The World from Berlin Germany Joins 'Vehement Supporters of Reform' on Security Council

With Germany's election to the UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle can finally point to a political success. Commentators on Wednesday argue that the world has changed since the end of World War II, when the UN was formed -- and Westerwelle should use his chance to shake up the entire institution.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, center, is congratulated after the UN vote.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, center, is congratulated after the UN vote.

It is his first major success since taking office last year. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle can claim Germany's election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council as a victory. On Tuesday, after Germany attracted a comfortable margin of votes to take a council seat, Westerwelle said Berlin would do everything to justify the show of confidence. "The world knows it can rely on us," he told reporters in New York. Chancellor Angela Merkel also greeted the decision, saying it was an "honor" that so many countries had placed their trust in Germany.

Germany secured 128 votes, one more than the two-thirds majority required. That put it ahead of Portugal and Canada to secure one of two seats allotted to Western nations for 2011 and 2012.

Portugal was subsequently elected along with India, South Africa and Colombia. They will join Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria as non-permanent members of the council, alongside the five veto-wielding permanent members: China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the US.

Like several other nations on the new Security Council, Germany has long pushed for changes to the UN. The body was created in the aftermath of World War II, when the victorious allies took the permanent seats. On Wednesday Westerwelle told German public broadcaster ARD that Berlin's long-term aim was a reform of the UN, "linked with the proposal that the EU should have a seat on the council." He said that in its current form, the Security Council reflects "the circumstances following World War II," not the situation in the world today.

In a separate interview on Wednesday, the foreign minister also rejected any suggestion that Berlin's non-permanent UN seat would lead to an increased involvement of the German army in crisis zones. "We won't have more deployments abroad just because we are members of the Security Council," he said, adding that Germany was already assuming a lot of responsibility across the world.

The German press on Wednesday is mostly positive about the election, with most arguing that it should be the starting point for a reform of the UN as a whole.

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"Germany's election to the Security Council is a vote of confidence from the international community in Germany's foreign policy -- and an acknowledgement of a new, self-confident political style. … It is also a success for Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, which he will make sure to emphasize with the electorate. That is understandable. After all, his foreign policy achievements so far have been rather thin on the ground."

"But it won't be enough to use this new strength to score domestic political points on the one hand, and lend German policy a greater weight on the other. … The most important task is a reform of the council itself."

"The most vehement supporters of UN reform -- India, Brazil and South Africa -- will sit with Germany on the council. These countries have seen their international importance grow dramatically in recent decades. Now they rightly complain that the body is no longer representative of the global balance of power."

"The EU is already well-represented by France and Great Britain. Instead of demanding another seat (for Germany) the Europeans should make efforts to agree internally. The idea of a permanent seat for the EU, which has long been regarded as futile, must be the goal."

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The German coalition has little to contribute to the important questions that the UN will have to address over the next few years. UN reform, millennium goals, conflict and crisis management: There is no clearly recognizable German stance on these issues. The attempt to create a definition of common European interests has failed, despite all of Europe's core countries having conservative governments."

"Germany wanted a seat on the Security Council because it is glamorous to be on the Security Council. There is, however, no sign of a political project or idea. Things were very different during Germany's previous membership from 2003-2004. Despite the many criticisms of former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer it must be acknowledged that he, together with France, stood up to the US and Great Britain in the run-up to the Iraq War. Admittedly, there is nothing left of the dream back then of building a countervailing civilian power under Franco-German leadership. But at least it was an idea. Nothing like that can be expected of the current government -- not in the direction of the US, or Russia, or China. Germany has been elected as a hanger-on."


"This is the first concrete success for Westerwelle as foreign minister. Foreign policy is a difficult business, much remains unquantifiable. … A seat on the Security Council is however, concrete, presentable and its role in attracting media attention is not to be underestimated."

"Westerwelle doggedly pursued the seat, together with the chancellor, and aided by German ambassadors around the world. The undertaking succeeded. Westerwelle pointed to Germany's leading role, arguing that the country is known for its dependability, its dedication to peace and development, its multilateral approach. The fact that it is the third-largest contributor to the UN and the world's third-largest donor of development aid was also emphasized."

"Two years on the UN Security Council represent a victory for Westerwelle and the center-right coalition. If it had all gone wrong, it would have damaged Merkel -- but above all, it would have damaged Westerwelle."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"From the beginning, Berlin was regarded as the favorite among the Western group of states. But it was by no means a sure thing. Soon after his appointment last year the foreign minister was pushing Germany's candidacy, whether in public appearances or private meetings: Germany as a motor of the global economy, Germany as a political asset that went far beyond its geographical borders. And Germany as a country that sends troops to international conflict zones, and that no longer believes its military innocence can be bought with fat checks."

"Another important, if banal, factor when it comes to the UN's ability to function, is the fact that Germany is the third biggest contributor to the UN's budget."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The foreign minister can come back to Germany with his head held high now that Germany has been elected to the Security Council. … A defeat would have been bad for Germany's image. For Westerwelle's image, it would have been disastrous."

"During its term on the council, Germany will be right where it usually aspires to be: at the center of global politics. In any crisis, eyes will turn (also) to Berlin. The considerable attention directed at his ministry will demand a lot of the foreign minister. Westerwelle will have to prove he can make a success for himself and his office out of the victory in New York."

-- Siobhán Dowling


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