This article analyses the performance of the European Union (EU) in the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) promoting decent work and labour rights. It forms part of a larger research project undertaking a comparative assessment of EU performance across a range of international institutions.1 The time-frame studied is 1992 to 2010, capturing the emergence of the European Union as an international actor, as well as a period of great change for the ILO. The end of the Cold War brought the existence of the ILO into question
(Maupain 2005: 85). Although not its only function, since 1919 Western liberal capitalist states used it to counter the appeal of socialist revolutions and to denounce communist countries claiming to represent workers while preventing their free association in unions. EU performance must therefore be situated in the broader context of the ILO defining its role in the architecture of global governance. EU-ILO relations are complex and the literature focuses on particular
aspects, for example trade and development (Orbie and Babarinde 2008), GSP trade agreements and labour standards (Orbie and Tortell 2009a, 2009b), legal considerations (Cavicchiolo 2002; Novitz 2005, 2008, 2009), EU coordination (Kissack 2008; Nedergaard 2009; Riddervold 2008, 2009), or EU participation in standard settings (Delarue 2006; Kissack 2009b, 2009c, 2010; Tortell, Delarue, and Kenner 2009). This article explores EU performance cutting across these issue areas. It begins by defining performance as effectiveness and relevance, and then presents empirical evidence on EU behaviour since 1992 and what this tells us about EU performance.2 Throughout the article, a distinction is made between technical and political domains, where the former refers to drafting labour standards and the latter to scrutinising third-state adherence to labour standards. In the technical domain, EU performance is a function of both effectiveness and relevance and has marginally increased, while in the political domain, performance has increased overtime, albeit from a low level, due to the increased relevance of the EU to its primary stakeholders (member states). More specifically, it highlights that in both domains the institutional environment (formal and informal) is extremely important in determining the parameters in which the EU must perform, and must always be taken into consideration.