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Mutual Respect a Must for U.N.

Mr. Danilo Turk President of the Republic of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012 talking to WPP diplomatic editor Erol Avdovic (l) -- Courtesy photo by Robert Poredos (2014)

Secretary-General Meets President of Slovenia Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia. 20 July 2012 (UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Mr. Danilo Turk President of the Republic of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012 talking to WPP diplomatic editor Erol Avdovic (l) -- Courtesy photo by Robert Poredos (2014)

Mr. Danilo Turk President of the Republic of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012 talking to WPP diplomatic editor Erol Avdovic (l) — Courtesy photo by Robert Poredos (2014)

By Erol Avdovic – UNITED NATIONS (Webpublicapress) NEW YORK– Mr. Danilo Turk, who served as the president of the Republic of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012, will be a candidate for the new United Nations (UN) Secretary General — he told Webpublicapress (WPP) in an exclusive interview in New York earlier this week. Mr. Turk pointed out — his 30 years experience of working with the UN — makes him a credible candidate to become a successor of the current UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Under the UN Charter, candidates for Secretary General are chosen by the five geographical groups: Western European and Others, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, Asian-Pacific and African group. Only the Eastern European group has never had its UN Secretary General since the founding of the World Organization in October 1945, in San Francisco.

Mr. Turk was in New York this week to participate in the special session of the UN meeting on social development on behalf of Madrid’s Club (Organization of former heads of states and governments).

“Obviously, my presence here coincides with the time when there is an informal discussion of the Eastern European group about the future UN Secretary General,” Mr. Turk told AA. He said — there is interest in this group of 23 UN member states for him — to succeed Ban Ki-moon at the end of his (Ban’s) second and last five years mandate in 2016.

As it was announced earlier in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana — Mr. Turk will have full support from his government during his candidacy. Turk who was born in 1952, served as Slovenia’s ambassador to the UN between 1992 and 2000, when he was also president of the UN Security Council. From 2000 to 2005, he was Kofi Annan’s Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs.

 Other credible candidates may run as well

Asked about his comparative advantages compared with other possible candidates from the Eastern European group for the new UN Secretary General, including Ms. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, currently Director General of UNICEF, who could be first woman at the top of the UN, also Foreign Minister of Slovakia Miroslav Lajčak, and others — Mr. Turk said, he “wants to be modest,” avoiding to talk about himself, because others will.

“We are two years away from the real process of decision making. So, when various names emerge – they will be subject to thought and the critical examination by the members of the UN,” Turk said.

“But, the member states will know. They know all the candidates. They have seen them in action, so it is sure that they will be able to make a judgment.”

Talking to WPP at the Slovenian Mission to the UN in New York — Mr. Turk noted, United Nations reforms are at the top of his agenda.

Yet, he remains only a moderate optimist with a realistic approach when it comes to the reforms and enlargement of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – which, as he said — failed to transform itself in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.

Answering to the question — what would be the next step for the UN in the field of reforms and within the global push for the rule of law – Mr. Turk, who is an internationally recognized law professor, said — “rule of law remains fundamental.”

Rule of law at the core of UN reforms

Secretary-General Meets President of Slovenia Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia. 20 July 2012 (UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Secretary-General Meets President of Slovenia
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia.
20 July 2012 (UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

“Rule of law is an overarching principle which is fundamental to the international organizations, and particularly for the UN, which is in fact — an organization that creates the great deal of laws. And, the UN is the most inclusive of all international organizations, with the most wide ranging mandates. Therefore, law is part of its identity and product of its activity. This will remain fundamental.”

When it comes to UN reforms, Mr. Turk also said, “one has to be very attentive to the actual realities and needs to international community.”

