Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.11.1980, Blaðsíða 6

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.11.1980, Blaðsíða 6
6-WINNIPEG, FOSTUDAGUR 7, NOVEMBER 1980 Dr. Paul Buteux: Diplomacy on a shoestring In 1945, at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, there were 50 countries represented. The following year, when Iceland became a member, the membership increased to 54. Now, 152 countries are represented in the Organization. This nearly threefold increase in membership underscores the enormous diplomatic demands made by the expansion of the intemational system in the last thirty five years. In order to meet these demands, Iceland maintains overseas, nine embassies, one consulate-general and one permanent mission to international organizations in Geneva. Forty foreign service officers are available to staff these missions and serve in the foreign ministry in Reykjavík. By way of contrast, Canada maintains over 100 posts, missions and offices abroad, and has a foreign service establishment numbering well over 1,000 persons. If a medium sized power like Canada finds it necessary to make such an extensive diplomatic effort, then the question arises as to how Iceland manages to serve its foreign policy interests with so small a diplomatic service. Limited resources and broád foreign policy interests Of course, the brief answer must be that with a population of 220,000 peo- ple, Iceland has no choice but to do the best it can with the inevitably limited resources available. However, by the exercise of ingenuity, and by a fairly ruthless definition of what external in- terests will be pursued, Iceland does manage to conduct a diplomacy on á scale appropriate to its foreign policy interests. The content of these interests can be described under three broad headings; commercial, political and cultural, and the pattern of diplomatic representa- tion reflects where these interests are to be found. As might be expected, the most intense and greatest range of con- tacts are with other Nordic countries. These cover all three aspects of Ice- land's external interests, and Iceland maintains embassies in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. Until 1940, Den- mark was responsible for the conduct of Iceland's external relations, and as a result of these historic links, the diplomatic relationship with Copen- hagen remains of particular impor- tance. Nonetheless, the Nordic connec- tion as a whole is of great significance, and for many purposes the Nordic countries form a sort of diplomatic cooperative. The Nordic Coluncil and The Honorary Consular Corps Iceland is a member of the Nordic Council, and through close coopera- tion with her larger partners is able to gain access to a broader view than her own diplomatic resources would allow. Members of Nordic embassies meet regularly in the capitals to which they are accredited in order to discuss matters of common concern and the wider diplomatic contacts of the other Nordic countries facilitate the conduct of business in countries in which Ice- land has no direct diplomatic represen- tation. Otherwise, Iceland must rely on an extensive network of honorary consuls who are to be found from Melbourne to Caracas, and from Win- nipeg to Tokyo. In all, Iceland has ap- pointed about 140 of them, and with- out their assistance would be unable to provide routine consular services in many parts of the world. Icelanders are an itinerant people, and although consular work consists of more than dealing with the problems of citizens abroad, it is the case that the "dis- tressed" Icelander will be able to find succour in some urilikely places. The range of diplomatic responsi- bilities Whereas the work of Iceland's em- bassies in Scandanavia is responsive to the shared cultural background of the Nordic countries, the work of Iceland's other missions is largely commercial and political. These are to be found in Washington and Moscow, Paris and Bonn, Geneva, Brussels and London. In adddition, there is a professionally staffed consulate-general in New York. Despite the many changes in the inter- national system since Iceland first established her diplomatic service in the 1940's, the basic shape of Iceland's overseas representation has changed little. In this, it reflects the fact that Icelanders' have established a fairly stable pattern of commercial and poli- tical interests, although the volume of Systkinin hittast eftir 54 ár "Betra er seint en aldrei", sagði Ragnar Sigurdson er hann leit við á skrifstofu L.H. fyrir skömmu. Tilefni þessara orða var að í sumar hitti hann systur sína frá íslandi, Huldu Óskars- dóttur og höfðu þau þá ekki sést í 54 ár. Ragnar fluttist vestur til Kanada aðeins þriggja ára gamall, þá var Hulda 1 1/2 árs, svo ekkert muna þau frá þeim dögum. Urðu miklir fagnaðarfundir með þeim systkinum. Hulda kom hingað til Manitoba ásamt manni sínum Baldri Finnssyni og dvöldu þau á heimili Ragnars og konu hans Kather- ine hér í Winnipeg í þrjár vikur. Þau ferðuðust rnikið um nærliggjandi byggðir og heimsóttu m.a. Gimli á ís- lendingadeginum. Ragnar sagði að sig langaði mikið til að heimsækja ísland og hefðu þau hjón jafnvel í huga að ferðast þangað næsta sumar. Þó Ragnar sé fæddur á Íslandi og tali íslensku lítur hann fyrst og fremst á sig sem Kanadamann. Hann Systkinin Ragnar Sigurdson og Hulda Óskarsdóttir á heimili Ragnars i Winnipeg barðist í síðari heimstyrjöldinni fyrir Kanada, þá aðeins 18 ára. "Kanada er gott land", segir hann. "Hér hefur mér og mínu fólki liðið vel." En hann tekur einnig fram að hann sé ákaflega stoltur af íslandi og íslendingum, menningu þeirra og dugnaði. The Icelandic