US plan for UN upsets Europe

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The Independent Online
CHANGES TO the membership and structure of the United Nations Security Council suggested by the United States threaten to jeopardise efforts by the European Community to develop a strong common foreign policy as the process of European union continues.

The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said on Monday that it was time for 'some reorganisation of the UN Security Council to bring it into keeping with modern realities'. He noted that during the election campaign, President Bill Clinton had raised the possibility of giving Germany and Japan permanent membership of the UN Security Council and said: 'I expect we'll see some developments in that direction.'

Changing the make-up of the Council would cause an uproar if it failed to include Third World countries such as India, Brazil and Nigeria which, on the basis of population and resources, feel they have an equal right to a permanent seat.

If Germany is given a permanent seat, the question arises of what would happen to the two other EC permanent places. Britain and France are two of the five permanent members, along with the US, China and Russia. And with a European country generally on the Council as a non-permanent member, the EC is already over-represented in the view of much of the world.

Even the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has criticised the organisation's 'Euro-centric' tendencies, to the chagrin of London and Paris.

The US endorsement of change in the Council make-up comes at a time when the Community has finally started to discuss Security Council issues among member states in New York, and when the next review of the Maastricht treaty takes place some time in 1995, foreign policy co-ordination on the Council should be high on the agenda. By playing 'the German card' at this stage, the US may be heading off the emergence of a strong European foreign policy voice, senior diplomatic sources suggested yesterday.

Hans van den Broek, the EC Commissioner for External Political Relations, raised hackles when he brought up the issue with the European Commission yesterday as part of a general discussion on foreign policy.

The prospect of German membership of the Security Council particularly worries France and Britain - the former because it is one foreign-policy tool that Bonn does not have and gives Paris, on occasion, the upper hand in the complicated Franco-German partnership that has historically driven European foreign policy. London, for its part, fears the dilution of its 'special relationship' with the US.

There has been muted reaction so far from Germany, where Chancellor Kohl's coalition is already fighting over whether Germany's commitment to Nato and the UN should involve sending German troops on peace-keeping missions. But in Tokyo yesterday the government spokesman, Yohei Kano, said Japan could 'confidently cope with the diplomatic efforts' that membership of the Security Council would imply.