work of the Member States of the European Union in New York while it holds the rotating EU presidency. During this time, it is striving to facilitate discussions and promote agreement on the EU's contribution to the United Nations. We believe, by speaking with one voice and keeping the European Union unity when voting in the General Assembly and other UN bodies, the European Union can play a significant part in the work of the United Nations.

Of special importance to us is the coordination of EU engagement with all other Member States and groups of Member States of the United Nations. Our emphasis on this partnership approach is deeply rooted in the European historical experience. In the past century, Europe has lived through division -- until 1989 the wall and barbed wire across Germany symbolized the division of Europe and the world in two blocs -- but has also experienced what it means to overcome this division. Both experiences have shaped our view of the world: the European Union stands for a policy of dialogue and for the peaceful reconciliation of differing interests. It is in this spirit that we are committed to actively reaching out to all Member States and groups of Member States within the United Nations.