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September 25, 2021

Eulogy for a great diplomat

When, in early September, Doina, the daughter of ambassador Constantin Ene, who has been living in California for years, called me from Bucharest, I realised something was wrong. That is how I found out that the great diplomat, who would have turned 85 on December 15, had died and had been buried, 48 hours earlier, at the Ghencea Cemetery, alongside his wife who died 24 years ago. I did not forget that moment because on 15 December 1993, his first birthday without his wife, I was by his side in Brussels, where ambassador Ene was Romania’s representative at the European institutions.

Constantin Ene worked as a Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry diplomat from 1956 to 2005, successively going through all diplomatic ranks, up to the rank of ambassador (1972). In his diplomatic career spanning half a century, he registered the performance of being the longest-serving Romanian ambassador and, especially, of going through – in confusing times, based on his performance – all the main stages of the history of post-war Romanian foreign policy: a great part of the communist period, the December 1989 revolution and the years of transition that followed and that opened the path to Romania’s accession to NATO and the European Union.

My first contacts with ambassador Ene date back to 1964 when, after graduating from the Law Faculty of Bucharest, I started to visit the Foreign Ministry for research, as foreign policy commentator of the country’s main daily at that time. He had just returned from New York, from Romania’s Permanent Mission to the UN, where he had worked for 4 years, having been appointed within the Foreign Ministry’s central office as head of the Directorate for the UN and international organisations. Among others, I cannot forget that covering the UN activity was, until 1989, one of my main concerns as a journalist, even though I first went to the UN headquarters only in 1993, during my first visit to the U.S.

From 1972 to 1980, ambassador Ene was head of Romania’s permanent mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva and head of the Romanian delegation at the Conference of the Committee for World Disarmament in Geneva. I had the opportunity to meet him there too, at the end of the 1970s, when I was sent to a disarmament conference, at the initiative of my former Law professor Constantin Flitan, back then head of the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for International Organisations.

Of course, the richest experience and the most important lessons I received from Constantin Ene, the ambassador and the man, at the Conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which took place in Mardid, from 1980 to 1983, dubbed, not by chance, the longest post-war diplomatic marathon, which surpassed in time even the Helsinki Conference. The permanent collaboration and dialogue with him during those years helped me and enriched me a great deal, both on a human and a professional level. The experience of those years, and the contact with Spain, which I profoundly discovered back then, materialised in the ‘Jurnal spaniol’ [Spanish Journal] book I published in 1990.

A specialist in multilateral diplomacy, Constantin Ene was involved in a great number of international activities, representing Romania at numerous international summits and conferences, at the United Nations Organisation, at the negotiations on the cessation of the arms race and on disarmament during the Cold War, including within the Warsaw Pact, at the Movement of Developing and Non-aligned Countries from 1960 to 1990, at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, subsequently, at the negotiations on Romania’s accession to NATO and the European Union.

In his long activity, he inscribed his name in several foreign policy actions with special meaning for Romania’s interests, which will not be overlooked by the scrutiny of researchers in any objective review of the country’s history: Romania’s actions in the debates on disarmament, particularly on nuclear disarmament, during the 1970s-1980s, at the height of the Cold War, when the risk of a world conflagration represented a real threat for humanity as a whole; the Romanian initiatives for the establishment of democratic principles at the base of the functioning of international structures and organisations, which have remained valid until today; the acceptance of Romania as member of the “Group of 77” developing countries, a significant moment for Romania’s efforts back then to weaken the containment it was subjected to within the “Socialist Camp”.

After 1989, added to these was the sustained activity to promote Romania’s bid to join the North Atlantic Alliance, in view of the NATO Summit in Madrid (1997), and especially the efforts with the European Union – at the headquarters of the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament – and the ensuring of efficient communication between them and Romanian institutions back home, during the period he worked as ambassador to Brussels (1993-2000), so that Romania could start accession negotiations alongside the other states from Eastern Europe (1999).

Of course, one cannot help but outline the fact that his activity served to boost diplomat Ene’s credibility and professional recognition. Thus, in 1964-1967, Constantin Ene was the first Romanian international civil servant employed at the UN Secretariat in New York, in what was a new field for Romania back then, that of international technical assistance; from 1978 to 1989, he was member of the UN General Secretariat’s Advisory Board of Eminent Persons on Disarmament Studies, being successively appointed to this structure by two UN Secretary Generals – Kurt Waldheim and Javier Perez de Cuellar; in 1979-1984, he led the group of UN experts on the economic and social consequences of the arms race, a group whose reports played an important role in the UN’s actions in this field.

I cannot conclude these lines of homage paid to Constantin Ene, the great diplomat and man, without mentioning ambassador Ene’s scientific and research activity, in his capacity as co-author of two reviews on Romania’s activity in international organisations: ‘Romania – 20 de ani de diplomatie multilaterala’ [Romania – 20 Years of Multilateral Diplomacy] (1985) and the chapter on international organisations in ‘Economia Romaniei – secolul XX’ [Romania’s Economy – The 20th Century], published by the Romanian Academy (1991).


Photo: Constantin Ene, 2nd from R


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