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Opinion: Germany's Futile UN Hopes

Germany is lobbying UN member states to support a push for a permanent German UN Security Council seat. But chances for success are limited as only Berlin would benefit from the change.


Germany's unlikely to get a permanent seat at this table

A newfound self-confidence has been spurring on German politicians since the end of the Cold War and the country's reunification that followed. "We're somebody again" is a rallying cry that's become popular again.

During the 1960s, Germany's economic boom justified such a sentiment. Today, German leaders argue that the country's growing role in supporting peace-keeping missions should be recognized by including Germany in the exclusive circle of countries.

The timing seems right: UN Secretary General plans to finally go ahead with the organization's long-awaited reform. He's put in place a committee of experts that will come up with proposals by the beginning of December.

A permanent Security Council seat for Germany could be on the agenda, the German government hopes. But unfortunately none of the committee's members come from Germany.

US likely against proposal

The German government shouldn't lose sight of reality despite its hopes. It would almost be a miracle if Germany could get enough votes to make its wish come true.

In order to succeed, two thirds of the 191 UN member states have to approve the change, along with all five current permanent Security Council members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The Germans might argue that they have shown great commitment but they are unlikely to achieve more than friendly praise from most other countries: After all, a permanent Security Council seat doesn't get awarded like an honorary service medal.

Enough back and forth already

It has more to do with power, and veto power at that: UN resolutions regarding numerous crises have always lacked poignancy because one of the permanent members felt otherwise.

There's more than enough examples to prove this. Israel, Chechnya and Iraq are just some of the most striking ones. Should another veto power be added -- even one like Germany, which tries to resolve crises in a peaceful, diplomatic way -- the dragging back and forth would only increase.

On top of that, the US is unlikely to be interested in making a war opponent a veto power after a failed attempt to get UN approval for the invasion of Iraq.

Limited seats

All other UN members, who can only take turns at the table for two-year periods, have little interest in supporting the German plan as it would give them access to the Security Council even less frequently unless the number of seats (currently 15) is increased.

Berlin has already given up on an alternative idea: A permanent seat for the European Union. That proposal failed because neither Britain nor France want to give up their privileged status.

But calling for a permanent seat for Germany doesn’t have a bigger chance of success as no one -- except Germany -- would benefit from it.

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