#DiplomaticCentennial / Ion Jinga: Romania’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on UN Security Council, priority zero

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Interview with H.E. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, posted in Agerpres on 05.04.2018

The current priority zero for the Permanent Mission of Romania to the UN is Romania’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. ” Only 15 states are there, five of which are permanent members. I think bringing Romania for two years at the top of the global decision-making process regarding the planet’s peace and security, alongside the great powers of the world, I think deserves any effort,” ambassador Ion Jinga said in an interview with AGERPRES.

A seat on the UN Security Council represents “the most important position any country may want in the international arena because it offers visibility, prestige, influence and ability to radiate influence in a geographic area that exceeds the extent traditionally determined by geographic size, population, economic or military might,” Jinga explained.

According to him, Romania participates in two-thirds of the UN peacekeeping missions and two special political missions. Under these missions, Romanian soldiers, police officers and gendarmes hold key positions in the command structures of the forces in the areas of intelligence, operations, communications, logistics and personnel, civil-military cooperation, which proves the recognition of their professionalism.

In his e-mail interview, Jinga also talked about current affairs on the UN agenda, such as the reform of the Security Council, “an eminently political process,” and the situation of migrants and refugees. At the same time, he also mentioned young people who want apply for internships at the Permanent Mission of Romania at the UN.

The interview is part of the editorial project #DiplomaticCentennial conducted by AGERPRES throughout the year, focusing on diplomatic relations in the context of the 100th anniversary of Romania’s Greater Union.

AGERPRES: In 2006, Romania submitted its candidacy for another non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the seat allocated to the East European Group, in 2020-2021. The official campaign to promote this candidacy was launched in June 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in the presence of Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and the elections will take place in June 2019. How difficult the negotiations to get the seat are? What would be Romania’s priorities as a non-permanent member of the Security Council?

Ion Jinga: A seat on the UN Security Council represents “the most important position any country may want in the international arena because it offers visibility, prestige, influence and ability to radiate influence in a geographic area that exceeds the extent traditionally determined by geographic size, population, economic or military might. To be elected, a state must receive the support of at least 2/3 of the total UN members, i.e. 129 votes, so election to the Security Council requires considerable effort even when the number of candidates coincides with the number of vacated seats. It is even more difficult in competition situations, as is the case with Romania’s candidacy, where we have a counter-candidate in Estonia. Each country tries to capitalise on its own strengths, including the relationships it has developed over the years not only on its own continent but also in other parts of the world, its diplomatic network, its contribution to advancing peace and international security, including under the UN flag, development assistance, projects of interest to the interlocutors to whom they are addressed, the reputation enjoyed among other states, including respecting the engagements assumed in the campaign.

Romania is running on a long-term commitment to peace, justice and development, which is, in fact, the motto of our campaign. The priorities Romania has taken up, if elected to sit on the Security Council, are to promote the objectives and principles of the UN Charter, respect for multilateralism and international law, conflict prevention and peaceful settlement, increased efficiency of peacekeeping missions, promoting peace, promoting respect for human rights, protecting women and children in armed conflicts, improving cooperation between the Security Council and regional and sub-regional organisations in preserving international peace and security.

AGERPRES: Mr. ambassador, last year you were co-chairman of the intergovernmental negotiations regarding the reform of the UN Security Council. What view on the reform of the Security Council does Romania support and, on the other hand, in the context of the personal experience gained in this process, what are the changes that stand the greatest chance of materialisation?

Ion Jinga: The Intergovernmental Negotiations Process (IGN) on the Security Council reform is considered to be the most complex component of the overall United Nations reform system, given that this body has the primary responsibility of preserving world peace and security. In the debates, which focused on five major themes – the Council’s relationship with the General Assembly, the magnitude of the enlargement and the working methods, membership categories, the veto right, regional representation – we started up from the premise that the negotiations can only advance through an unbiased, balanced approach, characterised by transparency and pragmatism, coupled with creativity by the two co-chairs, taking into account the aspirations of the member states and avoiding the transformation of the process into a zero-sum game. The result of this one-year work is the document entitled “Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Considerations,” which summarises both the progress made with the negotiations we have coordinated with our Tunisian colleague and the coordinates for the IGN this year.

