MEPs vote to press on for coveted EU seat in the hallowed UN Security Council - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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MEPs vote to press on for coveted EU seat in the hallowed UN Security Council

Thursday, 12 May 2011
UN Security Council (Photo: than two weeks after the EU gained a 'largely symbolic' upgrade to its status at the UN General Assembly, MEPs have voted in favour of pushing for an EU seat on the hallowed UN Security Council (UNSC), shown left.

The resolution ‘The EU as a global actor: its role in multilateral organisations’ adopted by MEPs in May’s plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg states that “an EU seat in an enlarged UNSC remains a central, long-term goal of the European Union” and “calls on the VP/HR to take the initiative to develop a common position of the Member States to that end”.

But the plan is likely to come up against fresh firm opposition from France and the UK who are two of only five veto-wielding permanent members of the 15-member Security Council. Germany and Portugal are currently sit around the table as non-permanent members – but only until January 2013.

Before the resolution drafted by María Muñiz de Urquiza (S&D, ESP) was unanimously adopted, a number of British MEPs took the opportunity to voice their discord during a discussion with Baroness Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

Nikki Sinclaire (NI) said such a move would “constitute a significant transfer of sovereignty from the UK, and indeed France” and Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden described it as “totally unacceptable”. “I do not see that either Member State would be willing to do that," he said. “Unfortunately the Lisbon Treaty encourages that, which is, as I say, one of the reasons why we so object to it.

In the final vote, the UK Liberal Democrats were among the 492 who voted for it, while the Tories formed part of the 93 who voted against alongside UKIP who, predictably, said such a move was the 'next step' towards Britain being deprived of its permanent seat – an accusation dismissed by the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling was one of a small number who ‘rebelled’ and voted against party lines and voted in favour of the report.

On 3rd May the UN General Assembly voted to grant the EU enhanced status, entitling EU officials to address the Assembly but without voting rights. The motion (A/65/L.64/Rev.) was passed with 180 votes in favour to none objections. Zimbabwe and Syria abstained and 10 further countries did not take part in the vote. Now dubbed a “super-observer”, the European Union will be conferred special rights in the General Assembly where it can now address UN meetings through its own officials, rather than through the country currently holding its rotating presidency, can present amendments orally, and exercise a limited right of reply.

UPDATE (24/05 – 22:12):

According to theParliament magazine, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has reiterated his country’s support behind calls for an EU permanent UNSC seat as part of a wider reform of the UN structure.

"We know that two EU member states are permanent members of the UN Security Council and that they do not want to give up their seats," he said. "This makes for a difficult situation but Germany's goal is for the EU to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

"As one of the biggest members of the UN, the EU ought to take more responsibility […] This is not about obtaining more weight for the EU, or Germany, but about rebuilding the UN's architecture."


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