France’s Printemps Européen on the Security Council

France heads the UNSC in June. Among other things on the agenda, conducting meetings in French.

8 min readJun 1, 2020


by Stéphanie Fillion. Read more on PassBlue.

A screen grab of Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France participating in a videoconference of the UN Security Council on Syria, April 29, 2020. As president of the Council in June, he intends to speak only in French in public sessions, as multilingualism in the Council, he said, has suffered collateral damage during the pandemic.

Even if Belgium’s presidency took place in February and Estonia’s, in May, is over, the European Union just held a virtual press conference from its mission in New York City to say that this spring was a European one in the United Nations Security Council.

The goal of the briefing, on May 29, was to show European unity in the middle of the pandemic and the global economic crisis, which are both challenging multilateralism globally. As a further display of unity, France and Germany held a joint press briefing on June 1. Germany leads the Council in July, and though its agenda is not finalized, the ambassador, Christoph Heusgen, said that it wants the Council to meet in the UN by then.

“France is happy to be just in the middle of this European spring, and we will make sure that the interaction with both Estonia and Germany will be as good as possible,” France’s ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière, told PassBlue in an interview.

Last year’s French-German dual Security Council presidency — in March and April — is now a trio, even a quartet; at least that is what the European Union wants to portray. The European members of the Council, elected and permanent (France), first scheduled a press conference in mid-May to announce the “European spring,” but it was postponed because of political infighting. Still, when addressing a pandemic seems to require prioritizing global needs over national ones, multilateralism remains at the heart of the European members’ talking points.

The “European spring” public relations effort aims to show cooperation among the European Council members, without Britain, and is important messaging for the Élysée, France’s presidential palace, and the rest of the continent. (In mid-May, Germany and France announced a $545 billion Covid-19 recovery program for the European Union bloc.)

“The truth is that there are a number of obstacles and adversaries to the UN and to multilateralism,” de Rivière told PassBlue. “There is a resurgence of unilateralism. Countries are…




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