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Europe's UN Security Council Ambitions

Bernd Riegert (win)
September 23, 2004

While Germany is forming global alliances to gain a permanent UN Security Council seat, the EU is less likely to be represented as a body. Cooperation of EU foreign ministers before Council meetings is more realistic.

The EU's Solana, right, is unlikely to get a permanent seat at the tableImage: AP

Representing Europe at the UN Security Council is something Spain's Javier Solana, the EU's current high representative for common foreign and security policy, can imagine doing once he becomes the first foreign minister of the European Union after the bloc's proposed constitution has been ratified.

But a permanent European seat on the Security Council probably won't become reality in the foreseeable future: EU members Britain and France are unlikely to forfeit their veto right as permanent members of the Council in favor of the EU. To downplay talk about a permanent seat for the union, both countries are supporting Germany's desire to obtain the prestigious seat at the table.

Italy, on the other hand, opposes this vehemently and is calling for an EU seat -- mainly to prevent Germany from getting its place at the table. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi even wrote to US President George W. Bush, asking the latter to prevent any UN reform that would harm Italy's interests.

The Netherlands have also rejected the idea of adding more permanent national seats to the Council and has said it backs the EU seat proposal. As a permanent member, the European Union could be represented by all 25 EU member states on a rotating basis -- a proposal that's viewed as impractical by some of Solana's staff who are critical of the plan.

EU majority backs Germany

According to a survey by Financial Times Deutschland, 15 EU members support the German claim to a seat in the UN's top decision-making body: Apart from Britain and France, supporters include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Latvia.

Among the undecided are Portugal, Spain, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden and Lithuania. Poland is also pushing for a permanent seat for eastern European countries.

UN-Sicherheitsrat Joschka Fischer
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher in New York on WednesdayImage: dpa

It seems as if German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) has as majority of EU countries on his side. Fischer himself has bid farewell to his Green party's original proposal to add Council seats for world regions rather than national states.

Brussels officials believe it will likely take years before a UN reform -- in the works for 11 years -- is implemented. In the meantime, Solana is pushing for Europe's foreign ministers to better coordinate positions. Britain, France and other non-permanent Council members from Europe should then represent such a common EU view at the body.

In some ways system has already been moving towards greater cooperation, with the UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq being an obvious exception. Nevertheless, the EU is the only international organization that regularly participates in all UN conferences.