A Union on the UN: Should France Keep Its Security Council Seat?

By Denny, Norman R. | Harvard International Review, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

A Union on the UN: Should France Keep Its Security Council Seat?


Denny, Norman R., Harvard International Review


The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and France are at a critical point in our shared history. The European Union, since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, has made steady progress toward real relevance in the areas of politics, economics, and security. Functioning like a quasi-nation state, it ranks among the world's most powerful political entities. Yet its lack of representation in the United Nations decreases the efficiency of both organizations. A single substitution within the Security Council can correct this issue without opening up the Security Council to radical structural changes: the French seat on the Security Council should become the EU seat.

There are currently numerous ongoing debates on revising the makeup of the Security Council. Emerging world powers, including India and Brazil, primarily drive these discussions, arguing that the Council fails to adequately reflect the dynamics of today's world. Indeed, there are precedents for such a change: China replaced Taiwan in 1971, and Russia replaced the defunct Soviet Union in 1991. Now is the time to place the European Union on the Security Council, as its constitutional powers have been strengthened with the implementation of the 2008 Lisbon Treaty.

With over 500 million citizens, the European Union exercises significant authority to ratify treaties for its regional members, develops a common European defense policy, and produces almost 30 percent of the world's economic output. Under the EU Treaty, member nations on the Security Council--the United Kingdom and France, along with any member serving a two-year tour on the council--keep other EU members informed of Security Council actions and ensure EU positions are upheld, as long as they don't conflict with that nation's positions. Although EU representatives play a significant role in brokering international agreements, coordination with the United Nations is unofficial, and both EU and UN efforts become unnecessarily complicated.

In contrast to the European Union, France currently exercises a level of influence through its seat on the Security Council beyond that justified by its military, political, or economic ranking in the world. France provides only 18 percent of the European Union's GDP (US$2.097 trillion), ranking behind Germany (US$2.81 trillion) and the United Kingdom (US$2.128 trillion). Militarily, while France supports NATO, a standing EU military, and other multinational forces, direct French military influence is limited primarily to the Francophone regions of Africa. …

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A Union on the UN: Should France Keep Its Security Council Seat?
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