UN Security Council spot would cost foreign ministry €4 million per year

Ceremony taking place outside UN headquarters in New York.
Ceremony taking place outside UN headquarters in New York. Source: Xinhua / Scanpix

Estonia will find out late on Friday night, or possibly the small hours of Saturday, local time, whether it will get a non-permanent seat on the UN's Security Council. Should it be successful, it would cost state around €4 million per year, ERR's online Estonian news reports.

"Additional outgoings to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be €4 million," said the ministry's undersecretary for political affairs Paul Teesalu.

Estonia has already spent about €1.5 million on the drive for a UN spot, during the period 2017-2019.

Estonia plans to send ten additional diplomats, plus administrative staff, to the UN Headquarters in New York, in connection with the security council seat, should it materialize. These employees will come from the Foreign Ministry, with no new employees being recruited for the purpose, Teesalu explained.

Given a large proportion of topics at the United Nations relate to African countries - the Security Council adopted last year 28 resolutions devoted to Africa out of a total of 54 - the foreign ministry would have to reorganizie its work in Tallinn accordingly, Teesalu added.

Furthermore, the UN Security Council changes the presidency every month alphabetically, which means Estonia would hold the presidency in March 2020.

Background to Estonia's candidacy

Estonia opted to stand for the UN Security Council as far back as 2005 and presented its candidacy at the time. Teesalu explained that such long-term planning is common in the UN. For example, Estonia aims to stand for the post of President of the UN General Assembly by 2052, over 30 years from now.

The then-foreign minister in 2005, Urmas Paet (Reform), first raised the idea of Estonia's security council candidacy. Paet told ERR on Monday that he saw it as part of the continued restoration of Estonia's international position, as it had just become a member of NATO and the EU, with the UN campaign and prospective membership on the security council also contributing to raising Estonia's reputation.

The active phase of the campaign began in July 2017.

Advantages of security council spot

"Participation in the work of the Security Council would give Estonia unprecedented visibility and experience, expertise which together it will retain in pursuing its own security," Paul Teesalu said.

"It is important for Estonia to know the work of the UN Security Council from within, to know its procedures, the dynamics of relations between members, decision-making processes and leverage," he added.

"Membership would provide invaluable experience and know-how. We saw this benefit with our ally, Lithuania, which was a member of the Security Council in 2014-2015," he said.

The foreign ministry's budget for 2019 is about €64 million, of which €16 million goes on development aid and membership fees.

How the vote might go

In order to qualify as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, a candidate country must collect at least two-thirds of the vote (129 votes). Voting is to start in New York on Friday, when Estonia will compete with Romain from the Eastern Europe grouping. This follows a selection of four other countries from other global regions earlier in the afternoon, New York time.

As to a prognosis of Estonia's chances, candidate states which get more votes in the first round tend to be favoured, the ministry said. According to Margus Kolga, head of the Estonian campaign team, Estonia should have more such pledges than Romania.

UN Security Council details

There are 15 countries in the Security Council, of which five are permanent members with veto rights - the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K. and France. The remaining ten countries are elected for a two-year period, staggered in groups of five.

In addition to either Estonia or Romania, St Vincent and Grenadines, Niger, Tunisia, Vietnam, Germany, Belgium, the Republic of South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia are set to be on the council in 2020.

The UN Security Council is a UN body charged with ensuring international peace and security. The Security Council is the only UN body that can take binding decisions which countries must fulfill.

President Kersti Kaljulaid has been active in promoting Estonia globally in advance of the vote. Due to opposition to the UN's global compact on migration (which was non-binding) within and without the previous coalition government in late 2018, Estonia, unlike Romania, did not officially attend the international conference in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh to adopt the agreement, as well as several other European states including Latvia and Poland. To what extent this stance has damaged Estonia's chances at passing the vote remains to be seen.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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