Secretary-General hails “indispensable” UN-EU partnership

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres praised the European Union as a “vital partner” which “serves as an inspiration to the world” during a solemn speech addressed to the European Parliament on Thursday (June 24).

“We live at a time when the strategic partnership between the European Union and the United Nations is more indispensable than ever”, said the Secretary-General, who is in Brussels to meet with European leaders and Belgian authorities. It is his first overseas trip since being re-appointed to a second term.

During his speech to Members of the European Parliament, the Secretary-General said contributing to more effective global cooperation would be a priority for his second term in office.

“We are at a crossroads and the situation can go either way: breakdown or breakthrough. Breakdown and perpetual crisis – or breakthrough leading to a greener, safer and better future for all. I will do everything in my power to push for breakthroughs”, he said.

Greatest moral test of our times

Mr Guterres thanked the EU for its support to the UN, including through humanitarian donations and contributions to the COVAX Facility. EU Member States recently committed to donating at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in need by the end of 2021.

He called, however, for a global vaccination plan, urging the EU to use its leverage as a global actor to help ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all. The world needs 11 billion doses of vaccines to meet the target of vaccinating 75 per cent of the world’s population.

“Vaccine equity is not only the greatest moral test of our times. It is also a matter of effectiveness (…) We must step up the global vaccination effort,” Mr Guterres told lawmakers to a round of applause.

Leading the way on climate 

On climate commitments, the EU has “shown the way”, Mr Guterres said, including through its Green Deal, a commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“This drive for net zero emissions must become the new normal for everyone, everywhere – every country, company, city and financial institution,” he said, calling for net zero commitments to be underpinned by clear dates to end fossil fuel subsidies and finance. There must also be credible plans to halve emissions by 2030 at the latest, he added.

Trust must also be reestablished between developed and developing countries, with Mr Guterres looking to the EU to become a “powerful bridge-builder” in the run-up to COP26, the UN’s climate change conference.

Sharing the same DNA

During his visit to Brussels, Mr Guterres also met with the European Commission and held a session with Heads of State and Governments of the European Council. The Secretary-General urged the EU to “champion universal values and fundamental rights and help lead the way.”

UNSG Antonio Guterres and Charles Michel, President of the European Council
© UN Photo / Marian Blondeel

Speaking alongside Mr Guterres as he arrived for the meeting with EU leaders, European Council President Charles Michel said the EU and UN “shared the same DNA”.

“We are fully convinced that the multilateral approach is a necessary and helpful way to resolve the difficulties the world is facing in a lasting way”, Mr Michel said, a call echoed by European Commission, President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Parliament President, David Sassoli.

“We support you in your tireless work to strengthen multilateralism and to improve the rules-based order globally,” President Von der Leyen said, as she welcomed the Secretary-General at the European Commission.

Mr Guterres also met with Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, Meryame Kitir, Minister of Development Cooperation, and Zakia Khattabi, Minister for Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and the Green Deal.

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