December 13, 2021

How France Can Promote EU Interests in the UN Security Council

By Nicholas Lokker

In January, France will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union, securing an opportunity to set the EU agenda. One key ambition for the French presidency will be to transform the bloc into a more capable geopolitical actor.

Paris already plans to hold a Summit on European Defense in February and will unveil the Union’s highly anticipated Strategic Compass document in March.

Within this context, there has recently been speculation—including from the spokesman of President Emmanuel Macron’s party in the National Assembly—about France transferring its permanent United Nations Security Council seat to the European Union.

Yet political and legal constraints make this unlikely in the short term. Instead, EU leaders should consider alternative arrangements that would accomplish similar goals.

France and Britain have consistently supported Germany in its bid for a permanent UNSC seat. However, these bids were opposed by some other EU member states (especially Italy) and the United States.

Permanent seat holders in the European Union (namely only France after Brexit) must foster EU interests when fulfilling their duties.

As a result, then-Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz alternatively called for the conversion of the existing French permanent seat into an EU seat, building off of France and Germany’s then-upcoming shared presidency of the UNSC to promote EU positions and commitments in the UNSC.

As the European Union is a supranational union, it legally cannot have its own permanent seat on the UNSC. Instead, the European Union delegates its decision-making authority to member states that are in the UNSC.

Consequently, Scholz’s proposal noted that a permanent EU seat would remain a de jure French seat.

Scholz’s proposal was opposed by France, which argued that it already takes EU positions “into consideration” in the UNSC. Furthermore, the EU delegation arrangement allows France to take a proactive stance in the UNSC when the rest of the European Union has not reached consensus yet, ensuring a timely response to any emerging international crises.

Read the full story from Euractiv.

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