No business as usual
By Laura Amez-Droz
The MUN Board Members were honored to be invited to the first in-person Ber(li)ner Salon at the Deutsche Botschaft Bern by Ambassador Michael Flügger and attachée Claudia Stolte. Moderated by Priscilla Imboden, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, Ambassador Frank Grütter and Ambassador Thomas Greminger discussed the UN Security Council's ability to act and what Switzerland can expect as a non-permanent member.
The debate was understandably dominated by the current geopolitical events, as they are also dominating and testing the UNSC's ability to act and work in this demanding time. Dealing with Russia as a permanent member of the UNSC is proving difficult in the current situation. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen and also Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, who was present in the audience, spoke of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory as a turning point and a break in civilization, whereby there can be no return to normal dialogue with Russia.
It was reiterated, that while Switzerland is participating in the actions taken against Russia by the international community, the commitment to ensure that not all talks with Russia are completely abandoned and the dedication to prevent Russia to be completely sidelined are both high. According to Ambassador Frank Grütter, Switzerland is committed to not abandon talks with Russia altogether and to not completely sideline the country, especially with a long-term perspective in mind – as it cannot be considered "quantité négligeable" in any respect. All of the participants spoke of a compartmentalization of the contact with the aggressor, however, as Ambassador Thomas Greminger put it, there can be no business as usual, if not no business at all with the Russians at the moment. Regarding the UNSC’s ability to act, Ambassador Frank Grütter said, the work of the Security Council should not be seen only from the perspective of the veto-right – it is to be noted that the Security Council has certainly adopted resolutions successfully even during these difficult times, and this certain space for talks should be protected.
As has been discussed consistently throughout the campaign for the Swiss seat on the UNSC and this time in response to a question from the digital audience, the compatibility of the Security Council mandate with Swiss neutrality was addressed. Ambassador Thomas Greminger appropriately noted that neutrality does not equal neutrality of mind, and Ambassador Frank Grütter drew attention to the fact that even now, without Security Council membership, Switzerland must officially take a stance and is doing so by adopting and implementing sanctions against Russia.
he Security Council should thus serve as a platform for accountability in such times. During the debate, all interlocutors agreed that Putin's exclusion from the international community is necessary and unavoidable. The perpetrators of this war must be held accountable and must not be rewarded with further international cooperation.
Many thanks for this captivating evening and the highly interesting discussion! You can watch the recording of the debate on this exciting topic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ77vXtE95w
For background information on the Swiss candidacy and on the scope of the UNSC’s work and competences, you may refer to https://www.aplusforpeace.ch and check out our Blog Post on the candidature https://www.munbern.org/post/the-united-nations-security-council-and-a-plus-for-peace which we wrote after the amazing Aurelie Rime gave us a guest lecture on the topic we were immersing ourselves in over the course of the fall semester 2020.