The reform of the Security Council is an eminently political process which, depending on the depth of the changes adopted, can have major geopolitical consequences, so it cannot be summed up simply by collecting data and positions. My approach, as co-chair of the IGN, was to create confidence bridges between groups of states with somewhat different positions on certain subjects, with the aim of finding an acceptable solution for all. Since all aspects of the Security Council’s reform are interconnected, we have introduced into the negotiations a principle used by the European Union – which we knew very well since we were part of the negotiation team of Romania’s accession to the EU – “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. This little innovation translated to New York has led to a certain increase in confidence that in turn allowed us to build the skeleton of the document we were talking about. I cannot predict what this year’s developments will be, and any progress depends on the degree of support from the member countries; one of the resolutions underlying these negotiations states that any major change must enjoy the member states’ widest possible political acceptance. Romania supports the reform of the Security Council so that this body becomes more transparent and efficient, adapted to the realities of the 21st century. An important point for us is the increase in the representation of the Eastern European Group, which also includes Romania, by allocating it an additional non-permanent seat.

AGERPRES: In an interview of September 2016 you were saying, in the context of the migration crisis, that people should have more empathy with refugees and migrants, and imagine for a moment that one day we could find ourselves in their stead. Over the past and a half year since then, have you noticed any change in attitudes towards migrants and refugees in the countries of destination?

Ion Jinga: The migrants and refugees status is one of the topics that has been most discussed by the United Nations Organization as of lately. Based on the New York Declaration regarding the refugees and the migrants, of September 2016, the UN member states committed to negotiate and adopt two fundamental documents, the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees, respectively. These are now subject to full negotiations in New York and Geneva. We are carefully watching the debates and negotiations in New York with respect to the Global Compact for Migration and we hope that they will materialize in the adoption of the document of December 10-11, signed in Morocco. The Compact approaches the situation of migrants from a full perspective, a 360-degree one I would say, starting from the causes that led to migration, the migrants’ track and their arrival in the countries of destination. In respect to the attitude towards migrants, the draft that is being negotiated right now confirms the positive aspect of legal migration and aims at eliminating discrimination and promoting public speeches based on concrete facts and data, in order to shape a correct perception and free from the emotional impact. The presentation of the positive aspects of migration and the need for building an objective public perception on migrants are among the topics included in the report presented by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in the beginning of this year, titled “Making migration work for all.” It would be hazardous to anticipate now the finalization of the ongoing negotiations regarding the Global Compact for Migration. We can only hope that there will be identified the best solutions to answers to expectations of transited and destination countries, to the need of stability and development of the origin countries and, first of all, to the huge hopes for a decent life that the migrants have in tomorrow and in the ones who make the decisions in their respect. At UN level there are many steps that have been taken since 2016 in what concerns this topic, and these steps are endorsed by all the states, either states of origin, transited states and states of destination.

AGERPRES: And since we talk about empathy, on February 28, the US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, delivered an emotional speech after the vote of the UN Council on the request for a humanitarian truce of 30 days in Syria, while accusing Russia of delaying the vote, in the context in which Syrian army bombardments continued in Eastern Ghouta. “Maybe we don’t know the faces of these people we are talking about. Maybe we don’t know their names, or them, but they do know us. And we have disappointed all these people this week. I believe that we have unity in this,” said the US Ambassador. Is this an example of the Security Council’s incapacity to act promptly, in the current formula, when we need this the most?

