Archive for Luxembourg
A superstar donor of President Barack Obama’s last campaign who later became ambassador to Luxembourg said that she has filed a rebuttal to an internal State Department review that found her tenure to be a disaster. Cynthia Stroum told The Associated Press that she did not know whether she could release details of the rebuttal publicly. “I’ve been caught off guard,” she said. “I want to be helpful and I want to get my side out, but whether that’s something I can release or not, I don’t know.” The State Department report released Thursday said her 14 months in Luxembourg were fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor. It said things were so bad that some staff requested transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Well-documented management problems have troubled the embassy for a decade, Stroum said, and certain problems cited in the report were due to vacant senior staff positions. The internal memo took some of that into account. “The current Ambassador is not responsible for the management cuts in 2008 that crippled general services operations before her arrival,” it said. “However, the bulk of the mission’s internal problems are linked to her leadership deficiencies, the most damaging of which is an abusive management style.” But Stroum said she was proud of the work she did, reiterating a statement first released to The Seattle Times in which she said she focused on initiatives that were in the best interest of U.S.-Luxembourg relations. She said she was proud of the links she helped create between companies in Luxembourg and Washington state. “Serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg has been a true privilege,” she said in an e-mail. “I have new found respect for the hard work done by the diplomatic corps around the world and applaud all of those who serve their country.” Stroum, 60, is the daughter of the late Sam Stroum, a Seattle philanthropist who made a fortune as an investor in the Schuck’s Auto Supply. Cynthia Stroum is an investor in Washington state-based companies, including Starbucks. She established two foundations focusing on cancer research and served on the board of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. As a fundraiser, Stroum ginned up at least $500,000 for Obama, putting her near the top of the campaign’s money generators. Stroum also donated at least $13,800 to the campaigns of Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The State Department report said Stroum stressed to embassy staffers “the importance she attaches to the perquisites of” being an ambassador. As such, she was particularly concerned about the state of the ambassador’s residence, which was being renovated, it said. Embassy officials spent weeks trying to find her appropriate temporary housing, screening hundreds of properties. They found four that met her criteria, and she rejected all of them before finally settling on a residence. The report also found that she inappropriately spent $2,400 on a trip to Switzerland; that the embassy bought $3,400 in liquor and wine to use up its entertainment budget even though such year-end sprees are barred; and that Stroum was reimbursed for buying a new queen-sized bed, even though she had been provided with a king-sized one.
Described as “aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating,” President Obama’s ambassador to Luxembourg left the U.S. embassy there “in a state of dysfunction” and unable to carry out its duties after her recent exit, according to report released this week by the State Department Inspector General. Cynthia Stroum, one of President Obamas top 25 fundraisers — a bundler who raised more than $500,000 for the his campaign — was chosen for ambassador in 2009. Since then, auditors say her autocratic, bossy and demanding style led to complete failure of the embassy in Luxembourg’s ability to function as an arm of the U.S. government in one of the world’s smallest and wealthiest nations. “Morale among Americans and local staff is very low, and stress levels are high,” said the audit. “Most employees describe the Ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy and uncertain work environment.”
The American Ambassador to Luxembourg has handed in her notice, less than a year after taking up the job. Cynthia Stroum announced her departure in a press statement, citing a desire to return to family and business life in the States. Her office strongly denies suggestions that the Ambassador’s premature departure is linked to confidential material published on the Wikileaks website. But, the timing, just over a month after the controversial disclosures were made public, hints that there could be a link between the two events. In November a quarter of a million classified documents pertaining to the US government were leaked online. Of that number, 168 regard Luxembourg in some capacity, with one suggesting that a former Guantanamo detainee was sent to Luxembourg by the US to urge the Grand Duchy to rehome former detainees of the notorious prison camp. The leak was condemned by Mrs Stroum, who said at the time that she could not confirm whether or not the information was legitimate. Mrs Stroum is to be temporarily replaced by Career Foreign Services Officer Arnold Campbell, who is currently deputy chief at the Embassy. Mr Campbell, who has more than 25 years’ diplomatic experience, arrived in Luxembourg a few weeks ago to take up the post.
The Swedish government said it would close six Swedish embassies, including five in Europe, this year and open 10 new embassies. Embassies facing closure were based in European Union members Bulgaria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Slovenia. “Within the framework of the close cooperation that exists between the EU member states, there is scope for developing new forms for maintaining bilateral contacts in future,” Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said. Meanwhile, Sweden is to upgrade its missions in Albania, Kosovo, Georgia and Moldova to embassies. The sixth embassy to be closed was in Dakar, Senegal, while section offices were to be upgraded in Senegal’s West African neighbours Burkina Faso, Liberia and Mali as well as Rwanda, Bolivia and Cambodia.