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France and Germany disagree over UN security council seat

UN Security Council in session
UN Security Council in session UN Photo/Loey Felipe

France on Thursday reacted angrily to suggestions by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz who proposed that France give up its permanent seat on the UN Security Council and turn it into an EU seat. He said that this would allow the bloc to speak "with one voice" on the global stage.


“This exchange must be seen in the context of diplomatic tension between Paris and Berlin,” says Frédérique Charillon, an international relations specialist with the University of Clermont.

France’s recent criticism against German so-called “immobility,” or lack of initative in the international scene did not go down well in Berlin.

Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the US, adds that is “legally impossible” to satisfy this demand because any reform of the Security Council would take a global collective decision, and so far, the UNSC is made up of states.

"The EU is not a state," says Charillon.

Change on the horizon with Brexit

"We have a unique opportunity given the Brexit coming March next year," says Pro-EU integration association European Movement Germany president Dr. Linn Selle.

After Brexit, there will be only one country representing the EU at the UNSC.

"I think it would be a very strong sign of European unity if that can be transformed in a European seat" she says.

But from a French perspective, the timing is not good.

“This proposal comes at a time that the EU is very much divided,” says Charillon, pointing at growing differences between Brussels and some of the East European members.

“So it is probably not the best timing".

Both are surprised that Germany seems to have stopped pushing for its own seat at the UNSC.

"It is a bit surprising that Germany does not insist more on a seat for itself," says Charillon.

"The best way to enhance and to strengthen the weight of the EU at the UN would be indeed to give a permanent seat to Germany. Everybody in France agrees on that."

"And then the Franco-German duet on the international stage would be much more efficient than a division between France and Germany about a European seat at the UN."

Selle is surprised as well, but approves Germany’s new stance.

"We have always been a bit skeptical about the pushing of a German seat at the UNSC, because we always said that it would make more sense to have a united European seat instead of a German one," she says.

Given this spat between these two supposed European allies, it will probably last quite a while before the United Nations Security Council will add a permanent member to its club.

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