EU to remain on the sidelines at UN Assembly after 'surprise' refusal to grant it more rights - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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EU to remain on the sidelines at UN Assembly after 'surprise' refusal to grant it more rights

Sunday, 19 September 2010
Posted on Th!nk3As the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit kicks off in New York tomorrow, the European Union will resume its place on the bench on the sidelines as it emerges its attempt to win increased rights was ‘surprisingly’ defeated.

Previously angered by such a proposal, regional groups including the likes of the African Union, ASEAN, and the Caribbean regional grouping Caricom opposed the demand because they have not been given similar treatment and saw it unfair that the EU should win additional rights and not them also.

Indeed it was Caricom that called for the resolution to be deferred and in the end, the Assembly voted 76 against 71, with 26 abstentions, to defer action on the EU draft until later in the 65th session of the General Assembly.

If the proposal, which outlined that other regional organisations could also follow the same path in the future anticipating such a demand, had been adopted it would have awarded the EU the right to make proposals and submit amendments, the right of reply, the right to raise points of order and the right to circulate documents. There would also be additional seats put in the chamber for the EU's foreign policy chief, High Representative Catherine Ashton and her officials.

As a result of its defeat, when the MDG review summit begins it will remain the case that only the member state that holds the rotating presidency of the EU (currently Belgium) will be able to speak on behalf of the European Union in the UN chamber.

This bizarre situation spectacularly came to light again when Baroness Ashton was recently prevented from taking the floor at a special UN meeting on aid to Pakistan despite the EU being the biggest donor to the flood-devastated country. Instead, it was Steven Vanacker, the Belgian Foreign Minister, who then had to relay the EU’s message as his country is the current holder of the rotating presidency.

According to reports by the EUObserver, the defeat came as something of a surprise to European ambassadors who had been hoping that the resolution would be approved in time for the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton to represent the bloc in New York.

The reason for the defeat was attributed in a later report to “a ‘ramshackle’ strategy” on the part of the EU “that even disgruntled some of the bloc's closest allies, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

One diplomat reportedly told the EUObserver that "one word describes how the EU acted there: Confusion, overall confusion.

"It was a ramshackle, pretty disorganised EU strategy," the official said. "The process fell apart. It was not thought through properly and their people just did not consult widely. They did not really consider the possible objections, especially from the Caribbean, and thought they would just die away."

It is believed that even the delegations received the wording of the EU motion very late the night before the vote, which was to take place early the following morning –far too short-notice to appropriately contemplate how to vote for such an important political and symbolical decision.

Apparently, the three counties remain "fully supporters of the EU” and “there was no opposition to the issue itself by any means. The issue was process, not the content,” which is perhaps an encouraging sign. But it does seem bizarre that for a 27-member bloc where nearly all decisions require tactful negotiation, compromise and forward-planning that such a proposal fell victim to a “ramshackle” strategy.

The 65th session has already begun, but the agenda is already quite full and so as a result the discussion over the EU’s proposal for extra rights in the UN Assembly Chamber is not expected until well into 2011. Plenty of time therefore for the EU to devise a more appropriate strategy to win the support it requires.

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