Guterres set to become next UN Secretary General

The Portuguese politician António Guterres is poised to become the new UN secretary-general. After the Security Council voted in favour of the former head of the UNHCR his confirmation by the General Assembly is seen as a mere formality. Some observers are delighted to see that he won out against the candidate backed by Berlin and Brussels.

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Observador (PT) /

Berlin and Brussels out of order

Germany and the EU Commission had backed the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva as candidate for UN secretary general. A completely incomprehensible move, Observador comments:

“Guterres has clearly demonstrated that he is the most suitable and best prepared candidate. ... Nevertheless the candidate Kristalina Georgieva was brought into the running in a last-ditch attempt to stop him. The move has exposed an interesting division in Europe: France and Britain joined forces to prevent the victory of the 'German candidate' Georgieva, putting Berlin it its place. Because Germany may have the say in the EU, but at the United Nations it's the British and the French who represent Europe. ... However, the EU Commission also acted strangely. ... It is simply incomprehensible that Brussels didn't support the European candidate who was best qualified to be elected.”

Večer (SI) /

No cause for celebration

The decision to nominate Guterres shows that the UN is even willing to put its reputation on the line for the sake of not annoying the major powers, Večer comments:

“The fact that unwritten laws and well founded demands are being trampled underfoot doesn't exactly inspire confidence. One of the demands was for the new secretary general to be a woman, but all of a sudden that was unimportant. Even worse for the UN is that it has ignored the unwritten law according to which the next secretary-general should have come from the Eastern European group. The fact that this principle was also thrown overboard shows that the superpowers won't have any reservations in future about applying the law of the jungle. And the most important point: the election of Guterres is an indication that the UN threatens to become a kind of international humanitarian organisation rather than a political agent in conflicts and wars.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Syria conflict will be Guterres' first major challenge

As new UN Secretary-General António Guterres must revive the flagging efforts of international diplomacy to resolve the Syria conflict, writes the Guardian:

“It will fall to him to take the lead where the security council has so demonstrably failed. He has won plaudits for speaking out strongly in the past over a wave of migration from a wartorn Middle East that is now larger than that which took place at the end of the second world war. He will need to put Syria at the top of his list of priorities. This may call for a more muscular, hands-on approach. The UN needs to be right, left and centre of the intense shuttle diplomacy that should have the very best diplomats involved at the highest levels in the capital of every country involved.”

Público (PT) /

An unexpected winner

The nomination of the former Portuguese prime minister comes as a surprise for Público:

“This is clearly unexpected if you look at all the factors against him: he was born in the wrong place (namely Western Europe, and this time there had been calls for a candidate from Eastern Europe). He is the wrong sex (for the first time in the history of the UN a woman was to be put in charge), and he doesn't speak the right language: always talking as a humanist and in support of refugees - something that would put Russia and China off, it was said. … Guterres has the necessary skills for the job: principles, culture, experience and proficiency at negotiating. But it is doubtful whether he also has the resolve it takes to bang on the table. … On the other hand there is no such table for the UN Secretary General, because what really counts is the Security Council - and as everyone knows he has no seat there. ”

Delo (SI) /

Post not worth fighting over

Delo views the surprisingly uncomplicated vote to make Guterres secretary general with distrust:

“His swift and unproblematic nomination shows only one thing: the United Nations has become so marginalised in modern international politics that the major powers - which have recently revived the traditions of the Cold War in the world's trouble spots - couldn't be bothered to squabble over who holds such an 'important' post. Not even the Russians, who just a few days ago vowed they would insist on a candidate from Eastern Europe, ideally a woman. But then they backed down and voted for someone who won't seek any major changes or cause any big problems.”