As a united front in the fight to preserve the European Union, France and Germany are about to gain a global audience. During March and April, their top United Nations ambassadors, François Delattre and Christoph Heusgen, will take turns — in alphabetical order — presiding over the Security Council, marking the first time for twin Council presidencies.
The European parliament is up for elections in May, and France and Germany are among the few prominent members that have resisted the euroskeptic wave. Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, the leaders of France and Germany, respectively, have met in recent months to discuss migration, Brexit and military relationships.
This show of strength by the two leading European nations is expected to be a theme of their back-to-back tenures in the alphabetically based rotating presidencies of the Security Council in March and April. France is a permanent member of the Council, while Germany began its current elected two-year term in January.
“It’s a pure happy coincidence,” Delattre said of the March-April presidencies at a UN press briefing, below, with Heusgen. The two took polite turns, with flashes of humor, talking about their mutual agendas on the Council, as Delattre spoke French and Heusgen spoke English. “It’s not a merging of the two presidencies but an expression of close cooperation between both presidencies.”
Heusgen chimed in that the German-French historical context is that the two countries “fought three wars in the span of 70 years,” and now have gone from “archenemies to the closest friends.”
The two countries do not, of course, agree on everything. If Brexit goes forward, putting Britain outside the European Union, France will become the sole permanent European member on the Security Council, and when Germany asked a few months ago to change the French permanent seat to a European one, France quickly rejected the idea.
As part of our monthly series called Security Council Presidency, PassBlue asks UN ambassadors whose countries are holding the rotating presidency what they hope to achieve. This month, we queried Ambassador Delattre, a career diplomat who will travel with the Security Council when it visits Mali, a large UN peacekeeping mission, in March. Burkina Faso, a neighbor of Mali, is also on the itinerary. Both countries are experiencing rising numbers of deadly terrorist attacks. Delattre’s responses, sent via email, have been edited and condensed.
Ambassador to UN: François Delattre, 55
Since: September 2014
Languages: French, English, German
Education: Sciences Po and the National School of Administration, or ÉNA (France), obtaining an international law degree; University of Munich (Germany)
His story, briefly: Delattre was born in Saint-Marcellin in southeastern France, near Grenoble. As a child, he discovered his interest in the rest of the world early on: “Playing with a globe when I was a child,” he says, adding metaphorically, “and later, considering that diplomacy is a unique way to consider several space-times — in line with my passion for astronomy!”
Fresh from school in France and Germany, Delattre was posted to the French embassy in Bonn from 1989 to 1991, where he helped assess the economic impact of Germany’s unification. He returned to Paris in the early ’90s to work at the French foreign ministry, where his assignments included trans-Atlantic defense security, the Bosnian crisis and disarmament.
In 1998, Delattre was posted abroad again, to the French embassy in Washington. After a four-year stint, he returned to France as a deputy director to the foreign minister at the time, Dominique de Villepin. One of de Villepin’s foreign policy decisions was to oppose the US war in Iraq and to help form a coalition of European countries doing so.
Delattre was appointed French general consul in New York in 2004, and four years later, became ambassador to Canada, based in Ottawa. In 2011, he was named ambassador to the US, and in 2014, ambassador to the UN.
The accomplishment that Delattre is the most proud of? “My — modest — contribution to the COP21,” he said, referring to the 2015 UN climate change conference, in which the Paris climate agreement was universally agreed upon. Delattre acted as liaison between ambassadors at the UN and the negotiations in Paris.
Delattre and his wife, Sophie L’Hélias-Delattre, a lawyer with a master’s degree in business, have two grown sons.
What are France’s priorities for the dual presidencies? We are seizing the opportunity to work with Germany for two months, reflecting values and priorities that are important for both countries and for the European Union, such as the protection of humanitarian personnel and the respect of international humanitarian law; women, peace and security, that is to say the protection of women in conflicts and their full and effective participation in peace and political processes; and peacekeeping and the resolution of conflicts, from Ukraine to the Middle East, but particularly in Mali, where the Security Council will be in March.
What special events are planned? During our twinned presidencies, we plan to hold meetings on different crises and an open debate on the fight against financing terrorism. France has proposed a draft resolution on this issue, and we hope to see it adopted. On March 13, there will be a Security Council meeting on women, peace and security [based on the resolution mandating equal participation of women in peace negotiations, which has never been fully carried out].
While in Mali, we plan to acknowledge progress in implementation of the peace agreement and in the operation of the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel. [On March 1, nine soldiers in the force were murdered in Mali by an improvised explosive device on their vehicle.]
France and Germany are sending their foreign ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Heiko Maas, to New York during our presidencies, and they will attend meetings on Mali, the protection of humanitarian personnel and international humanitarian law.
At the heart of these two months, Delattre told PassBlue, “we have placed our shared defense of multilateralism, the idea of a global order based on law and strong international institutions that can enforce these rules.”
France brushed off Germany’s proposal of a permanent EU seat on the Council. Why? A European seat is a bad idea for Germany, which deserves a permanent seat on the Council, and also for Europe, whose objective remains to have as many representatives on the Council as possible. And it is politically and legally impossible, as the UN Charter recognizes only states as members. France and Germany support enlarging the Council to bring in new permanent members, including not only Germany but also Brazil, India, Japan and [one or more nations] in Africa. It is the only way to strengthen multilateralism.
It is crucial at the same time to enhance cooperation among Europeans serving on the Council. [Belgium and Poland are also current elected Europeans on the Council.]
How are you planning to promote women’s rights? Gender equality is one of France’s top priorities. We will focus on the protection of women in conflicts and their full and effective participation in peace and political processes. We want also to improve the participation of women in the work of the Council and, together with Germany, plan to have more women among the briefers during the meetings. That is part of our efforts to improve the Council’s working methods.
Head of State: Emmanuel Macron
Foreign Affairs Minister: Jean-Yves Le Drian
Type of Government: Presidential constitutional republic
Year France Joined the UN: 1945
Years in the Security Council: One of the five permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States)
Population: 69 million
2019 Contributions to UN: $135,668,775 ($2.21 per capita)
2019 Contributions to UN Peacekeeping: $421,504,140
Memberships in Regional Groups: Group of 7 (G7), Group of 20 (G20), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union (EU), International Organization of La Francophonie
2015 Maternal Death Rate: 8/100,000; by comparison, the US rate was 26.4/100,000
2017 per Capita GDP: $38,476; EU, $33,723; US, $59,531; world, $10,721
2018 CO2 Emissions (in tons, per capita): 5.5; EU, 6.9; US, 17.0; world, 4.8
Electric Power Consumption (1,000 kWh/per capita and year):6.9; by comparison: EU, 5.9; US, 12.9; world, 3.1 (2014).
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts?
Stéphanie Fillion is a New York-based reporter specializing in foreign affairs and human rights who has been writing for PassBlue regularly for a year, including co-producing UN-Scripted, a new podcast series on global affairs through a UN lens. She has a master’s degree in journalism, politics and global affairs from Columbia University and a B.A. in political science from McGill University. Fillion was awarded a European Union in Canada Young Journalists fellowship in 2015 and was an editorial fellow for La Stampa in 2017. She speaks French, English and Italian.