© European Union 2012
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, addressed the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the European Union in New York on 26 September 2012. He expressed the EU's views on developments in the Arab world, the violent demonstrations in some countries and the civil war in Syria, and called for a coordinated effort towards global economic recovery.
Focusing his intervention on the democratic transitions following the Arab Spring, President Van Rompuy reiterated the EU's support to these transitions, stating that "achieving lasting change takes time. New democratic institutions don’t run smoothly by magic. Turning economies around or creating jobs for millions of young men and women doesn’t happen at the wave of a wand. Deep tensions don't suddenly dissolve once a dictator has gone."
Herman Van Rompuy welcomed the achievements of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and of other countries in successfully organising democratic elections, in which many citizens voted freely for the first time in their lives – elections for which the EU has lent expertise to national and local authorities.
In order to bring jobs, social justice and freedom of expression to all, this democratic process will have to overcome the obstacles of corruption, of red tape, of economic privileges, and maintain the political determination to ensure inclusiveness. The EU contributes to the process by offering advice to entrepreneurs and officials; helping train judges and policemen; and supporting journalists and civil society groups.
Herman Van Rompuy also reminded world leaders faced with recent violent protests of their responsibility in building tolerance and respect as key values for living together: "Respect, tolerance and non-violence are the core values without which living together harmoniously is not possible."
On Syria, Herman Van Rompuy deplored the civil war raging in the country. Despite the support and humanitarian aid deployed by Europe and others, no progress can be made unless the international community unites to end the violence. The longer the conflict continues, the more people will become radicalised, the more lives will be lost, and the longer the reconciliation process will take.
He continued by inviting the international community to address the instable situation in the Sahel region and in the region of the Great Lakes and find a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
Turning to the economic situation, Herman Van Rompuy said that all major economies need to play their part in putting the world economy back on the path of growth. He summarised the efforts devoted by the EU to overcoming the crisis, such as the reform of the European economies in order to become more competitive and create jobs, as well as the first steps to build a banking union.
Concluding his address, he reminded the Assembly of the path chosen by Europe to put behind it years of war and dictatorship. The European project has contributed to establishing a continent united in peace, in search of social justice and prosperity.
This is the second time that the President of the European Council has represented the EU at the UN General Assembly. In May 2011, a UN resolution invited the EU to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly and established its right to present the positions of the EU and its member states at the UN. Prior to this resolution, representatives of the rotating Council presidency expressed EU positions at the UN General Assembly.
Full text of declaration (pdf)
Statement by Herman Van Rompuy at the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel (pdf)
The President of the European Council at the UN
Extracts of Herman Van Rompuy's address to the General Assembly (Council TVNewsroom)
Herman Van Rompuy's address to the General Assembly, with link to press conference webcast (webtvun.org)
General Assembly of the United Nations