Slovakia’s foreign minister ‘actively considering’ UN top job

Miroslav Lajčák [L] with Neighbourhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn in Prague on 4 May. [European Commission]

Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s foreign minister, is actively considering being a candidate for UN Secretary General, replacing Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires on 31 December, EURACTIV was told yesterday (12 May).

Ivan Korčok, Slovakia´s State Secretary for European Affairs, met with journalists on Thursday to shed light on the priorities of the upcoming Slovak presidency of the Council of the EU.

Slovak presidency ‘will work for overcoming East-West divide in EU’

The upcoming Slovak presidency of the Council of the EU has overcoming the fragmentation in Europe as one of its main objectives, Slovakia´s State Secretary for European Affairs Ivan Korčok told a small group of journalists today (12 May).

Asked by if the foreign minister will run for UN Secretary General, Korčok said that indeed, Lajčák was “actively” and “intensively” considering that.

Lajčák is a law graduate from the Comenius University in Bratislava. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the State Institute of International Relations in Moscow and is also a graduate of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

He joined the Czechoslovak foreign ministry before the fall of Communism in 1988. Lajčák worked as Czechoslovak and Slovak diplomat in Moscow, Tokyo and Belgrade.

On 30 June 2007 Lajčák became the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He kept the post until 2009, when he became foreign minister in the first cabinet of Robert Fico. In December 2010, Lajčák was appointed as Managing Director for Russia, Eastern Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans in the EU’s External Action Service. He served until April 2012, when he joined the second Fico cabinet.

He is fluent in English, German, Russian, Bulgarian, as well as Serbian. Lajčák is known to have many friends, but he may be handicapped by his country’s “closed doors” policy on migration.

The UN has not been officially notified of Lajčák’s candidacy. The official candidates so far are nine, of which seven are from Eastern Europe, the only region thus far without a previous Secretary-General.

Eastern Europe braces for the top UN job

Today (12 April) in New York the hearings of the eight candidates for the position of the next UN Secretary-General will begin. Seven of them are from Europe, and six from the Eastern part of the continent, a region which has never produced a UN Secretary-General thus far.

Former Yugoslavia has five candidates

Surprisingly, five of the candidates are from the former Yugoslavia, a region which still requires international peacekeeping. The candidates from countries from the former Yugoslavia are:

Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, a diplomat, professor of international law, human rights expert, and political figure who served as the president of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012. Türk was the first Slovene ambassador to the United Nations, from 1992 to 2000, and was the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs from 2000 to 2005. He is a visiting professor of international law at Columbia University in New York City, and the founder of the Danilo Türk Foundation, devoted mostly to the rehabilitation of child victims of armed conflict.

Montenegro’s Igor Lukšić, who currently serves a foreign minister of his country. He has briefly replaced Milo Djukanović as prime minister in 2010, becoming the youngest premier in the world to date (he was born in 1976). Djukanović is officially a social democrat, but his political views have been described as liberal. Lukšić has said his role models are Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.

Croatia’s Vesna Pusić, a sociologist and politician who serves as Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament since 3 February 2016. She had previously served as a First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs in the centre-left Cabinet of Zoran Milanović. Vesna Pusić is very popular in the Croatian LGBT community. In 2011, Zagreb Pride attendees awarded made her the “gay-friendly person of the decade”.

Macedonia’s Srgjan Kerim, is a diplomat and economist, and is a former foreign minister and president of the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2007-2008). Kerim has worked for the German WAZ group and has served as ambassador of Macedonia to Germany and as a Special Envoy of Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (1999-2000). Between 2008 and 2009, he was Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Climate Change. Kerim is from the VMRO-DPMNE party (centre-right).

Serbia’s Vuk Jeremić, a diplomat, served as the president of the Sixty-seventh session of the UN General Assembly (2012-2013) and as the foreign minister of Serbia. Jeremić also was president of the Tennis Federation of Serbia.

The other two candidates from Eastern Europe are:

Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova, who currently leads the United Nations largest agency UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Considered by many as the frontrunner, her political background is on the Bulgarian centre-left. Bokova is the first woman to lead UNESCO. She studied in the former Soviet Union, and in the US, and speaks French, English, Spanish and Russian fluently.

Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, also known as Natalia-Snegur-Gherman, as she is the daughter of Mircea Snegur, the first President of Moldova. Gherman served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and deputy premier of Moldova from May 2013 to January 2016. Before that, she worked as a diplomat, having held the posts of Ambassador to Austria and Sweden, and Permanent Representative to the OSCE. She is affiliated to the Liberla Democratic Party of Moldova (centre-right).

The two remaining candidates are from the Western group:

New Zealand’s Helen Clark, the only non-European in the race to date. She has served as the prime minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms, from 1999 to 2008, and was the first woman elected at a general election as the country’s premier. A Labour politician, she has been involved in politics since she was a teenager. Clark sent troops to Afghanistan, but did not contribute combat troops to the American-led occupation of Iraq.

Portugal’s António Guterres, a former Portuguese politician who was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. Guterres served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015, leading one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations with more than 9,000 staff working in 123 countries, providing protection and assistance to over 46 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. He has served as president of the Socialist International.

All nine candidates have already had hearings in New York. This is the first time that the United Nations is undertaking the effort to make the election of the Secretary-General more transparent.

The next round of dialogues with the candidates will be in June. The Security Council will begin deliberations in July. So far, the Security Council has always presented one candidate to the member states, who have always approved the choice.

Under the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. Ban Ki-moon predecessors as Secretary-General were: Kofi Annan (Ghana) who held office from January 1997 to December 2006; Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt), who held office from January 1992 to December 1996; Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar (Peru), who served from January 1982 to December 1991; Kurt Waldheim (Austria), who held office from January 1972 to December 1981; U Thant (Burma, now Myanmar), who served from November 1961, when he was appointed acting Secretary-General (he was formally appointed Secretary-General in November 1962) to December 1971; Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden), who served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in Africa in September 1961; and Trygve Lie (Norway), who held office from February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.

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