In May 2011, a Resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) created a conducive institutional framework for an enhanced EU international presence in the UN. The Resolution covers all UN deliberations conducted in the UNGA, and its subsidiary bodies – committees, commissions, working groups - as well as conferences under the auspices of the UNGA (UNGA Res. 65/276). Under the terms of Resolution 65/276 the EU representatives do not have the right to vote and co-sponsor draft resolutions or decisions, but are allowed to make interventions, be invited to participate in the general debate of UNGA, and present proposals and amendments orally as agreed by the EU member-states. This development constitutes a significant institutional innovation for the UN with potentially far-reaching political repercussions for the UN and the EU alike. It paves the way for further engagement of the EU Presidency, as the natural EU representative, in the management of EU interactions with the UN and more broadly with international organizations.

The Lisbon Treaty has introduced a hybrid system of EU Presidency that combines a permanent and a rotating format, the former for the European Council and the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the latter for the other Council formations. In that respect, it has created new institutional actors of major political visibility. In either format, external representation constitutes one of the main Presidency functions and one of the main reasons that led to the establishment of the (semi-)permanent posts of the EU Council President and the High Representative. Already four years after the selection of Mr. Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton in the two posts and in light of the Resolution 65/276, it is high time we investigated their record of activities alongside the rotating Presidency vis-à-vis the international performance of the EU, especially in the UN.

In that respect, our research comprises two axes. The first axis focuses on the external dimension of the new Presidency system, in light of Resolution 65/276, and asks in particular what the implications are for the EU international identity. The second axis is introvert in nature and examines the intra-EU political and institutional consequences of these developments, in particular the impact on the intra-EU, inter-institutional balance. It is necessary to stress that we take for granted that the EU constitutes already an international actor. We are interested in addressing the question whether the EU is an effective actor, and especially the contribution to that end of the Presidency -in either format- after the adoption of Resolution 65/276.