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EU wins super-observer status at UN

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EU wins super-observer status at UN

UN General Assembly hall

(UNITED NATIONS) - The European Union on Tuesday secured super-observer status at the United Nations after overcoming objections from small states that they could see their influence eroded.

A vote was passed by the 192-nation UN General Assembly after high-powered lobbying by EU foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton and ambassadors from the 27-nation bloc.

Other regional groups such as the Arab League, African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) may now seek a similar extra observer rights at the global body, diplomats said.

The EU made one attempt to get the extra powers at the General Assembly last year, but suffered an embarrassing defeat when small states opposed a vote and sought extra time for negotiations.

Ashton led behind-the-scenes talks that went on up to the final hours before Tuesday's vote.

Csaba Korosi, Hungarian ambassador to the UN and the current EU president, told the assembly: "The European Union wishes to bring its full weight to bear in supporting and strengthening" global governance."

But some small states again expressed concerns about giving the EU a special right to speak at the General Assembly with "major groups" and a right of reply in debates.

Paulette Bethel, the Bahamas ambassador speaking for CARICOM, said the 14-nation Caribbean group had originally fought the move because it feared creating "a new category of non-state observer with a unique complement of rights and privileges" which could marginalize small states at the UN.

Lara Otto, an envoy for Nauru, said the move was "granting the EU a 28th voice in the general debate" which "privileges 27 countries above all other countries."

Nauru feared "the erosion of the equality of voice of member states."

African and Arab states said the acceptance of the special rights for the European Union was a precedent that could be followed by other regional organizations such as the African Union and Arab League.

Ashton in the first speech to the UN assmbly after the vote said "extraordinary efforts" were made to agree the final text.

"What you will hear is a clearer voice to the United Nations from the European Union," but one that is "extremely and absolutely respectful."

Until now, only the Vatican and the Palestinian observer missions, among non-state members of the UN, have had the right of reply in debates.

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