15 April 2005

When Secretary-General Kofi Annan belatedly and hurriedly named the president of Latvian as the fifth member of a team to promote his "reform" agenda he was providing her with a visibility needed by a candidate to replace him.

The official press communiqué stated that Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga has actively supported the need for UN reform. Elected to a second term in 2003, it went on "she has successfully guided her nation through a period of active reforms leading to full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

Word has been circulating in some European capitals that Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga would be a suitable candidate from "New Europe" to lead a "New U.N.". While the Polish President continues to ponder whether to run or not, a new name, fresh face, and experienced "women of reform" from a former one of the newly independent republics will be an attractive and innovative option.

The rush by Mr. Annan to designate the former Chicago resident after two weeks of announcing the first four special envoys is indicative. In his current status, he would have only done so to accommodate a power he is keen to please. The appointment of a new Secretary General is likely to be one of the main items on the agenda of the newly designated US representative John Bolton whose views "Old Europe" and a "New U.N." will be of special significance.

Common wisdom has it that it is Asia's turn. However, there are those who claim there is no agreed prominent Asia candidate. In a distressing turn, there are some who exploit the perceived embarrassment of the U.N. leadership in order to push for a total shift. They would say that after three Secretaries-General from the third world it's about time for someone from the North.

Granted, this diplomatic talk remains within a limited circle. The main realistic consideration is that China is not likely to go along. It is the permanent Asia representative with veto power and will have great difficulty conceding for a Non-Asian, unless later on in the game, other big powers were keen enough to try very hard to persuade it otherwise.

Meanwhile, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga remains a serious though discreet candidate while the Asians will have to get there act together by the next general assembly summit.