Former foreign minister Zieleniec says Czech chances high for UN Security Council seat

UN Security Council

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek set out on Sunday on a diplomatic quest to New York, together with Environment Minister Martin Bursik. Their mission is clear: to make sure that on Tuesday, when the General Assembly of the United Nations votes on the five new non-permanent members of the Security Council, two thirds of the 192 UN member countries support the Czech Republic. Radio Prague discussed the Czech chances of winning the post with Josef Zieleniec who was foreign minister on the one previous occasion that the country was on the UN Security Council in 1994-95.

"I think the chances are quite good. We have the support of most of the European Union countries which is important for the credibility of the candidacy. I hope that our diplomacy worked well during the campaign. We also have some experience with the work as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. In the beginning of the 1990s, we won the contest and I think that for a big number of countries, this means also some reference, some sort of recommendation that we successfully acted as a member of the Council."

Do you think that the anti-global warming speech given by President Vaclav Klaus at the UN could harm the Czech prospects?

"I cannot asset that. I hope not. Our president is well-known as a person with strange views on various matters; as someone a little of an intellectual provocateur. I hope that the position of the government will be crucial for most of the countries."

Croatia, the other Eastern European candidate for the seat, apparently began lobbying for the post earlier than the Czech Republic, and they secured the support of some of the big countries including Germany. Do you think this could be an important moment at the vote?

"It could be because the length of the campaign also means time for intensive discussions, sometimes even bargaining or trading with other countries. It takes time. I don't understand why our diplomacy started later than Croatia - maybe because of our elections and the changes at the position of the foreign minister."

Why is a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council that prestigious? Isn't it, after all, the big countries that set its policies?

"The Security Council is an important body; it's in fact the most important body of the United Nations and probably one of the most important bodies in international organizations. The Security Council decides on significant matters - for example, they are currently debating the introduction of sanctions against Iran and possible pressure on Iran in connection with the Iranian nuclear programme. This is related to a number of other issues; the Middle East is an important region. So you can see that the decisions of the Security Council are important and the members that can influence its decisions are, at least for their two years' terms, also important."