Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the European Parliament on the German membership of the UN Security Council

24.05.2011 - Speech

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle at the joint meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence of the European Parliament in Brussels

-- Translation of advanced text --

Mr Albertini,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to have the opportunity today for an exchange of views on Germany’s role in the United Nations Security Council, and on current foreign policy issues.

This January, Germany began its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. From the beginning, our candidacy has been characterized by our desire to be a dependable and reliable partner who can be approached by everyone at all times. We took up our mandate with the aim of ensuring that the position and interests of the European Union get the attention they deserve within the Security Council. It is therefore only natural that I engage in a dialogue with you, the foreign policy experts of the European Parliament.

This is Germany’s fifth Security Council membership, and these are turbulent times. Europe’s immediate neighbourhood, the Arab world, is experiencing dramatic upheaval and new beginnings. The path that has been mapped out for the independence of South Sudan continues to bear potential for conflicts, as we are just now witnessing. The struggle for power in Côte d'Ivoire appears to be a thing of the past, yet it ended only a few weeks ago. Conflicts we have been following for years, or even decades, remain a challenge: the Middle East conflict, the terrorist threat in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in many other places, the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, as well as piracy off the Horn of Africa, and humanitarian disasters such as in eastern Congo.

These crises and conflicts demand the full attention of the Security Council. Yet, as we see it, the UN Security Council is more than just a crisis management body: it must play a role in preventing conflicts, and in tackling global challenges, such as the protection of human rights and the effects of climate change on peace and security. This is how we view our Security Council membership and our Presidency in July. It is my conviction that the United Nations must realign itself as well, so as to assume its proper role in shaping globalization.

As an institution, the United Nations has to some extent not moved beyond the time when Europe lay in ruins, large sections of Africa were European colonies, and the population of Europe was much larger than that of India.

Today, many former developing countries have become newly industrialized countries, tomorrow they will be leading economic powers. Newly industrialized countries no longer depend on the economies of industrialized countries, nowadays the situation is sometimes reversed.

In the course of this year, our planet will for the first time be home to more than 7 thousand million people, yet the European share of the global population is decreasing. Young and dynamic societies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, rather than seeking to protect themselves against all risks, and instead desiring change, are aspiring to adequate political representation.

The United Nations must reflect this new global situation.

Africa and Latin America deserve to have permanent seats on the Security Council. Asia, too, is underrepresented.

But it is also unacceptable for countries that are among the largest contributors to the United Nations, both in terms of money and personnel, not to be represented. That is why we continue to campaign for a German seat, until there is one for Europe.

With its agenda, as well, the UN must stay abreast of current developments.

More than ever, we need the United Nations as a legitimate worldwide power to stabilize relations between states. More than ever, we also need a new understanding of sovereignty.

International law must focus on the individual, and protect him or her against abuse by his or her own government. Globalization must not only be about globalizing markets. We need a globalization of values. We Europeans see ourselves as a law-based community. The United Nations must see itself as an international law-based community.

Let us jointly work towards making the Security Council fit for the future. As proponents of rule-based multilateralism, we Europeans are the first to have a vital interest in this.

An important common concern is enhancing the status of the EU in the United Nations. The United Nations was not waiting for the Lisbon Treaty to be drafted. The UN Charter has not been designed for integration and bonding, such as occurred in the EU. The European External Action Service’s new right to speak at the General Assembly is a remarkable success of Catherine Ashton and her team.

Europe’s voice will be heard as one in the UN if we develop the best concepts for the United Nations.

As regards Libya, we have had some difficulty finding a common position. Our aim is to ensure that all Security Council members recognize the Responsibility to Protect. This, however, cannot be a substitute for the difficult task of weighing the pros and cons in each case. Germany abstained in the vote on Resolution 1973. I understand that some may criticize this. But I do not understand how our stance can be misinterpreted as a lack of solidarity with our allies. German foreign policy is based on international solidarity. We are assuming responsibility in many missions, for example in Afghanistan.

In Libya as well, we are not neutral, but on the side of the democrats. Our decision was the result of a difficult process, possibly the most difficult decision in my term of office. Our decision not to send German service personnel to Libya was and is both consistent and right.

We must now jointly work on a political solution in Libya. We all are united by the aim of putting an end to Colonel Gaddafi’s regime of terror; the dictator should step down and make way for a new start.

The desire for a new start unites the people in many countries of the Arab world. We will support all governments that are pushing for democratic change.

With real democracies, cooperation can take on a new quality. Instead of formal meetings, we need an open and straightforward exchange of views, also on human rights.

Instead of liberalizing trade in specific instances, we must open the European market for agricultural products as well.

Instead of tightening border controls, we need more mobility, to promote economic development in the southern Mediterranean region.

Instead of isolated energy projects, we must establish a Euro-Mediterranean energy community, on the path to a joint energy future.

As I see it, these are the elements of a forward-looking networked foreign policy in our immediate neighbourhood. Also and particularly within the framework of the United Nations, we aim to find strategic and comprehensive answers to urgent global issues. This is reflected in our programme for our Security Council Presidency in July.

For example, climate change has not yet received the attention it requires in the Security Council. During our July Presidency, we will therefore pick up the ball that the United Kingdom first kicked onto the Security Council’s playing field in 2007. We will look at the effects of climate change on international security in a debate that will be open to all UN Member States. We will also closely coordinate our action in this regard with our Portuguese partners.

Europe is leading the way on coming to grips with climate change. With our concerted efforts in the Security Council, we are also establishing this leadership role in the domains of peace and security.

A second cross-cutting focus of our Security Council membership is human rights. Human rights are indivisible. It is thus all the more important that work to address this issue not become lost in detail, that there be no competition between or within the international organizations devoted to the protection of human rights. This also applies to the EU. That is why, at yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council, I campaigned for strengthening the EU’s human rights policy instruments. We need a European human rights strategy. This will increase our leverage at the United Nations – in the Human Rights Council, but also in the Security Council.

Under my Presidency, the Security Council will look at ways to strengthen the protection of children in armed conflicts. We want children to be able to grow up, play and learn within their families, and not to be recruited as child soldiers or to suffer from the effects of conflicts. That is why we are working to achieve a resolution outlawing attacks on schools and hospitals. For these are barbaric acts, gross transgressions of civilization.

A special event during our Presidency will be the declaration of independence by South Sudan in July. The Security Council has played a decisive role in implementing the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan. The peaceful holding of the referendum, and the overall positive developments so far, are therefore also an achievement of the Security Council and the thousands of mainly African servicemen and women who every day contribute to peace as part of the UNMIS mission.

I am therefore all the more concerned about the most recent escalation of the situation in Abyei. I urge both sides to comply with the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and to refrain from any action that could contribute to an escalation of the violence. We want both countries, North and South Sudan, to open a new, peaceful chapter in their coexistence, and to be able to move forward relieved of their past burdens. Europe must and will lend its support to both sides.

However, given the most recent events, it is also clear that there must be a follow-on mission to UNMIS. Germany is prepared to continue to contribute service members and police officers. At the same time, we are striving for the closest possible dovetailing of UN and EU activities. It would be a special success for the United Nations, but also for the EU, if, in July, the Security Council could recommend to the General Assembly the admission of South Sudan as the 193rd member of the United Nations.

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