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Berlin steps up push for UN seat

Published on 26/03/2004

26 March 2004

BERLIN – Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder this week made it clear in unmistakable terms that his country wants a new part to play on the international stage: as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

“Germany is prepared to take on responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council,” the chancellor told 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.”

The demand to have a permanent seat with the “big guys” means the end of the hitherto practise of restraint, and it shows that Berlin has learned some lessons from the political dispute within Europe and with the United States over the war on Iraq.

Until now the government always viewed a permanent seat in the Security Council as “not a high priority” for German foreign policy.

And in the current legislative session the centre-left coalition had up to now adopted a neutral message, saying Germany was prepared to take on greater responsibilities – if asked.

And finally Berlin hid behind a formulation calling for “a European seat” on the Security Council.

But now Schroeder has launched a major lobbying campaign behind the scenes for a permanent German seat. The European seat now is called only “a longterm major strategic goal”.

The Germans learned from the Iraq war that a common seat does more harm than good without a common foreign-policy strategy.

The permanent Security Council members United States, France, Britain, Russia and China represent, with their veto right, the old world order at the end of World War II. The fact that the panel needs to be realigned is generally accepted.

Germany wants to see its willingness to take part in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and in Afghanistan and elsewhere rewarded.

“We have acknowledged that we can no longer duck responsibility,” the chancellor said “but our readiness must also correspond with the possibility to represent our interests in decision-making.”

Schroeder’s aides want 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”.

The group primarily has to come up with reform proposals for UN structures – among them the Security Council.

The German government is confident it has the backing of France, Russia and Japan. It also hopes that the United States will give its backing (as it has in the past) – especially since the reform proposals will not be unveiled until after November’s general election.

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.

No decision will be made for years. But the chancellor is certain of one thing: “It would be irresponsible for us not to say now just exactly what we want.”


Subject: German news