The next UN Secretary General should be from Eastern Europe
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While most Americans are focused on the U.S. presidential campaign between Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE, another important 2016 election that will have geopolitical implications is currently taking place. That is the selection of the next Secretary General of the United Nations.

In 2006, during my tenure in the United States Senate, I had the pleasure of being appointed as United States Representative to the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly.  I had focused a great deal of energy during my time in the Senate on UN Reform- investigating both Saddam Hussein’s skimming over $20 billion from the Oil for Food Program, as well as a North Korea UNDP scam.  My purpose in shining the spotlight on the UN was not to undermine the UN.  Americans would benefit if there was a transparent, integrate international organization that dealt with global security and stability issues.  America doesn’t need to be the world’s policeman.  But the UN lacked that transparency, and needed- and still needs- reform. 

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As UN Security Council members deliberate on who will be the next Secretary General in advance of the next straw poll on August 29th, it’s critically important that we select a strong experienced diplomat to lead the United Nations.

Over the last several decades, diplomats from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Western Europe have all held the world’s top diplomatic post. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, Eastern Europe has been under-represented on the international stage. When NATO selected its current Secretary General, there was a hope that a man or woman from Eastern Europe would be selected, but in the end a politician from Norway was selected. Up until now, Eastern Europe, a critically important regional bloc formed after the end of Cold War, has not yet had been given the opportunity to lead the United Nations.

I strongly support giving Eastern Europe the opportunity to lead the UN.  As a region, they have largely overcome the economic yoke of Soviet domination and have embraced democratic values. 

While the international media devotes a lot of attention to high profile candidates from Latin America and Western Europe, experienced and respected leaders from Eastern Europe deserve a second look. The Foreign Minister of Slovakia Miroslav Lajčák, the former President of Slovenia Danilo Türk and the former Foreign Minister of Moldova Natalia Gherman are all well qualified UN Secretary General candidates that have played a pivotal role in helping Eastern Europe move forward.

Former Moldovan Foreign Minister Gherman helped transform the former Soviet country of Moldova from a socialist economy to a middle-income nation over the course of her distinguished career. The candidate from Slovenia, former President Türk served at the UN and helped secure his country’s position as a successful EU member, the first from former Yugoslavia. Slovakia’s sitting Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák helped to build and manage the diplomatic service of the newly independent Slovakia, later serving as an international peacemaker, mediator and administrator who helped heal the wounds of war-torn societies in the Western Balkans.

On July 1, 2016, Slovakia assumed the Presidency of the European Council and Foreign Minister Lajčák has demonstrated strong decisive leadership in helping to manage EU foreign policy post-Brexit. In early September, the Slovak Foreign Minister will host 28 EU Foreign Ministers in Bratislava to discuss the next steps forward for Europe.

Former Foreign Minister Gherman also exhibited strong diplomatic skills in dealing with Russian-backed forces in Moldova’s Transnistria region, and she would be well able to handle the conflicting interests of Security Council members.

While Gherman and  Türk continue to play a role in regional matters, Lajčák has emerged as the most dynamic and strongest candidate from Eastern Europe with a proven diplomatic record that can help bridge the divide between East and West. While other candidates from Eastern Europe have put their names forward, my belief is that these candidates are best qualified to help advance western democratic values around the globe.

While an appetite exists to automatically select a woman as the next UN Secretary General, my hope is that we consider the eminently qualified male and female candidates that are putting their names forward to serve at the UN. Each candidate must be judged on their merits.

It is important that Eastern Europe finally be given the opportunity to lead the United Nations. As we approach next week’s critical UN straw poll, one thing is clear: Now is the time for Eastern Europe to shine at the United Nations. 

Republican Norm Coleman represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate from 2003-2009. During his six years in the Senate, he served on the Foreign Relations Committee as Chair of the Western Hemisphere and ranking member of the Near East subcommittees. Sen. Coleman currently serves on the Advisory Council for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.