PositionEuropean Union, United Nations

Disappointment strikes again. The United Nations general assembly has delivered much less than had been hoped. And for the European Union, the outcome is a double setback.

First, because many EU hopes have been dashed - on multilateralism, commitments to development, or respect for human rightsa. And secondly, because the EU has again shown it is still not capable of exerting real influence in world affairs.

The stakes were high: adapting the international rules of the game to the 21st century, with new impetus for the multilateralism that the EU has so frequently espoused. But the shift from declarations to negotiations has seen much of the EU force evaporate.

The limited result on development is typical. After their May 2005 commitment to double aid by 2010, the EU25 planned to drag the other developed nations into line. But the US not only refused to raise its spending to the 0.7% of GDP target, but even went back on its 2002 commitments. Worse than stagnation: clear retreat. European Development Commissioner Louis Michel's fine words about the EU's unique influence are exposed as no more than wishful thinking.

The meagre results on boosting the Human Rights Council, on defining terrorism, and on combating...

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