February 20, 2019

Masters in balancing acts

By Karel Frielink.

For many professionals it is difficult to explain exactly what they are doing. This also applies to diplomats in particular.

Take, for instance, a diplomat who visits a reception of an Ambassador of a country whose President is strongly criticized, for example for violating human rights. “You don’t go to such a reception at all”, is an understandable reaction from an outsider.

But for diplomats it is not so easy. After all, it is they who, in times of great tension, or even war, have to keep communication between countries open. As a rule, they do this behind the scenes. But they can only be effective if they maintain good relations with diplomats from other countries as much as possible. And that also means that they sometimes have to go to a reception, while they would rather stay away.

Outsiders sometimes see this as a lack of principles. However, this is a misunderstanding of one of the most important tasks of a diplomat: maintaining good relationships. What many people do not always realize very well is that there are usually months – and sometimes years – of talks and negotiations at a diplomatic level, which ultimately lead to the political solutions they read about in the newspapers.

These activities, which are often not visible to the outside world, are of great (political) importance. For diplomats, of course, sometimes it is balancing on a tightrope. On the one hand, they represent the interests of the country they represent. This is often a difficult task in itself. In order to achieve results, they must also understand the interests of the other countries involved. And they must recognize cultural and other differences.

Finally, there are many other aspects of importance, including the art of negotiation. A good diplomat can be compared to a professional tightrope walker: mastering the balance is crucial!

About the author: Mr. Karel Frielink is Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba; Dean of the Consular Corps of Curaçao; Attorney in the Dutch Caribbean. (This contribution is written a titre personnel)

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