Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Gwynfor's Dream Closer to Reality

Rhodri Morgan to see if Wales can get a spot at UN
Jun 11 2008 by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan yesterday appeared to lend credibility to the idea that Wales should be given “observer status” at the United Nations.

Instead of dismissing the proposal by Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins – as would almost certainly have happened before the One Wales coalition deal was sealed between Labour and Plaid last year – Mr Morgan (below) agreed to see if there were any precedents that might allow Wales to have its own ambassador at the UN General Assembly.

Last night Ms Jenkins, who represents South Wales West, claimed such a move would be consistent with the One Wales agreement’s commitment to “widen Wales’s membership and effectiveness in appropriate international bodies”.

She said: “In the context of devolution in these islands and in keeping with our proud outward-looking tradition it would be timely and pertinent for the Assembly Government to seek observer status at the General Assembly of the United Nations as a means of enhancing and building strong economic and political links with other nations, regions and organisations.”

Ms Jenkins said that such representation could work in tandem with existing Assembly Government offices overseas that promote Wales as a business destination.

She added: “The interdependence of countries in the 21st century is evident in so many aspects – economically, culturally and politically. We have a unique contribution to make on global issues and in order to increase our international profile we must be prepared to play our part.”

Mr Morgan agreed to investigate and to look at possible precedents in what, according to Ms Jenkins, would be the most significant diplomatic step Wales has taken since the days of Owain Glyndwr 600 years ago.

“Observer status” is afforded to NGOs, stateless nations and supranational organisations such as the EU. It allows such bodies to contribute to debate at the General Assembly of the UN without voting powers. It is enjoyed by Palestine and the Holy See.

But last night it seemed that Wales has little realistic chance of being allowed to send representatives to New York.

A source at the United Nations Association in London said: “There is no way the Foreign Office would allow this. The only precedents are the Holy See and Palestine. The Vatican is an independent state and Palestine is a nascent state.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK represents Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at the UN General Assembly. That’s the way it is.”

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