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Effective Multilateralism

Today’s global challenges—sustainable development, climate change, and humanitarian crises, among others—can only be managed by nations working in partnership. To respond successfully, the international community needs efficient multilateral systems founded on universal rules and values.  The EU actively participates in multilateral institutions like the UN, the Council of Europe, the G8, and the G20, among others.

United Nations

In addition to the active participation of the EU Member States, the European Union has been a permanent observer at the United Nations since 1974, with Delegations at major UN sites: New York, Geneva, Vienna, Rome, and Paris.  Since 2011, the EU has held enhanced observer status, meaning that the EU can speak in debates, submit proposals and amendments, reply, raise points of order, and circulate documents.

EU-UN cooperation occurs on a broad range of issues: development; climate change; peacebuilding in conflict-ridden countries; humanitarian assistance in crises; fighting corruption and crime; addressing global health concerns; labor issues; and culture. The partnership reflects the European Union’s commitment to “effective multilateralism,” with the United Nations at its core—a central element of the EU’s foreign policy.

Together, the 28 EU Member States comprise more than one-eighth of all votes in the UN General Assembly and one-fifth of the membership in the UN Security Council.  EU Member States together are the single largest financial contributor to the UN system, funding 38 percent of the organization’s regular budget, more than 40 percent of UN peacekeeping operations, and about one-half of all UN member countries’ contributions to UN funds and programs. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, also contributes more than €1 billion to support external assistance programs and projects.

The EU Member States, the Council of the EU, and the Commission meet regularly to coordinate their positions and give their collective weight greater impact. Since the mid-1990s, they have stood together on about 95 percent of all resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly. EU candidate countries, potential candidate countries, and members of the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area also frequently align their positions with those of the EU.

The EU is party to more than 50 UN multilateral agreements and conventions as the only non-state participant, and has obtained “full participant” status in many major UN conferences.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe (COE), an international organization established in 1949, in Strasbourg, France, to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe, counts all 28 EU countries among its 47 member states. The COE’s European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) lies at the heart of both organizations’ activities, and is enshrined in the EU’s treaty.

The EU cooperates with the Council of Europe on issues including protection of persons belonging to national minorities, the fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia, the fight against torture and ill-treatment, the fight against human trafficking, and freedom of expression and information. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency also works with the Council of Europe to promote respect for human rights inside the EU.

G8 and G20

The European Union is a full member of both the G8 and the G20; it is represented at summits by both the European Commission and European Council presidents.

The Group of Eight (G8), launched in the 1970s as a forum for the leaders of eight of the world’s most industrialized countries, aims to find solutions to global issues, including international development, health, peace and security, and climate change. G8 members include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

Since 1999, the Group of Twenty (G20) has contributed to strengthening the international financial architecture and fostering sustainable economic growth and development.

Established in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the G20 brought together the finance ministers and central bank governors of the major advanced and emerging economies to stabilize the global financial market.

To address the global financial and economic crisis that began in 2008, G20 summits were held twice in both 2009 and 2010, and once in 2011 and 2012. G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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