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May 23, 2022

Diplomacy without diplomats

Diplomacy, by its dictionary definition, is the activity performed by a state via its diplomatic representatives, in order to apply its foreign politics serving national interests, or the ensemble of methods and procedures used in the field of international relations between the states. Yet, it also means a cautious and dexterous behaviour, finesse, skillful attitude, and carefully selected words, so that a person could say anything without hurting the other person’s interests.

Life teaches us and sometimes forces us all to be diplomats in our attitude, behaviour and language, even if we are not employees of some institution with attributions in the field of international relations and we do not represent the interests of our country of provenience in another country.

Yet, actual diplomats, respectively the employees of these institutions, entitled to represent the interests of our country abroad, such as ambassadors, by example, should be genuinely diplomatic in their behaviour, attitude and public action and expression.

Moreover, no organizational chart of any institution in the world with responsibilities in this field includes such job requirements for diplomats as public behaviour resembling the one in a bar, where, as the courage grows proportionally with the number of glasses of liquor, dirty jokes start flying. If they are good, at least they entertain the audience.

Yet, if they are uninspired, grotesque, insulting and revolting, not even the number of consumed glasses excuses the one who had said them.

What is the excuse of an Ambassador if, in a public appearance, when he is not considered a private person, but a high representative of the interests of the country that put him in his position starts telling obnoxious jokes, considered by the audience and the public opinion of the country he is serving as insulting, revolting and perplexing?

It is the case of Sorin Vasile, Romania’s Ambassador to Armenia, who started a scandal and the outrage of public opinion in Armenia after a series of Anti-Semite and sociopathic jokes made during a conference at the American University in Yerevan, after being asked questions about the Armenian genocide.

After realizing the gaffe he made, he apologized later in the same publication,www.CivilNet.am, that, by a series of articles shared virally, vehemently criticised the unacceptable behaviour of the Romanian diplomat.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by the decision of Minister Bogdan Aurescu, revoked Vasile in order to demand explanations regarding this incident and apologized for the remarks made by the Ambassador in Yerevan, pointing out that the Ministry deeply regrets and vehemently condemns them.

This scandal shows us that we have diplomacy. OK, that is great. But what do we do with it? Where are our true diplomats? Why are such characters in the Diplomatic Corps, which is supposed to be an elite institution, that includes only outstanding representatives, selected by rigorous criteria, based on recommendations, exceptional academic and professional references, people with a vocation and passion for the fascinating field of diplomacy, assuming massive responsibilities deriving from exercising this noble profession of great engagement and prestige.

The case of Mr. Vasile is an isolated one and any generalization would be unfair and inaccurate, as the Diplomatic Corps of Romania also includes outstanding diplomats, professionals with a remarkable background and experience, with outstanding activity and performances worthy of all respect, that dignify them for the profession they are exercising.

It is impossible to name all Romanian diplomats worthy of a substantial “laudatio” for the remarkable manner they are exercising their attributions of representing Romania’s interests. They are indeed numerous. Yet, the most handy example is that of the present Foreign Affairs Minister Bogdan Aurescu who, during his first press conference after the nomination, made a declaration that showed his passion for his job, his loyalty and fidelity to the profession of diplomat, the assumption of the enormous responsibilities he has had for the eighteen years he has been serving the interest of the country as a diplomat, as well as the special attachment to the values of the institution he leads right now, respectively the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he has named “his home”.

Yet, it is regrettable that, in these times, as the world permanently changes in a fast and dizzying rhythm due to new challenges and emerging threats, and Romania’s priorities in foreign politics demand that its interests abroad would be represented by first class professionals, an Ambassador of our country plays with words in a completely outrageous and condemnable way. As he, actually, was supposed to be the first one to use carefully selected words, passed through the most refined filters of reason, so that no word ever spoken by him in a public gathering should ever hurt anyone, especially when it is connected to a painful event in the history of the respective country.

The case of Mr. Vasile is eloquent for the expression “diplomacy without diplomats”, as by his performance at the respective conference he was anything but a diplomat. Neither concretely, not figuratively.

An inspired joke, properly placed in the adequate context and with appropriate words may be highly appreciated by an audience in public space. In diplomacy, it may also relieve the tension of difficult situations, regardless of the level of discussions, starting at the level of experts and up to the highest level, that of presidents. Beside an ample culture, successful jokes made in the rigid environment of diplomacy, strictly defined by protocol rules and restrictions, often show a high level of emotional intelligence from behalf of the speaker.

In diplomatic context, severe gaffes are made either by inexperienced persons, or by people with gaps in their general knowledge and in their knowledge regarding international relations.

Although he was newly appointed in Yerevan, only one year ago, Ambassador Sorin Vasile cannot be defined as someone who lacks diplomatic experience or general knowledge, if we consider the fact that he graduated two universities and speaks ten languages, not to mention his portfolio of important missions abroad until he left to Armenia as Ambassador. He has been General Consul at the General Consulate of Hong Kong and Secretary-Advisor at the Embassies of Russia, Poland and Croatia.

We must also mention the genre of gaffes that are so annoying in the sensitive field of diplomacy and international relations are also made by people who have nothing to do with diplomacy, but who are appointed ambassadors as a reward for their loyalty and other services made to the head of the state.

It is a practice encountered not only in Romania, in the past few years, where many appointments at the top of the Embassies were made due to these reasons, but also in the USA, by example, where various persons who contribute with substantial donations during electoral campaigns are rewarded after the victory of the person they supported in the elections with high positions in Embassies abroad.

Sometimes, even diplomacy exercised by diplomats fails or is unable to reach expected results. What are we to say about diplomacy without diplomats?

They make unacceptable gaffes, being paid unfortunately out of taxpayers’ money, and may generate massive scandals and useless tensions with irreparable and unquantifiable consequences caused by the poor representation of our country outside its borders.

What filters should be used in the selection of diplomats sent to their position in order to serve Romania’s interests so that they would be able to provide a high-quality representation of our country abroad and stop creating undesired and condemnable situations that would hurt the vulnerabilities of public opinion in the country they are sent to service?





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