Paris '07 Workshop
The EU Cannot Save the World, but the UN Can Try
"...working with the UN requires commitment and
patience. While the EU sets norms for France and Finland,
the UN tries to do the same for Switzerland and Swaziland. The differences in development
and capacity between UN's Member States are huge and UN norms are
bound to be less deep than EU norms. However,
they are unrivalled in their legitimacy... "
- The EU has exceeded all expectations in making Europe - once one of world's worst hotbeds of strife and extremism - into a haven for peace and prosperity in a mere fifty years. Measured against this benchmark the UN appears decidedly as an underachiever: struggling with its core mission to keep the world safe and improve the lot of human kind.
- The strong normative basis, ever deepening cooperation and tangible results have oriented European capitals, administrations and elites towards Brussels. Maybe sometimes this has been at the expense of the truly global perspective. This is understandable, but I think this could be dangerous in a rapidly globalising world: the real threats and challenges faced by our citizens, soldiers and business people emanate outside Europe.
- No-one can tackle these problems alone, least the EU that was built on the premise of co-operation and multilateralism. For the present day challenges we have no option but to seek answers through the UN with its old fashioned structures, often cumbersome bureaucracy and tedious negotiations. The EU has strongly pledged itself politically to effective multilateralism; we have to be ready to follow through with our commitment.
- When it comes to norm setting, working with the UN requires commitment and patience. While the EU sets norms for France and Finland, the UN tries to do the same for Switzerland and Swaziland. The differences in development and capacity between UN's Member States are huge and UN norms are bound to be less deep than EU norms. However, they are unrivalled in their legitimacy, and it is worth remembering that for a significant number of the world's nations - if not the majority - the UN is the only source of international norms.
- The inclusiveness of the UN is another factor to be kept in mind. The reader of the Charter is struck by the modernity of its conceptualisation: the UN simultaneously represents the people and states. Every one of us has a stake in the UN.
- For the last few years the pace of normative work in the international community has been significantly slower than during the 1990s. Instead, much more work has been devoted to enhancing the capacity of the international organisations to respond to crises; this is evident both in the UN and EU. The UN has rethought peacekeeping with ideas stemming from the Brahimi report as well as the debate on the responsibility to protect. The retooling of peacekeeping now underway in New York is required for the UN to be able to handle the unprecedented scope of operations.
- Peacekeeping - the blue helmets - has become one of the most important brands of the UN. The strengths stemming from legitimacy and inclusiveness in peace operations are clear. UN operations have demonstrated survivability and it also seems that the UN is the most cost effective way to run peace operations. In fact, it would be interesting to see detailed comparisons and analyses of the costs of similar UN and EU operations.
- However, we have to recognise the constraints of UN peacekeeping. UN peacekeeping does and will also in the future require the consent of the parties. Planning and deployment will take time and the military capabilities of UN operations will be limited.
- The operational complementarities of the UN and EU have been greatly increased by the strides the EU has taken towards developing its capabilities in crisis management - strides that are so well known in this crowd that I do not need to flesh them out in detail. The significant increase in operational capabilities of the EU - including robust operations with air and maritime assets as required - as well as the ability for a rapid deployment of battle groups are major assets as these capabilities address arguably the biggest constraints of UN operations.
- The challenge now is how the EU will utilise and develop these new capabilities. The best option would be to do it in close cooperation with the UN. As the recent operations in Congo have demonstrated, the EU has a lot to offer to the UN, especially in terms of rapid deployment. The UN in turn can offer the EU its unparalleled legitimacy and cost effectiveness. Often the price of going it alone would be simply too high for the EU, both politically and financially.
- No matter what the practical arrangements for the co-operation between the UN and the EU - a formal strategic reserve or some other arrangement - the most important factor is the strong political will within the EU to look beyond the European horizon and assume global responsibility. It is clear to me that being true to its multilateral heart; the EU can only fulfil its global destiny through the UN.