“We are not in a San Francisco moment at this point which would call for the major revision of the UN Charter. We have to work within the UN Charter. And when working within the UN Charter we can make the important changes and improve the quality of the UN action in various fields. We have seen that some real improvement was achieved in 2005, when the UN Human Rights Council was created and the work of the UN High Commissioner for human rights. We can also do more in the area of the social development that is now in the focus of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). And, in the field of security – I think that the fair amount of the possibility is — to improve the work through post-conflict peace building commissions to various instruments who have been put in place, but — are not fully developed. So, the whole front of UN institutions can be managed and directed in a way that would produce improvement. And that kind of reform is very real and very realistic.”

Change must happen at some point

Talking in particular about UN Security Council reforms called to be sped up by many statesmen from Turkey to Germany, India, Brazil, Japan and others – Mr. Turk said he is realistic, but not skeptical – since change is always happening.

“I believe that the change of that kind will also happen in the future. At this point, clearly – the political conditions in the world are not right for changes in membership structure of the UN Security Council. We can not believe that this will happen now or in the immediate future,” Turk said, reminding — there are different models how to change the composition of the UNSC.

“It is good that these models exist and that they are discussed. And, eventually — there will be a model that will be adopted, but it is not going to happen very soon.”

Asked — what are his hopes to receive the support of both United States and Russia, including China – to become the next UN Secretary General, Turk said he believes — he will get that kind of backing at the Security Council, where – the nomination and actual election for the top UN post must occur.

He recognizes, any candidate who wishes to succeed has to have the support of all five permanent members of UN Security Council: “That is fundamental, and without that it can’t work.”

End of Cold War was a missed opportunity for reforms

Also asked — does the UN today face new reminiscences of the Cold War, which is now reflected in the example of the divisions between Russia and the West over Syria, and how that will affect the election of the new UN Secretary General, Mr. Turk replied:

“Of course, UN’s secretary generals were elected also in the time when the Cold War was at its peak. The Cold War per-se did not prevent any election of the UN Secretary General. But, indeed in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War many opportunities were missed and that was the time where reforms of the UN (Security Council) should have shaped. But they didn’t. That was a very important missed opportunity. Of course now it is going to be more difficult and will take more time and more work to do that.”

On the other side, Mr. Turk told WPP, he believes “in the concept of partnership.”

We all need more mutual respect

“Right now, we no longer have any dislikes of those kinds like during the Cold War. We have different views, obviously different national, regional and other interests. We have powers, big powers that not always converge – but sometimes diverge very seriously, still — the key word for the future, in my opinion – is partnership. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be a partnership among major powers including, of course, the permanent members of the UN Security Council.”

Asked, whether he is expecting a united regional support from six former Yugoslav republics, that beside Slovenia are –

Danilo Turk  with president of Azerbaijan Ilham Alijev (Courtesy photo)

Danilo Turk with president of Azerbaijan Ilham Alijev (Courtesy photo)

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Monte Negro and Macedonia – as a possible future nucleus of some kind of united diplomacy front of those countries, Turk said — “it would be too ambitious – to expect united support.”

(All those countries are members of the Eastern European group of states at the UN; Serbia may also have its own candidate for the next UN Secretary General —  if Mr. Vuk Jeremic, who was the President of UN General Assembly 67th Session in 2012 and 2013, decides to officially declare its candidacy for the top UN post.)

“But, I believe that there is a fair amount of understanding for this discussion, for this idea of my possible candidacy in the future, which is — in itself helpful, because the countries of former Yugoslavia really have to work together. We have seen this in many places. Now, when Croatia has become a member of the European Union, Serbia is making progress, Monte Negro as well, I am convinced this would sooner rather than later have a positive effect on Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Commonality and common needs

Mr. Turk added, that the question will arise how those countries “could produce initiatives which promote our common needs.”

“I believe that candidacy for the UN Secretary General could be a very catalytic factor that stimulates the commonality and common needs,” he said. Turk added, although it is “not something of immediate practical value for the countries of former Yugoslavia – nevertheless, politically it would be something that enhances prestige, acceptance and most importantly – respect.”

“We all, the country successors of former Yugoslavia need higher level of respect internationally. We have a degree of respect, bviously that has to be improved further. I believe such candidature will help in that regard,” Danilo Turk concluded.

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