Merkel and her foreign minister Guido Westerwelle travel to New York this weekend for meetings to discuss the progress of the United Nations’ millennium development goals and the action to be taken in the five years remaining before its 2015 deadline.
As well as addressing development issues during the September 20-22 summit, Merkel and Westerwelle will also use the New York trip to once again push for Germany’s consideration as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as part of their wider plan for UN reform.
In the current format, the UN General Assembly annually elects five new, non-permanent Security Council members to two-year terms to replace the five members that will leave the council at the end of December. The 10 rotating seats are divided among five regions around the world.
Only the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China hold permanent seats on the UN Security Council and the power to veto all resolutions.
Germany has been campaigning to join this elite group as part of a more comprehensive project to revamp the Council for most of the past decade. Along with India, Japan and Brazil, Germany has been pushing for an overhaul of the UN system as part of the G-4 alliance.
The G-4 group has been calling for the addition of six permanent seats to the Council without the power of veto, and a further four non-permanent seats. Under the alliance’s plan, four of the permanent six seats would go to Germany, Japan, India and Brazil, with the other two reserved for unspecified African countries.
Germany’s determination to pursue its goal is supported by what many see as a justified attempt to receive recognition for its contribution to the modern UN and more responsibility for a country of its international standing.
“Germany is a significant player at the UN,” Richard Gowan, an international relations expert at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, told Deutsche Welle. “The mere fact that it pays 8 percent of the budget ensures that. Germany is a constructive voice not only on Iran but on issues like peace-building in Africa. It’s a good citizen at the UN.”
Self-preservation at the heart of opposition
But after facing consistent opposition to individual and collective G-4 membership, Germany’s efforts and that of the alliance appeared to have lost momentum in recent years, primarily due to the growing relationship between India and the United States, which has at times diverted New Delhi’s focus, and Japan’s insistence on evolving a formula that cannot be opposed by the US.
Washington’s opposition and that of other major powers to the G-4 plan has been a major stumbling block in recent years, while the so-called “Coffee Club” – an alliance of Pakistan, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea and several other countries opposed to the G-4 – has also emerged as a rival to complicate the G-4’s attempts at reform.
“Some permanent members of the Security Council, like China and Russia, are suspicious of any reform that would dilute their power there,” said Gowan. “Within Europe, Italy is particularly opposed to Germany’s ambitions. It fears that if Germany won a permanent seat alongside Britain and France, its own influence at the UN would decline.”
“Britain and France both have a strong rhetorical commitment to Germany’s cause,” he added. “However, they will do nothing that compromises their own positions on the Council. In the past, Germany has campaigned for a permanent seat alongside Japan, India and Brazil. However, it is possible to imagine scenarios in which rapidly rising powers like Brazil and India won permanent seats and Germany and Japan did not.”
G-4 allies could be both a help and hindrance to Germany
With India set to rejuvenate the G-4 ahead of the 65th UN general assembly with a series of meetings with alliance ministers aimed at getting the campaign back on-track, Germany hopes a new vigor in the group’s collective efforts to reform the Council can enhance its own campaign for a permanent seat.
“But never underestimate how complex and nasty Security Council reform negotiations can become,” said Gowan. “The bloc politics are fantastically difficult. Germany also has to be realistic that, while its bid for a permanent seat is taken seriously, it’s actually peripheral to the question of whether India and Japan should get such seats.”
“The reasons are geopolitical: if India and Japan were in the Council full-time, it could become a serious center for debate on Asian security issues. It’s not clear whether China wants that. Germany’s presence would probably change the dynamics of the Council rather less. But it’s very hard to imagine a reform process that gave Germany a permanent seat but exclude India. That would be political and historical lunacy.”
Experts unconvinced that German ambitions can be fulfilled
A number of experts believe that Germany would be wasting its time to again lobby for a permanent seat, given the rise to prominence of other states in the geo-political arena, with some saying that the unlikelihood of success or the reform of the Council could even persuade Chancellor Merkel to drop the campaign completely.
“It’s very unlikely that Germany will try and resurrect their bid for a seat because there really isn’t any hope of getting one,” Michael Emerson, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, told Deutsche Welle. “Should the necessary reforms go through, the UN will offer seats to the likes of India and Brazil over Germany, due to its policy of promoting the new powers and because of the over-representation of Europe on the Council.”
“I would be very surprised if this attempt were to be successful,” Dr. Karen Smith at the London School of Economics and Political Science told Deutsche Welle. “Enlarging the permanent membership of the Security Council is, I would think, very unlikely to happen.”
“The chances of Germany getting a permanent seat with a veto comparable to France or Britain’s are fairly low,” Richard Gowan concluded. “But it could negotiate some sort of semi-permanent seat, one which only requires reelection once every five or 10 years, without a veto. Compromises of this sort have been on the table since the 2005 negotiations on Security Council reform, and are probably the most realistic option.”
– Prophecy News Watch