EU wants broader UN rights, Britain tries to ease concerns

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The new look European Union will ask the UN for a greater voice in the world body, but Britain has already sought to ease any fears that the bloc would upstage member states, diplomats said Thursday.

The EU will submit a resolution that would give its new top officials, president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, the right to address the UN General Assembly in the name of the 27-nation bloc.

The union would also be able to circulate documents, make proposals and demand more seats, but it would keep its observer status.

Britain's minister for Europe, David Lidington, has sent a statement to British MPs reassuring them that the EU would not be taking powers away from London, which holds a permanent seat and a veto on the UN Security Council.

"The granting of such rights to the EU will not affect the UK's position as a member of the UNGA (General Assembly) or the UN Security Council," Lidington said in a written ministerial statement to parliament on Wednesday.

"Furthermore, this does not change the existing balance of competence between the EU and Member States," he wrote in the statement, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The rights requested by the EU were held by the countries that hold the bloc's rotating presidency, which changes hands every six months.

But under the Lisbon Treaty, a reform of the bloc's institutions which took effect in December, the EU is now represented abroad by its president, its high representative for foreign affairs or its embassies.

The treaty enables the EU to conclude international agreements and be part of international organisations.

© 2010 AFP

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