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Brussels Meets Westphalia: The European Union and the United Nations

Publication date: 2016-01
Pages: 299 - 323
ISBN: 9781509900558 ISSN: 2513-9096
Publisher: Hart Publishing; Oxford


Wouters, Jan
Chané, Anna-Luise


European Union, United Nations, Effective Multilateralism, Legal Status, External Representation, Internal Coordination, EU-UN Cooperation, Social Sciences, Area Studies, Law, Government & Law, ORGANIZATIONS


As ‘the world’s most successful case of multilateralism’ the European Union has demonstrated since its early beginnings a commitment to multilateralism as the preferred form of global governance. In particular, it recognized the UN as the apex of the international system, with which the EU aspires to cooperate and through which it intends to pursue its policy objectives. However, the Union’s engagement with the UN has in practice been fraught with difficulties. The EU, as a regional international organization with strong supranational features, has been faced with the challenges of multilateral diplomacy in a predominantly state-centric global institution. It has so far not only been unable to assume the aspired leadership position, but faces a general lack of effectiveness. This paper seeks to provide an overview of the legal basis for EU participation at the UN and the various forms that this participation can take. It addresses issues of EU internal coordination and external representation at the UN, takes a closer look at the practical EU-UN cooperation on the ground and highlights the ensuing challenges and opportunities. While the Lisbon reform of the EU external relations architecture has led to noticeable improvements in terms of continuity and effectiveness, considerable challenges still remain.