After hearing about the Palestine vote in UNESCO, I became very curious about how various countries voted. I thought the breakdown of the votes would be an interesting snapshot of the balance of power in the world today, possibly revealing some new fault lines and alliances that otherwise would be difficult to detect. The question of Palestine must be among the top international controversies of our day, combining historical, political, economic, religious, military and many other kinds of disagreements. Although I didn’t have time to conduct extensive research, I was surprised how difficult it was to actually find a detailed list of the voting results. What is that about? Surely there must be loads of people wondering how their countries had voted. Yet the international media only mentions a handful of countries, and I couldn’t find any details on the UNESCO or UN website.
Eventually I came across a link to this blog at an unlikely place, the comments section of a Slovakian newspaper, where also a lot of readers were looking for such a list. But even this list is a reconstruction via unofficial sources and guesswork, as far as I can tell (although I’m grateful to the author to have made the effort to assemble it). Let’s assume that the list is correct. First, it is interesting to see is how isolated the “no” voters are. Fourteen countries vastly outnumbered by the “yes” voters and the “abstentions” and “no shows.” And a lot of the “no” countries are very small ones, such as Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. There are only five EU member states among them (Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden). At the same time there are eleven EU countries that have voted “yes”.
One can speculate about which countries fall into which other country’s sphere of influence or which countries would be likely to vote “no” because they have similar problems at home. However, these assumptions don’t seem to work in this case. E.g. I was surprised to see Serbia voting “yes,” considering that one would expect them to be wary of supporting the recognition of new countries in general, given their Kosovo problem. It’s also interesting to see the differences between neighbouring countries with historical ties (e.g. Czech Republic voting “no,” Slovakia abstaining; Austria voting “yes,” Hungary abstaining; the Netherlands voting “no,” Belgium voting “yes”). But I’m not an expert in this field, and according to Sean (who had constructed the list) “most of these are no surprise.”
I suppose what’s particularly disappointing from a European perspective is that the EU is not capable of forming a common position on this foreign policy issue. The European vote was split three ways, which really makes you wonder of the effectiveness of their co-ordinating mechanisms and the strength of the European voice in the world.