Ion Jinga: The intervention of the US’s permanent representative took place in the context of negotiations regarding the Resolution 2401 (2018), adopted by the Security Council on 24.02.2018. Ambassador Nikki Haley is someone that I have a special appreciation for, both as a professional and as a human being, and I admire her for her inspiration that helps her express what very many of us feel in certain moments, and the Syrian people’s drama is hard to put into words. In the respective case, the Security Council met in successive sessions that lasted for three days, for there existed the certainty that none of the permanent members were going to use their right of veto. In the end, the resolution was adopted by consensus, in a situation when every second of delay could have meant new victims. The efficiency of the Security Council resides in the adoption with celerity of some resolutions but, especially, in their implementation. From this perspective, the unity of the Council members must exist both in adopting a resolution and in transposing it into practice.

There is a lot of criticism among the UN member states regarding the use of the right of veto, as well as the attempts to limit it being used in the sense of allowing the adoption of some resolutions on humanitarian situations, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other atrocities. As I mentioned earlier, the right to veto matter is on the agenda of the Security Council reform process.

AGERPRES: In how many peacekeeping and political missions of the UN is Romania involved right now, with troops and police officers? By which is Romania remarking itself during these UN missions?

Ion Jinga: In the beginning of 2018, Romania was effectively participating with manpower from the Ministry of National Defence and the Protection and Guard Service (SPP) in ten peacekeeping missions (Cyprus, DR of the Congo, Central African Republic, India-Pakistan, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, Southern Sudan) and two special political missions (Afghanistan, Libya), under the UN flag.

Basically, we are involved in two thirds of the UN peacekeeping missions (there are 15 in total) and in two of the eight special political missions. In manpower terms, Romania ranks 71st among 123 states which contribute with troops and police officers to the missions carried out under the UN aegis. In all these missions, the Romanian military, police officers and gendarmes occupy key positions in the command structures of the forces, in the intelligence, operations, communications, logistics and personnel, civilian-military cooperation fields. Last year, Romania held the highest position that a military can have in the UN mission in Afghanistan, which represented a recognition of the professionalism of the Romanian military. In 2015, a woman officer received the title of International Female Police Peacekeeper, as a recognition of the exceptional results she had during her participation in the UN Mission of Stabilization in Haiti. I would also remind here that UN wanting to increase the role of women in uniform in the peacekeeping missions became an operational objective, with a 15% target for the end of this year.

Our country already has a 27-year long tradition of contribution with blue caps, starting in 1991, when the first Romanian military were deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, and now it participates in several of the most risky missions. There are also a series of additional military capabilities that Romania contributed to the UN for deployment in the operation theatres, starting in 2016; an infantry company, a military transport aircraft, a detachment for neutralizing explosive devices, an increased number of military observers. According to the commitment made at the Summit on peacekeeping missions, in New York, September 2015, our country is going to provide UN with four military transport helicopters, which are to be evaluated and certified in 2019, as well as with a Set Up Police Unit. It is also important to remind that, among all member states, Romania is ranking 1st in terms of the number of police officers sent in UN missions. And, finally, the Application School for Officers of the Romanian Gendarmerie is annually organizing, starting in 2013, in French, the International Superior Contest dedicated to officers from the internal security and defence structures in Romania and other states. Up to now there have been 14 graduate promotions of officers from 26 European, African and Asian states.

Last but not least, we are the only country that provides, through the Protection and Guard Service (SPP), close protection units for the high UN dignitaries going to the conflict areas. Starting in 2009, in Bucharest operates a joint centre of UN-SPP for training UN protection officers operating in the high risk areas. More than 200 UN officers graduated this training programme in English.

AGERPRES: Romania will hold in the first six months of 2019 the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, other six months before and after, it will be a member of the trio of the EU Presidency and will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. Therefore, for three years and a half Bucharest will be at the top of the European and world decision-makers. You stated in an interview that “the reverberations of such a position could project the international prominence of Romania for the next decade.” What does Romania have to do in this 3 years and a half period to develop this international prominence? Is this a crossroad moment for the Romanian diplomacy?

