Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for January 21, 2010

Newsline: EU commission ’embassies’ granted new powers

The EU has converted 54 out of the European Commission’s 136 foreign delegations into embassy-type missions authorised to speak for the entire union. The move follows the coming into force last year of the Lisbon Treaty, which has the creation of a new EU diplomatic corps as one of its main provisions. All 136 commission delegations were renamed “EU delegations” on 1 January. But only the 54 placements were at the same time quietly given fresh powers in line with their new names. The super-delegations have taken on the role previously carried out by the national embassies of the member state holding the six-month EU presidency at any given time. As such, they now co-ordinate the work of the member states’ bilateral missions to the countries in question. The heads of the 54 delegations are also empowered to speak on behalf of the EU as a whole. But their statements have to be pre-approved by the 27 EU countries during meetings in Brussels. Eight of the new-model units are in Europe: Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine. Twelve are in Asia and the Pacific Ocean: Afghanistan, Australia, China, East Timor, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam. The rest are in Africa: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the delegation to the African Union in Addis Ababa. The 54 missions were selected by EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton following discussions with EU states. There is no deadline for the conversion of the rest. Most of the commission’s delegations to international bodies, such as the UN in New York or the OSCE in Vienna, were not included because the EU is still working out how to handle its membership in multilateral forums under Lisbon.



Newsline: Suriname Embassy Opened in Havana

The Foreign Ministers of Suriname, Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk, and Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parilla, presided over the official opening ceremony of the country’s embassy in Havana, with headquarters in the Miramar Business Center. Kraag-Keteldijk recalled the good record of the contacts between both nations, from the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979, always based on “solidarity, mutual respect and cooperation.”


Commentary: A Suspicious Deal Between the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and its Sex-Scandal Security Contractor

In September 2009, a series of shocking sex and alcohol scandals came to light within the U.S. Embassy in Kabul regarding a company called AGNA (ArmorGroup North America). In 2007, it was awarded a five-year $189,000,000.00 contract by the U.S. State Department to provide a private security force for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The allegations against AGNA also included counter-intelligence failures, security breaches and a rumor that an Embassy security subcontractor to AGNA was operating a local brothel. In September 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped in. She directed two separate investigations into the AGNA scandals and vowed that the investigations would be prompt and thorough. Today, four months later, the public still waits for the results of those two investigations.It would appear that both investigations were completed a month ago because three weeks ago the State Department announced it was terminating AGNA’s contract, but in the same notice the State Department announced that it was extending the AGNA contract until January 1, 2012. Apparently, the term “fired,” in State Department parlance, means being retained for another year. Due to a lack of transparency within the State Department, and the continuing abuses by its private mercenary forces, this author recommends that the State Department scrap plans to retain or replace AGNA. Instead, the U.S. Marines should return to guard the Embassy and its diplomats. U.S. Marines have traditionally guarded U.S. embassies and this tradition should be revived in Kabul.