EU Contribution to UN Peacekeeping


Since 1948, when the UN deployed its first peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, there have been 70 other UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. Currently, the UN peacekeeping operations amount to 16, with 106,245 uniformed personnel in place. Since the first peacekeeping operations, nature of conflict evolved to be more robust and multifaceted. While the demands for UN peace operations keep increasing, the UN has difficulties coping with international challenges on its own.  This prompted the organization to seek for closer partners, which have adequate capabilities to support UN peacekeeping operations.

In light of this, the UN pursued to foster its cooperation with the European Union. Both organizations are considered to be ‘natural partners’ due to their common norms and values, political interests, and their overarching goal of a peaceful world. Furthermore, the UN Secretary General stated that the EU assistance is essential because “it has well-developed capacities for crisis management, humanitarian relief and rapid response.”
UN-EU partnership was truly established in September 2003 with the first Joint Declaration on EU-UN cooperation in Crisis Management. It sets the framework for the UN-EU cooperation comprehending both civilian and military operations. The Declaration was developed following the unprecedented EU cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the EU Police Mission (the EU’s first CSDP mission) took over the UN international Police Task Force, and in Democratic Republic of Congo where the EU conducted Artemis, one of its first military operations.
Four years later, in June 2007, a new Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation was established to reinforce the commitments put in the 2003 Declaration. 

Today, the EU is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping. Indeed, EU military capabilities provided fundamental support to the UN peace operations to engage more effectively in mandates around the world. With its contribution of 38% of the UN’s budget, the EU has been the single largest benefactor to the UN budget. It also provided the largest contingent of peacekeepers to the UN peacekeeping.
Some assertions claimed that EU’s contribution to UN peacekeeping quantitatively decreased during the last decade (see graph below) for the reason that EU member states doubt the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping, and became more committed to EU-led and NATO-led missions. However, analysis found that European countries are fostering their commitment to UN-led peacekeeping efforts worldwide. For instance, Ireland is increasing activities for stronger commitment to the UN. Ban stated that “nearly 500 Irish men and women are stationed in the Middle East and across Africa in support of United Nations-mandated missions.” Political development in Irish participation in peace operations is a White Paper on Defence (2000). Major contributions to UN peace operations are UNIFIL in Lebanon, UNDOF in the Israel-syria sector, and UNMIL in Liberia. Austria accounts for the 6th largest contributor from EU states. Austrian officers served as force commanders in UNDOF, UNIKOM in Iraq-Kuwait, MINURSO in Western Sahara and UNMOGIP in Kashmir. Norway also represents an essential contributor to UN-led missions, it contributed to UNMISS in South Sudan, MINUSMA in Mali, in addition to UNMIL. In November 2015, Norway, UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the three Baltic countries recommitted to an agreement to provide a Joint Expeditionary Force (first established in 2014). It is a rapid reaction force meant to carry out operations. The countries agreed to make the force available to the UN.


One of the major practical operational successes between the EU and the UN was European Union commitment to UN SHIRBRIG. The SHIRBRIG was a multinational bridge, which became available as a rapidly deployable peacekeeping force of the UN. SHIRBRIG was involved in five UN missions under Chapter VI of the UN Charter. Its missions were generally concerned with planning, and resulted in success, earning it reputation of: “a cohesive force with the highest level of peacekeeping expertise and training standards.” [1]

The EU-UN Cooperation from the beginning has been “operation-driven” type of cooperation. This first “test case” and a form of success for the cooperation took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Where the EU and UN management capabilities were deployed, and managed stabilization, and following ESDP development.

In 2003 a first rapid military deployment of the EU in support of a UN Mission in Africa happened, in the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). The EU intervention in a shape of a rapid force deployment of 1800 troops resulted in UN strengthen operation position, and extended mandate.

The mission was successful in the terms of reaffirming the EU’s commitment to “effective multilateralism”, and successful application of the “standby model”.

The Kosovo crisis shares both successes and failures of the UN-EU cooperation, throughout UNMIK and EULEX-Kosovo in the field of state building. The close involvement of the EU in the settlement talks led by the UN through its SAP, resulted in improved UN-EU cooperation in Kosovo complex quasi-state environment. Both organizations were able to test their institutional efficiency and organizational capacity during status settlement, and state building of “failed-state”, and this allowed both to learn the important lessons from the Kosovo for their future state-building efforts and cooperation in management of crisis and the prevention of conflict. However, the key failure, and constraint in the Kosovo case remained EU-UN diverging political agendas and interests most prominent in divide among UN members’ opinions on the status of Kosovo. This resulted in overlapping competencies, and delays in decision-making, as well as a suboptimal legal framework for EULEX.

In conclusion, there are some general constraints to UN-EU cooperation, due to: inter-institutional cooperation, different political agendas on the one hand, and mutual dependence of the organizations on the other. A second constraint is the EU desire to keep its autonomy of maneuver in operations, and not to undermine sovereignty of its Member States.

Alice Stelmach and Magalie Bemba


[1] Curran, D., Fraser T., Roeder L. (2015), “Perspectives on Peacekeeping and Atrocity Prevention: Expanding Stakeholders and Regional Arrangements (Humanitarian Solutions in the 21st Century).” Springer, United States.


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Novosseloff A. (2011), “Options for improving EU-UN cooperation in the field of peacekeeping.” GGI Analysis 3/2011, Brussels: Global Governance Institute, Belgium.

Petrini, F. (2014), “Networks of Global Governance: International Organizations and European Integration in a Historical Perspective.” Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom.

Schmidt P., Zyla B. (2013), “European Security Policy and Strategic Culture.” Routledge, United Kingdom.“SHIRBRIG: Ready to deploy.” ,site accessed: 16 March, 2016.

United Nations,. Secretary-General, In Address On United Nations Peacekeeping, Hails Participation Of Ireland, From Afghanistan, To Chad To Kosovo. 2009. Web. Mar. 2016.

UN Dispatch. (2015). Ambassador Power to Europeans: Come Back to UN Peacekeeping! | UN Dispatch. [online] Available at: [Accessed Mar. 2016].

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