Ion Jinga: I hope your optimism regarding the obtaining by Romania of a seat of non-permanent member on the Security Council be auspicious. Yet I find it early to display the certainty of success. We compete next to Estonia (I’m not against Estonia) for the single seat of non-permanent member allocated to the East-European Group in the Security Council. Estonia, a friend country and a partner Romania is collaborating tightly in numerous European projects, is a EU, NATO member, develops a sustained, intelligent campaign which it allocated important political and diplomatic resources to, and has never been a member of this UN body so far. Both countries promote their candidacies transparently and in fair play. In other words, we have a remarkable opponent, that knows to use its cards. If we make it to get the vote of at least two-thirds of the UN member countries, then we could talk about capitalising these prestigious mandates for Romania’s international stature. Until then, we talk of a team work which if successful, will turn into a victory of a great team called Romania.

AGERPRES: This year’s events dedicated to the Great Union’s Centennial are overlapping, at the Permanent Representation of Romania to the UN with the promotion of our country’s candidacy for a new mandate of non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2020-2021. As you have recalled on the occasion of one of these events, Romania is a charter member of the League of Nations, back in 1919. Is this context beneficial to Romania’s move?

Ion Jinga: Romania’s Mission to the UN is deeply committed to promote, in the UN milieus and not only, the national project dedicated to the celebration of the Great Union’s Centennial. The already organised events in New York and the ones which are to be held in the next months could offer us a plus of visibility, from the perspective of the country’s candidacy to the Security Council included, yet without any direct connection. Romania is a founding member of the League of Nations, and this is an argument we use to show that our commitment in favour of the multilateral diplomacy as a tool to promoting international peace and security is a long shot one, being a calling card that grows the guarantee that the approach for the Security Council is not conjectural, but is grounded on a 100-year continuity in our foreign policy.

AGERPRES: Mr. ambassador, you are, starting with this year the chairman of the ambassadors Group of the member countries of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) to the UN, after you used to be deputy-chairman of this group in 2015-2017. Could you give us examples of concrete situations when the OIF member countries have acted as a unitary block within the UN? What is the stakes of this position for the Romanian diplomacy?

Ion Jinga: I’ve been honoured to having been elected as president of the Francophone ambassadors to the UN, New York and i believe that this is firstly as recognition of Romania’s remarkable contribution to the promotion of the values of La Francophonie: modernity, democracy, rule of law, human rights’ observance, respect for other cultures. The francophone states have several specific common interests at the UN, such as a better enforcement of the multilingualism principle (the UN has six official languages – English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Arabian, the first two being the working languages of the organisation), for the recruiting, the public procurement processes included, and also for the staff sent in UN missions in Francophone countries. I have led a reunion on this topic on 7 March 2018 attended by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres. Romania has a significant presence with military and police officers in several UN peacekeeping missions in Francophone countries. Moreover, staged are several meetings with UN or governmental high officials who come to present their objectives and ask for the support of the UN Francophone group, events that I chair. In addition, a Francophone solidarity exists when adopting certain important resolutions of the General Assembly, or in matter of candidacies in the UN system, Francophone candidates (countries or persons) having the opportunity to come present their programmes in front of the Group and ask fort support, that could be decisive given that the OIF counts for 84 members.

AGERPRES: The PSD president Liviu Dragnea has asked the Romanian Foreign Affairs minister to come with an activity assessment of each diplomatic mission’s head. Clearly, Romania’s Permanent Representation to the UN is not an ordinary diplomatic mission from the assessment criteria viewpoint. How do you expect to be your activity’s assessment? And looking ahead, which are for you the three main targets in 2018 in your position?

