12 May 2004
BERLIN – Citing a “window of opportunity”, a German government official said Wednesday Berlin would launch an initiative this autumn for Germany to be given a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
A high-ranking official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa that France, one of the Big Five permanent members on the UN body, has given its backing.
Top-level German and French officials will confer in Paris Thursday to draw up the “outline, timetable and modalities” of the new push, the official told dpa.
Germany wants to take advantage of a window of opportunity that was flung open at the end of last year when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commissioned a committee of 16 experts to look into the “crisis of multilateralism”.
By next spring the group primarily has to come up with reform proposals for UN structures – among them the Security Council.
The German plan is this: Permanent seats for Germany and Japan, and one seat each for Africa, Asia and Latin America. The issue of veto rights must still be sorted out, the Berlin source said.
Such a change to the UN Charter would require a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly and ratification by all five permanent members on the council.
France – which along with the United States, Britain, Russia and China has a veto right in the council – clearly favours Germany’s bid. The remaining 10 seats are filled on a rotating basis, without veto power.
The French government has offered to allow a German diplomat to join its Security Council retinue pending Germany’s full membership on the world body’s highest panel.
Berlin feels Russia and China will also fall into line with France backing the proposal. Britain, however, is expected to hedge its bets, giving the appearance of supporting Germany whilst counting on an American veto of the whole affair, according to a report in Der Spiegel news magazine.
In addition, the news magazine report quotes diplomatic sources in New York as saying Washington is staunchly opposed to Berlin’s plans to expand the Council and possibly to strip the Big Five permanent members of their veto right.
Germany has made no secret of its ambitions in recent years, but the issue was revived in March when Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made it clear in unmistakable terms that his country wants a new role to play on the international stage.
“Germany is prepared to take on responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council,” the chancellor told the Bundestag parliament.
Only days earlier, albeit in the humble confines of opening ceremonies for the Federal Academy for Security Policy, he had said: “Germany views itself as a candidate for a permanent seat.”
Acknowledging that no decision will be made for years, the chancellor nonetheless said he is certain of one thing: “It would be irresponsible for us not to say now just exactly what we want.”
Subject: German news