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article imageGermany urges France to turn UN seat into EU one

By David COURBET (AFP)     Nov 28, 2018 in World

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Wednesday proposed that France give up its permanent seat on the UN Security Council and turn it into an EU seat, attracting a stinging French rebuke.

In a wide-ranging speech on the future of Europe, Scholz said that giving the European Union a spot on the Security Council would allow the bloc to speak "with one voice" on the global stage.

"We could perhaps imagine that in the medium term the French seat becomes an EU seat," said Scholz, who is also Germany's vice-chancellor.

"I realise this will take some convincing in Paris, but it would be a bold and smart goal."

To lessen the pain of losing the powerful seat, France could become the permanent EU ambassador to the United Nations, he added.

But the suggestion was immediately shot down by the French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud.

"It's legally impossible because it would run counter to the Charter of the United Nations. Changing it would be politically impossible," Araud tweeted.

France has been one of the five permanent Security Council members since the body was first established in 1945 in the wake of World War II to prevent another large-scale conflict.

The permanent members, including Britain, China, Russia and the United States, are the most influential countries in the 193-member United Nations because they hold the right to veto UN resolutions.

Once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, France will be the bloc's sole representative on the Council.

There have been repeated calls in the past to reform the UNSC, with large emerging nations in particular clamouring for a place at the table.

In 2010, then-US president Barack Obama voiced support for India's efforts to become a permanent Council member.

Brazil and Japan have expressed similar ambitions, while African nations have called for two permanent seats to better represent a continent they say has been historically overlooked.

- Europe at a crossroads -

French President Emmanuel Macron called on lawmakers in the German parliament last month to help create a "stronger, more sovereign Europe".

"Europe cannot play its role if it becomes the plaything of great powers and contents itself with a supporting role on the global stage," he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Macron's speech, saying Europe was "at a crossroads" over its future.

In the past, she and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas have both called for individual EU countries' seats on the UNSC to be "Europeanised".

When Germany was selected to hold one of the 10 non-permanent seats for two years from January 2019, Maas promised Berlin would "interpret it in a European way."

"We want to show that we take the common European seat seriously. Because that remains our aim," he added.

Scholz's sally was the latest way Germany has sought to dispel accusations it has failed to respond to Macron's ambitious hopes to reform the EU and the euro single currency.

While German leaders appear open to deeper cooperation in fields like defence, many have deep reservations about Macron's plans to equip the eurozone with a centrally-managed budget, fearing wealthy countries could end up footing spendthrift neighbours' bills.

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