Ion Jinga: The assessment of the diplomatic missions’ activities is carried whenever deemed as necessary, by the people in charge with it. It is not my place to anticipate the outcome of the assessment you are referring to. I can only tell you that the team I am leading does whatever it depends on it for the interests, the reputation and the image of Romania to the United Nations be promoted and defended professionally, with dedication and unconditioned loyalty to the country. In the past two years and a half since I took over the position of Romania’s Permanent Representative to the UN, New York I was elected chairman of the Commission for Social Development (2015-2016), chairman of the Group of government experts for the negotiation of the UN Report on military spending transparency – MILEX (2016-2017; MILEX has only been summoned once in 2011, when the German ambassador chaired), co-president of the intergovernmental negotiations Process regarding the Security Council’s reform (2016-2017; first ambassador from Eastern Europe appointed to this position), president of the Commission for Population and Development (2017-2018; a first for Romania), chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission (2018; also a first for Romania’s diplomacy; Peacebuilding Commission is one of the most important UN commissions), president of the Francophone ambassadors’ Group (2018, once again a first for us in New York). Between brackets, the UN General Assembly’s President granted me on 7 September 2017 the “Diploma of Honour for the remarkable contribution to the success of the activity of the 71st Session of the General Assembly.” I’d add that in the said period all of the elections organised in New York for UN structures with Romania having candidates to, were won. There are also the missions in the UN intervention areas, for instance this March I’ve been in Chad in my capacity of president of the Peacebuilding Commission to attend the Ministerial Conference of the states within the Sahel region and see UN financed projects. It was a very useful experience, because one cannot have the legitimacy to talk about problems the countries and the population in a certain region are confronted with, if they don’t know the reality on the spot. This visit made me respect the more the resilience of those people, who have the same right with us to a decent life. We are all born equals, but evolve differently due to some factors that are sometimes completely independent from our individual skills and effort. Seeing the dry desert and the unimaginable effort each plant, animal and human being make to survive, I was thinking of how blessed Romania is.

As for the targets of Romania’s Mission to the UN and implicitly the mission’s head’s in 2018, they circumscribe the mandate set each year by the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and approved by the President of Romania for the respective session of the General Assembly. Being Romania’s diplomatic voice to the UN, our goal is firstly to display our country’s stance and promote Romania’s objectives within the UN, in New York. The wide range of topics we address, as well as the increasing responsibility assumed by Romania internationally are found in priorities such as the growth of the UN efficiency in tackling the threats at the international peace and stability, the maintaining of the Security Council as a main symbol and forum of the international cooperation for peace, the use of the preventive diplomacy and the peaceful resolving of the disputes, the continuation of the UN reform process, the implementation of Agenda 2030 for durable development, the promotion of dialogue and of a tighter cooperation between the UN and the regional and subregional organisations.

In this period, priority zero to us is Romania’s candidacy for a seat of non-permanent member on the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. Only 15 states are there, of which five are permanent members. Let’s bring Romania for two years to the top of the world decision as regards the planet’s peace and security, along the big powers of the world, I guess it is worth any effort.

AGERPRES: Mr. Ambassador, on the web page of Romania’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations you have a welcome word to the virtual visitors that ends in the suggestion to contact the mission by e-mail for comments, questions, suggestions. What are the most surprising messages you’ve received this way?

Ion Jinga: I maintain this suggestion, because it is very important for us to have a feedback from the ones interested in Romania’s activity to the UN. Most of the messages received are from young people to wish to attend various internships at the Permanent Mission of Romania at the UN, which is pleasing us because regularly they are well prepared, enthusiastic and willing to have the chance to see how the multilateral diplomacy is basically concluded. Moreover, there are delegations of young people who visit the UN seat and to meet us so we share from the diplomatic life’s backstage. One of the questions they ask is: “How can a state become a UN Security Council’s permanent member?” It is a question many countries do ask for over 25 years, as part of the reform process of the Security Council. Maybe someday the answer will come from exactly those who have asked the question on the website page of Romania’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.AGERPRES(RO – author: Florin Stefan, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN – authors: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, Cristina Zaharia, Maria Voican, editor: Maria Voican)

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