Embassy in Washing- ton, D.C. work has grown as Iceland's involve- ment with the international communi- ty has increased. The embassies in Washington and Brussels are probably the most important to Iceland in terms of the range of political matters that they deal with, whilé the missions elsewhere place relatively greater em- phasis on Iceland's commercial in- terests. All Icelandic ambassadors are ac- credited to a number of different governments and institutions, though it is unlikely, for example, that the am- bassador to Sweden, who is also ac- credited to Albania, has very much to do with Tirana. Still, these multiple responsibilities require Iceland's diplo- matic personnel to be generalists. The one exception to this is in matters deal- ing with fish and the law of the sea. Since fish products account for 75 per- cent of Iceland's exports, every Ice- landic diplomat is well versed in the problems and intricacies of the trade. Moreover, given the importance of fish to the Icelandic economy, Iceland is extremely sensitive to any develop- ments in maritime law that might af- fect her access to offshore resources. Thus Iceland has devoted a great deal of attention to the lengthy inter- national negotiations on the law of the sea, and has developed considerable expertise in this area. By and large, though, Icelandic dip- • lomats are exposed to a wide range of concerns, and can operate only by selecting as narrow range as possible of matters to which they give their atten- tion, and by avoiding any deep in- volvement with anything that does not seem to be of direct interest to Iceland. There are simply not the staff avail- able, either in the missions or in Reyk- javík, to undertake any extensive re- porting function, and it is necessary for Iceland's diplomats abroad to establish clear priorities in what they will refer to their foreign ministry. Iceland's presence at NATO head- quarters At present, the largest of Iceland's missions is in Brussels. It is staffed by an ambassador, two other officers and two secretaries. It represents Iceland not only in Belgium, but in NATO, the Éuropean Community and in Luxem- burg as well. The embassy is physical- ly located in NATO headquarters, and since this is a secure area it can create difficultíes for anyone wanting to visit the embassy on a casual basis. The problem is solved by the ubiquitous honorary consul, and two have been appointed in Brussels who, through a downtown office, can handle a lot of the routine consular work of the em- bassy. Apart from handling the specific interests that concern Iceland with res- pect to the organizations and govern- ments to which it is accredited, the em- bassy functions as a "listening post", reporting on what might be of general concern to Icelandic foreign policy. Naturally, with this range of respon- sibilities, the staff are spread pretty thin, and the way in which NATO functions adds to the strain. Since the NATO Council can meet only when all the member states are represented, Iceland must maintain a properly ac- credited diplomat in Brussels at all times. The embassy cannot close the store for the holidays! Again, modern international organizations, like any bureaucratic structure, spawn a host of committees. NATO is no exception, and it is necessary for the Icelandic delegation to be selective in choosing what committees on which to be repre- sented. Nevertheless, the delegation receives an enormous quantity of mat- erial which has to be reviewed for its relevance to Icelandic interests. Membership in an international or- ganization like NATO involves the practice of multilateral diplomacy, and v this can be both a help and hindrance to a small country such as Iceland. On the one hand, Iceland can benefit from the common positions worked óut through the organization and can take advantage of staff work that is beyond her own resources. For example, in November there will take place in Madrid a further conference on sec- urity and cooperation in Europe. This is a follow-up to the Helsinki con- ference of 1975, and Iceland was one of the thirty-five signatories, from both East and West, to the Final Act of that conference. Clearly, Iceland has a significant interest in East-West detente, and her ability to participate effectively in Madrid, and her capacity to monitor what is going on, are greatly assisted by her membership in NATO. A cumbersome machinery On the other hand, multilateralism can create difficulties. Iceland frequently finds this in her dealings with the European Community. Many matters which Iceland would wish to • take up bilaterally with member states have to be dealt with through the often cumbersome machinery of the Com- mission of the European Community in Brussels. Currently, Iceland has pro- blems with Denmark and Greenland over the impact on Iceland's access to the capelin fishery of the extension of fishing limits to 200 miles. Rather than dealing directly with Copenhagen on this matter, because it falls within the jurisdiction of the European Com- munity, Iceland has to pursue her in- terests through the Commission. The result is to make the negotiations more complicated and drawn out than other- wise might be the case. In dealing with the European Com- munity, Iceland maintains contact with an officer of the External Rela- tions Division of the Commission who is appointed to look after relations with those Nordic countries who are not members of the Community. In order to function effectively, it is necessary for Icelandic diplomats to establish contacts with those sections of the host continued on page 7

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