"The United Nations and the European Union: Joining Forces for the Challenges of the 21st Century" (Statement nur in englisch)
Statement by Ursula Plassnik, Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs
Panel Discussion, Vienna Börsesäle, 25 April 2008
Dear Secretary-General Ban,
Foreign Minister Rupel,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I warmly welcome all of you and thank you for joining us here tonight. The co-operation and partnership between the EU and the UN is a subject that is naturally close to Austrian hearts - the UN having its only headquarters within the EU here in Vienna.
Co-operating with the UN and working within the UN system is in fact part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. The European Security Strategy of 2003 was clear on this point - and I quote:
"Strengthening the UN, equipping it to fulfil its responsibilities and to act effectively, is a European priority."
This is what we work on in our everyday efforts.
For us Europeans, co-operation with the UN is far more than words:
- The EU contributes 38% to the UN’s regular budget and more than 40% to the budget of peacekeeping operations.
- We provide more than 50% of the voluntary contributions to the UN funds and programmes.
- The EU is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide.
- We contribute more than 55% to global development aid.
- And we participate in 22 UN missions worldwide with approximately 10.000 peacekeepers deployed on the ground.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These figures are an important expression of our commitment and our close partnership.
In 2006 alone, some 43 million people received food aid, including 26 million children. Support was given to about 33 million refugees, and about 49 million square meters of land were cleared of mines thanks to the successful co-operation between the United Nations and the EU.
The European Union attaches particular importance to the work of the UN in the field of human rights. During the Austrian EU Presidency in 2006, we contributed very directly to the launching of the new Human Rights Council - the EU was instrumental in achieving agreement in the UN General Assembly.
We, Austria and Slovenia, also cherish our work because it allows smaller and medium-sized countries to make their contribution in the multilateral effort. We have important expertise and experience to offer which go beyond traditional bloc structures and enable us to make a real difference.
Let us have a look at the future and at our co-operation in the future. There are a couple of ideas I wanted to share with you:
One: The EU and the UN will have to define an optimal division of labour – what is done by the EU and what is done by the UN. The principle of "subsidiarity" we use in the EU is not foreign to the working of the UN: Some issues can better be dealt with by regional organisations such as the EU or the African Union. Let us encourage regional organisations to fully assume their responsibilities at the regional levels. At the same time, let us make sure that the UN can deal with issues that need to be dealt with at the global level.
There are a number of practical examples which we are working on right now: for example, our co-operation in Chad, where the EU works on the basis of a mandate or request by the UN. We facilitate and enable the humanitarian effort to be carried out. Our goal is to assist the UN over a limited period of time in helping our African friends on their way towards an African solution for what is essentially an African problem.
Second remark: At the same time, the EU is also ready to assume its own responsibilities in the European region with the UN as our partner. We have today discussed the responsibility which the EU is willing to take and has already taken in the past with regard to the stabilisation efforts in the Balkans, among others through the EU missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo.
Third remark: Mr. Secretary-General, you know that you can count on us, on our support as EU in the realisation of your own priorities at global level and the priorities of the UN. Let me just mention a few of them:
- We support your priorities in the fight against terrorism. The EU Member States are front runners in the ratification and practical implementation of relevant UN conventions, protocols and Security Council resolutions.
- We share your priorities in the field of disarmament and arms control, where the EU and its Member States have made decisive contributions towards the global prohibition of cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines and the limitation of small arms and lights weapons.
- We support the UN in dealing with the problem of climate change - a truly global issue which concerns us all.
- And let me mention one more issue: women and peace-building. I know that you are among the people who not only keep promoting the participation of women in all UN peace-building efforts on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1325, but also aim at making the contribution of women for the development of their societies more visible. And you are committed to fighting violence against women, an issue on which we all have to join forces.
Recently the dramatic increase in food prices has once more highlighted the vulnerability of so many inhabitants, even societies in our global villages - another one of the big challenges where the EU and the UN will have to work and are working together both to analyse the complex causes for the current crisis as well as to find remedies. We have to contribute to this, each and every one of us, on the bilateral side, and we are willing to do so.
Thank you once more for being here with us, for highlighting this challenging and very fruitful partnership. I’m looking forward to your remarks and to the discussion we will have afterwards.