|CHALLENGE TO ASIA. EASTERN EUROPE CLAIMS U.N. TOP POST.
15 June 2005
A claim by the Eastern European Group for the U.N. top post staked by the Ukraine in 1996 has just been
revived. At the time, Ambassador Anotoli Zlenko addressed a letter to the President of the Security
Council in which he referred to a defacto rotation principle drawing attention that only the Eastern
European countries never had one of its representatives elected to the post of Secretary General. When
Kofi Annan who was elected that year to continue African representation was expected to renew his
mandate in 2001, Ukraine made the point in an official communique. "While recognizing the right of
Security General Kofi Atta Annan to seek a second term of office, and which has become a
general practice...and fully supporting him in this bid," the note verbale added that the Ukraine
"proceeds from the understanding that at the next elections of the Secretary General to be held in
2006 the Security Council will show its consistency and reconfirm the priority right" of its Group.
Now, apparently in response to a reported statement by the Secretary General while traveling in Asia
that it was Asia's turn, the Eastern European missions in New York got together to send a letter to
Mr. Annan. It "underlined the fact that it is the sole group from among the five existing regional
groups in the United Nations whose representation, during the sixty years of the existence of the
Organization has never been appointed to the position of the Secretary General."
For all its efforts, Ukraine no more has a ready candidate. With a recent regime change, one of its
prominent diplomats, a former ambassador to the U.N., former Foreign Minister and General Assembly
President is no more in the running. Other candidates are mentioned but only discreetly; some even
coyly. One is the Latvian President who was recently a host to President Bush then was hosted in Moscow
for the 60th anniversary of Victory. Another is the Polish President who leaves office end of this
year. Still relatively young and keen on an international role, Mr. Kwasniewski is publicly saying
he is not seeking the job. He seems popular with the U.S. Administration which hosted him on more than
one occasion. President Bush took him to the Midwest to meet throngs of Polish expatriates. However,
Moscow may not be keen on him despite a Komsomol background and fluency in Russian, mostly because of
his role in the recent Ukraine upheaval. French President Chirac is certainly not among his admirers.
China is likely to hold on to an Asian. But where are the Asians? The two declared candidates from
Thailand and Sri Lanka are complemented by a number of undeclared ones biding their time. Jordan,
Singapore and Malaysia may come up with a name if neither of the first two advances substantially
by December. Even former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, now running the International
Crisis Group in Brussels would explore his options. While his country officially belongs to "Western
Europe and Others" in U.N. groupings, he has maintained that his country is an integral part of "Asia
and the Pacific." Its role in East Timor, and involvement in the U.N. Economic and Social Commission
is mentioned as supporting evidence.
It is very early to judge. Yet speculation will escalate after the 60th anniversary summit. And
unless a "New European" candidate is produced out of a hat in 2006, the tide will remain with Asia.