Valeriy Chaliy: “Ambassadors, particularly to the key countries, must enjoy president’s trust”

Valeriy Chaliy: “Ambassadors, particularly to the key countries, must enjoy president’s trust”

Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration told Capital about the new appointments of ambassadors, the imminent downsizing of the diplomatic corps and the role of the president in foreign policy.

— In the beginning of October the heads of Ukrainian diplomatic missions were appointed to France, Poland and Saudi Arabia by presidential decrees. However, there are still 23 embassies without ambassadors. There are no Ukrainian ambassadors to Germany and the UK. What is the reason behind this?

— You did not mention the appointments of ambassadors to Finland and South Africa. At the same time, if the position of an ambassador is temporarily vacant it does not mean that nobody represents Ukraine. Charge d’Affaires, general consuls and Ukrainian diplomats are working there. However, there are objective reasons that there are no ambassadors in these countries yet. The situation with the heads of diplomatic missions emerged before Poroshenko was elected president. It is not so easy to appoint such a large number of ambassadors all at once. The procedure of coordination of the nominees with the countries of their stay is quite lengthy. You cannot issue a decree before receiving the agrement (the approval of a diplomatic representative by the state to which he or she is to be accredited – Capital).

In addition to that, the president makes the choice of candidates with a great degree of responsibility. I believe that in respect to France, where Oleh Shamchur was appointed, and Poland, where Oleh Deshchytsia was appointed, the decisions were indeed successful.

— But things have quieted down after these appointments…

— This is not an entirely full impression, possibly due to the specific nature of providing information in this sphere, when countries and candidates are not announced prior to the appointment. We have agreed on more than a dozen new candidates to the posts of heads of diplomatic and consular missions and are currently waiting for the approval of the accepting countries. Among new appointments are ambassadors of Germany and Sweden. I hope that this issue will be settled within a month or two. In addition to that, we also have a vision on Australia, Hungary, Moldova, Latvia and Portugal. The decree on the new ambassador of Ukraine to Austria is expected within the next several days. By the way, it is also, in my opinion, a very good staff decision. We discuss not only the European direction of Ukraine’s foreign policy. Our next plans also include staffing of all our embassies in Africa, some of which will be hub embassies servicing several countries. In particular, this applies to ambassadors in Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya. The people have been selected and we expect to receive agrements within a month.

— What criteria are used to choose the candidates?

— We have a common position with Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on this issue and it is supported by the president. There is a clear understanding that Ukraine’s interests must be represented by people with experience, speaking not only English, but also the language of their host country. Among other requirements are understanding the priorities of the mission’s operation in the currently difficult conditions and ensuring its effectiveness and implementation of those priorities in the countries in which Russia has a strong influence. After all, they will be working under serious pressure. We want our newly appointed ambassadors to be dynamic and communicative. We want them to be able to find different channels of communication and form a public opinion in Ukraine’s favor. The desirable age of the candidates is 40-50, which by diplomatic standards is mature youth. If anybody has any doubts, I can assure you that the practice of appointments in exchange for certain gratuities is no longer applied and one should not seek a corruption component in the new appointments.

— However, opinions are being voiced that some new appointments of the ambassadors may be politically motivated.

— All of those, who have already been appointed and those who are being viewed as candidates are staff diplomats. I, however, believe it is possible that representatives of politics may be appointed to certain countries. In my opinion, there are positive examples of such staff decisions in the history of our diplomatic service, specifically Yuriy Shcherbak, Dmytro Pavlychko, Ihor Ostash…

— The previous president was criticized in the past for such a practice.

— We will appeal to the quality of our appointments. Now we hear reproaches that there are no ambassadors here and there. But the reproaches will be harder if the staff decisions will be hasty and poorly judged. That is why the president is so discreet about choosing those who will represent Ukraine.

— Some see in this his inclination to manually control foreign policy.

— I disagree. Administration of the country’s foreign policy is the obligation of the head of state stipulated by the Constitution. Ambassadors, particularly in key countries, must have the trust of the president. When the leader of the country trusts an ambassador, he or she can rightfully expect that their activities will be supported.

President Poroshenko, who himself was a minister of foreign affairs, pays great attention to interstate relations. This is what makes him stand out from his predecessors. He speaks English, has experience and skill in holding talks with his counterparts and is successfully building relationships with world leaders. It is not surprising that Poroshenko is involved in both the strategy and tactics of the country’s foreign policy. I believe with the challenges that we currently face, this is justified and vitally important. The president has a wide range of contacts with leaders of countries in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, China, Australia and influential international organizations – from meetings to regular phone calls. To date, the president has attended more than 70 meetings and held 150 international telephone consultations and talks both in bilateral and multilateral formats over a mere 150 days. Thanks to this activeness Ukraine remains the focus of attention. We are capable of taking a single position in support of our country and achieving solidarity.

— Is it possible that there will be more downsizing of diplomats representing Ukraine abroad and diplomatic missions?

— The foreign policy agency is currently optimizing the system of foreign representative offices. Corresponding proposals have been submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the president. This optimization is based primarily on the need to preserve and even improve the quality of diplomatic service in all spheres – political, economic, consular – in conditions of economizing financial resources. In particular, organizing the work of hub embassies that I mentioned earlier and expanding the practice of appointing ambassadors on a part-time basis to manage the operation of a number of diplomatic institutions in the region should facilitate this process. For example, this approach will be taken in countries of the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

Naturally, such optimization will lead to certain downsizing of the staff in a number of foreign representative offices. Unfortunately, we will have to temporarily close several embassies and general consulates. However, I believe we will manage to find an option that will allow not only for optimizing the diplomatic presence of Ukraine abroad, but also building a system that would fulfill its tasks most effectively.

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Александр Ренкас
Александр Ренкас 13 November 2014, 16:06

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