German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will fly next week to New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. While there he will also attend festivities celebrating 30 years of German membership at the U.N.
Germany has played a high-profile role at the U.N. Security Council since the war in Iraq.
Schröder will use his trip to reaffirm Germany’s commitment to strengthening the United Nations’ role in resolving international conflicts. But he will also take time to meet U.S. President George Bush in an attempt to patch up German-American ties so badly damaged by disagreement over the war in Iraq.
Though Thursday will officially mark the 30th anniversary of German membership at the United Nations, the party sponsored by the German U.N. mission won’t take place at New York’s swanky Grand Hyatt hotel until after Schröder arrives on September 23.
Considering how dramatically Germany’s role at the world forum has changed over the past three decades, most observers would agree there’s something to celebrate.
Currently a high-profile rotating member of the U.N. Security Council, war-torn Germany was not even considered for membership when the United Nations was founded in 1945. The ensuing division of the country then delayed the process by some 20 years as West and East Germany fought over international recognition. Only after West Germany gave up its demand to be the only legitimate representative of the German people, did both nations become full members of the U.N. General Assembly on September 18, 1973.
Only a few days later German Foreign Minster Walter Scheel addressed the issue that had keep West Germany as nation with only “active non-member” status for so many years in his first speech at the United Nations.
“Do you understand why we hesitated to join the United Nations? It is painful to look the political division of your own land in the eye,” Scheel said. “We feared that such a step would create the impression that we were resigned. As if we had given up hope for unification.”
After unification in 1990, the two German seats became one and modern Germany began to orient its U.N. polices less on Cold War realities and more on human rights, development and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The third largest U.N. donor following the United States and Japan, Germany now accounts for roughly ten percent of the U.N. budget.
German soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan.
As Germany began to redefine its postwar role anew, it eventually came the watershed decision that German soldiers could once again be deployed abroad for peacekeeping missions that had U.N. backing. In little over ten years, Germany has taken part in operations in Somalia, the Balkans and Afghanistan.
Although all but the most extreme pacifistic German parliamentarians now appear comfortable sending German troops overseas under a U.N. mandate, Germany’s steadfast belief in using the world body to resolve international conflicts has created problems for the country’s once strong relations with the United States.
Last year, Chancellor Schröder angered U.N. skeptic Bush by saying Germany would not support a U.N. resolution backing military action to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein no matter what. As a rotating member of the Security Council, Germany may not have a veto like permanent seat-holders such as France or Russia, but Schröder’s unyielding opposition left little room for diplomatic maneuver, likely emboldening other war opponents.
“Germany without a doubt gained stature through its behavior during the Iraq conflict,” one high-ranking western diplomat told the German news agency DPA. But at the same time, Berlin’s newfound independence has also likely encouraged Washington to put the kibosh on Germany getting its own permanent seat on the Security Council for the foreseeable future. But such long-term German goals are likely not even on the agenda during Schröder’s trip. Instead, he will be more concerned with showing Bush that Germany can still be America’s friend even if the two countries don’t always agree on every issue. For his part, Bush will hope he can get Schröder to support a new U.N. resolution that would pave the way for more international participation in stabilizing Iraq.