What future for the Security Council?

Article published on Sept. 13, 2004
community published
Article published on Sept. 13, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Although there is a consensus about the need for Security Council reform, there is little agreement about the shape this will take. What's the role of the EU in the jungle of propositions and ambitions?

Talk of a much-needed reform of the SC has been going on for years but the only viable reform took place in 1965 when the SC was expanded from eleven members to fifteen. The current fifteen members are comprised of five permanent veto holders (USA, Russia, China, France and Great Britain) and ten non-permanent members (currently Chile, Germany, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Spain, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil) elected for a two-year term. A new reform needs to address the issue of representation, veto power and efficiency of decision-making.

According to Dr. Chris Reus-Smith of the Department of International Relations at the Australian National University in an interview with CNS News, the original great powers are no longer representative of the major states. Analysts say new membership should be granted on the basis of balanced regional representation or to take into account great military/economic powers, or, possibly, to balance developed and developing countries. The USA has proposed a regional representation with Brazil being a permanent member for Latin America, Nigeria for Africa etc. This, however has had negative responses from jealous neighbours such as Argentina, South Africa, Egypt and Pakistan, which is not prepared to lose out to India.

Model for Reform

In November 2003, Kofi Annan finally announced the creation of a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to undertake a thorough assessment of the principal organs of the United Nations. In August the Panel, comprising sixteen prominent personalities from all regions, came up with a preliminary proposal to create a three-tier Security Council by adding seven or eight semi-permanent members with no veto rights elected for five years, while leaving the current permanent membership of the SC intact, to the great satisfaction of its members.

Europe, be it its individual member states or the EU as a whole, has not remained silent on this either. In March this year German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made it clear to the media that his country hopes to gain a permanent seat, being the third largest net contributor to the organisation and the second largest contributor of troops to UN-mandated missions. However, according to the new plan, German hopes are not high. Manuel Fröhlich of the German Association for the UN told Deutsche Welle on 20 August that the new three-tier plan is a minimal solution that will annoy a majority of the members, especially those eyeing up a permanent seat.

Italy also has put forward a proposal in which some twenty or thirty states making significant contributions to the UNs peace and security functions, would be added to the SC, including Italy. Italys Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has even written a letter to George W. Bush to ask for US support in gaining a seat on the Council. But relevant UN internal discussions show a different picture.

Europe looks for a single seat

The idea of regional representation includes the question of a possible rotating European Union seat, replacing the current French and British seats. Last September in a statement to the UN Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that for the European Union speaking in one voice also means more common positions in Security Council matters, and that this logic might one day even lead to the EU having a seat on the SC.

Furthermore, the EUs High Representative on Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, last year stated that a single EU seat with permanent membership would help to resolve the political crisis in Europe with differences in opinion between UK and France on the one side, as permanent members, and Spain and Germany, as non-permanent members, on the other. For Solana it is also a question of Europes role in world politics: Imagine what influence Europe could have had if it had spoken with one voice?

It is obvious that some kind of change in Europes representation is needed, as according to Marcel H. Van Herpen from the Cicero Foundation, the EU is already overrepresented. A rotating EU seat would give a chance to Germany, whose quest for an individual permanent seat is not viable. But one can presume that neither France nor Britain is likely to give up their seat.

Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini supports an EU seat even though it is not an option at the moment, as he said to Agenzia Giornalistica Italia on August 27. Frattini is cautious about the legal side the UN statute does not foresee regional representation yet and he fears that an EU seat would be unacceptable to other regional organisms such as the African Union and the Organization of American States. Frattinis concern is understandable, as he is in favour of a concept of rotation in a regional context, with Italy then being able to compete for the European seat along with Germany and possibly also Spain.

Many say that a situation where no serious revision has taken place since 1945 should not be repeated. Thus any model for reform should be revised in twelve to fifteen years. The UN Panel is expected to issue its first official proposals in December this year, leaving plenty of room for discussion and negotiation in the meantime.