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German UN Aspirations Backed by Europe

DW Staff (dre)
September 24, 2004

Germany's dream of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council got support from Great Britain and France Thursday but prompted domestic concerns that the country was perhaps too ambitious.

Tony Blair and France's Jacques Chirac stand behind GermanyImage: AP

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, echoing one of Germany's arguments, told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that Germany, together with Japan, accounts for 28 percent of the organization's budget. Both nations, plus India and Brazil are after a permanent seat on the Security Council, targeted for reform along with additional UN structures in the coming years.

France, perhaps Germany's closest European ally at the moment, joined Straw in supporting the Security Council ambitions of the four countries.

Germany's membership would go along way to "improving the representation and legitimacy of actions taken by the Security Council," said French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in his speech.

Reform plan would expand council

Der UN Sicherheitsrat erläßt eine Resolution über den Nahen Osten, New York
The UN Security Council chamberImage: AP

France and Britain, together with Russia, the US and China, are the only members of the 15-country Security Council with permanent seats. As part of a major reform plan, there has been talk of expanding the council to 24 members, and upping the number of permanent seats, which allow veto privileges.

"The United Kingdom has long supported the case for expanding the Security council to 24 members," said Straw, with Germany, Japan, Brazil and India holding the new permanent seats.

In arguing for the enlargement on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that a Council with more members would enjoy greater acceptance internationally as a basis for greater authority.

He added that an enlarged Council would lead all nations to better identify with the Council and would bolster the motivation of the new members to make a long-term contribution to realizing UN goals.

Germany should focus on Europe, not world

Not all agree. Italy said that while the number of non-permanent seats on the Council should increase, the five WWII victors should be the only ones allowed a permanent position.

Helmut Schmidt
Helmut SchmidtImage: AP

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (photo) agreed, saying the country is overextending its diplomatic responsibility.

"It's not in Germany's interest to take part in every important decision over war and peace and then have to be responsible for the consequences," he wrote in the mass daily Bild.

Instead, wrote Schmidt, the country should do all it can to focus on building a stronger and more cohesive European Union, facing a major political challenge in the coming years in integrating 10 additional members into its membership lists.

The United States has so far reacted to Germany's ambitions with silence. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington would wait until the reform commission brought together by Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued its report, expected in December.