EU Losing Ground to Russia at UN, Report Says

BRUSSELS -- The European Union is losing ground on human rights issues at the United Nations to China and Russia, which oppose any interference in countries' internal affairs, a study says.

The report, published ahead of this week's UN General Assembly session of world leaders, urges the 27-nation EU to use its trade and aid agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations to rebuild influence. "The European Union is suffering a slow-motion crisis at the United Nations," write Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank.

Even though the Europeans are collectively the world's biggest aid donors and the main funders of UN programs, they have suffered defeats on Kosovo, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe in the last year and lost control of the Human Rights Council. An analysis of 10 years of UN voting statistics shows that the EU has lost the regular support of 41 former allies on human rights votes, mostly in Africa and Latin America.

Support for EU positions has fallen from over 70 percent in the late 1990s to around 50 percent in the last two years.

The trend in support for Chinese and Russian positions in the same votes has been almost the exact opposite, leaping from around 50 percent a decade ago to 74 percent for China and 76 percent for Russia in the last General Assembly session. "This reflects not only their outspoken commitment to sovereignty, but their diplomatic skill in playing the UN system," the authors say.

The authors argue that Europe must "erect a big tent," building shifting coalitions that can isolate a minority of hard-line states resisting efforts to limit national sovereignty.