As I am very interested in international politics and wanted to pick a present topic, I decided to find out more about the UN Security Council and Germany's demand for a permanent seat in the most powerful organ in the whole world.
Since the Iraq crisis the UN Security Council has been criticised as a moral organ without any power, because its decisions had not been respected by the United States who invaded Iraq without the backing of the UN Security Council.
Hence, a reform is needed in order to make the Security Council more effective, representative everywhere and to strengthen its moral authority. A month ago, the UN Reform committee presented two reform solutions in order to confirm the importance and power of the UN Security Council.
2. The UN Security Council
2.1 Consists of...
Five permanent and ten non-permanent members form the UN Security Council.(supp.1)
The 5 permanent members are the founding nations which have the right of veto in the UN Security Council.
The 10 non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms.
Their appointment is based on their geographical situation:
Five seats are filled by African and Asian states
Two seats by Latin American states
One by Eastern European states
Two from Western Europe and other states
Each Member has one vote in any decision that is made by the UN Security Council. Procedural Matters can be decided if 9 out of all 15 states agree. Decisions on substantive matters can be turned down by the four permanent members.
Every state of the 191 countries participating in the UN is obliged to follow the decisions of the UN Security Council.
2.2 Its purpose
The main purpose of the UN Security Council is to keep international peace and security. In order to fulfil this purpose, it has certain ways and means:
The UN Security Council has the ability to suggest peaceful solutions for conflicts
It can deal with dangers to international peace by taking enforcement action
It is able to suggest the admission of new members
It works as a trustee for the UN
It recommends the appointment of the Secretary General to the General Assembly
It tries to control and regulate the use of weapons, especially nuclear weapons and weapons of Mass Destruction
2.3 The reforms
Two reform possibilities have been presented by the UN Reform Committee:
The UN Security Council should consist of 11 permanent members. The six new members will not have the right of veto. And there should be 13 non-permanent member states, still elected for two-year terms. Thus, the UN Security Council's number of members would increase to 24.
The permanent members should keep their status and number, but there will be 8 four-year term members and eleven 2-year-term members. Hence, there would still be 24 members in the reformed UN Security Council.
The second reform suggestion gives the so-called G4 states Germany, Japan, Brazil and India the opportunity to ask for a permanent member status in the UN Security Council.
I would like to go into detail of Germany's demand for a permanent seat.
3. Germany as a permanent member?
It is obvious that a reform of the UN Security Council is needed. Since the establishment of the UN and the Security Council 60 years ago, there have never been any substantial changes. Since then, there has been a four-fold increase of UN membership to the current number of 191 states. As the UN Security Council needs to be representative in all nations and regions, legitimate and effective in order to have more influence in topics like the Iraq conflict, the so-called G4 states demand an expansion of the UN Security Council, in respect of both non-permanent and permanent members.
This has not faced opposition in the UN because the majority of diplomats got straight that this is the only way to enable the UN Security Council to approach new global dangers and to strengthen the moral authority.
Having this support, Germany put itself forward as a candidate for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Germany, being one of the strongest industrial nations in the world, is doing a lot for the UN, even more than France, who is a permanent member since the establishment of the UN after World War II. Germany makes the 3rd-largest contribution to the UN, just behind the USA and Japan and is the 2nd-largest troop provider for UN missions, right after the USA.
Germany also sees itself as natural candidate because of its regional role as the centre of the EU. It is the largest country in the EU concerning population and economic output and can serve the UN as an intermediary between Eastern and Western Europe.
These are the main reasons for the German foreign secretary Joschka Fischer for Germany wanting to assume greater responsibility in the UN.
The G4 states support each other's candidature in order to have a better chance for permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
Nevertheless, the G4 states are facing opposition in the UN. Especially Italy is against Germany's candidature because of its history and the relation which is not that good at the moment.
4. Reactions in Britain
In general, the British government supports Germany's candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council but it opposes giving the right of veto to any of the new permanent members, because this would make the Security Council incapable of action if there were 11 members having the power of veto.
The reactions in the British press were also quite favourable, because people seem to have recognised that Germany is in the process of turning around and closing down the wartime chapter.
The English do consider Germany to play an important role in the world and especially in the EU. People say that Germany should assume more responsibility in the UN because of its influence everywhere, particularly in Eastern Europe where the current permanent EU members in the UN Security Council UK and France are not present. The action as intermediary in Ukraine or the German think tanks who help the Belorussian opposition against the dictatorship are named.
Even Germany's position during the Iraq conflict also enhanced Germany's reputation in Great Britain, although the British government did not agree with Schroeder's Iraq policy, the public did.
They hope that an enlargement of the UN Security Council with the G4 states having permanent seats would lead to a world that spreads democracy and peace by means of diplomacy and not by military means, as the Iraq conflict showed.
Furthermore, the English expect Germany to be a bridge between the Europe of Jacques Chirac and the Europe of Tony Blair.
Last but not least, there is Germany's ability to deal with economic problems and unpleasant history, which made it become stronger and gives politicians and people a great motivation to show the rest of the world that there are better things that Germans can do.
Personally, I was quite surprised, when I found out by reading several newspaper articles from the British press, that Germany's demand for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council would be so well received by the British government and by the public in Britain.
I am a little bit relieved because people seem to start recognising that Germany has changed a lot in the past years. After the dark post World War II times and the Cold War, today's Germany is different.
Moreover, the British public has made clear that they are convinced that military action is not the only solution for international conflicts, even though the government joined the Iraq war.
For me, this is one of the most important reasons for expanding the UN Security Council: keeping peace and international security by diplomatic means and not by military intervention. And for this reason, I am persuaded that Joschka Fischer's demand for a permanent seat is justified, because Germany can assume this responsibility which the government, especially Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, displayed during the Iraq crisis, when he insisted on non-participation in any military action against the Iraqi people and officials.