I am deeply honoured to be here with you today at the first FICAC Helsinki Consular Conference. This is the first time that my wife and I are visiting your beautiful country and we are very impressed with its beauty and with the excellent hospitality that we have received.
I would like to say a special thank you first to Dean of the Consular Corps of Helsinki Hon. Harry Berner, FICAC Director Hon. Harry Blassar and the members of the Consular Corps of Helsinki who have done such a marvelous job in making this historic event a reality.
I would like to say a special word of welcome also to all Deans and Consuls from the region for making the special effort to attend this historic Consular Conference.
The World Federation of Consuls was established in Copenhagen on 2nd October 1982. It was the Consul General of Monaco in Denmark, Hon. Vagn Jespersen who took the initiative of forming the Federation and was ably assisted by Consul of Luxenbourg, Hon. Ole Olsen and Vice President Consul General of Bolivia Hon. Poul Akerlund.
Countries present and first signatories of the Resolution were: Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Hon. Consul General Vagn Jespersen acted as President of the World Federation of Consuls for 13 years ever since the formation of the Federation in 1982 to 1995.
In 1995 the new President of FICAC was Consul General Andreas Mavrommatis. Five years later, in the year 2000 Consul General Peter Gad Naschitz of Israel was elected President. In 2003 at the World Congress in Athens, Consul General Roland Dahlman of Sweden was elected President.
Today, the role of the State is vastly different from that which is played for most of the 20th century. New and powerful actors have swept onto the international stage. Transnational corporations, aided by the forces of globalization, wield a vast influence on international decision making.
The UN has recognized Non Governmental Organizations and Civil Society as rightly demanding our space on the global stage.
The original concept of sovereignty gradually loses relevance in a world where States have declared commitments to the Charters of International Organizations, to bilateral and multilateral Treaties and Conventions and to the growing body of International Law affecting every sphere of life.
The leadership of an international organization in the modern era is a unique opportunity to make an impact on the world in which we live.
Change affects us all.
All organizations must, to a greater or lesser degree, react to change.
In my acceptance speech as President of the World Federation of Consuls in 2006, I said then, that within FICAC, it is time to change the centres of influence to be more inclusive towards Asia, Africa, the Americas as well as Europe. Even the FICAC Constitution speaks about “equitable geographic representation” as being a desirable goal.
I continued in my address to the General Assembly by saying “to those of you that doubt the capacity of this new Administration, I hope that time will prove that we are up to the task”.
Let me now mention some of the major achievements of this Administration so far:
- We have formed the FICAC East Asia Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Dr. Virachai Techavijit.
- We have formed the FICAC South Asia Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Kartar Bhalla.
- We have formed the FICAC Latin America Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Lamartine Hollanda Jr.
- We have formed the FICAC Africa Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Vice President Hon. Amarkai Amarteifio.
- We have formed the FICAC Central America and Caribbean Regional
Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Facundo Bacardi of Panama.
- We have formed the FICAC East European Regional Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Petr Vodvarka.
- We have formed the FICAC Middle East Regional Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Khaled Miqdadi.
- There has been an encouraging increase in membership and several more countries are asking for information to become part of our organization.
- We have developed the FICAC/UNICEF Programme to raise funds to benefit underprivileged children with HIV/AIDS.
- We created the FICACWORLD website which is now at professional standard with pod-casting now a reality. It has been totally refreshed and we welcome news from the individual Corps and urge you to make news available along with photographs to our Secretariat. Our website is a critical tool in the development of the World Federation of Consuls. Please use it and contribute to it regularly.
- We have created and developed the FICAC News publication which is carried on our website and printed on a regular basis. Our website report shows excellent results. The number of hits on FICAC News is so encouraging that we are examining the possibility of selling advertisements in this publication as part of our fundraising effort.
- We have developed a programme to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of our Federation in every region.
- As part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations we have created Medals of Honour in order to give recognition to colleagues who have given excellent service to their Consular Corps and the World Federation of Consuls. It is important to mention here the FICAC Star was created by me as our highest Honour in recognition of the excellent work of World Leaders. The concept was to use this as a vehicle for creating international credibility and promote recognition of our work and those prominent World Leaders who support and enhance it. The first Leader to receive it is the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. P. J. Patterson and most recently, President Abdullah Gul of the Republic of Turkey. Consular Corps from 3 other countries have already requested that their Heads of Government be considered by the Federation for them to receive the FICAC Gold Star.
- We are in the process of reviewing the whole basis of Application and Acceptance of membership to make the process friendlier for Consular Corps and Associations so that the growth of such membership will be an important element in the growth of the Federation.
- We have started discussions with the European Union on developing a partnership with them to turn Trade Agreements that are dormant into real business.
- We have created trade promotional programmes which achieved huge success with the World Consular Fair in Bangkok and International Trade Expo in Jamaica.
- We have written letters to Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Member Countries who have requested us to do so, re CC License Plates for Consuls and have received favourable response so far. Any Dean that feels there is some special issue that is of concern to your Corps please send the information to our Secretariat, and we will see how best we can assist you.
- We have created a Secretariat in Jamaica that works closely with our Secretariat in Brussels. This Secretariat co-ordinates all the information for the website and works closely with our webmaster. The Secretariat in Jamaica also produces the FICAC News. All this is also done free of cost to FICAC.
- We have successfully negotiated the British Airways special deal for members of the World Federation of Consuls. Effective 1st April 2008 to the 31st March 2009 discounts offered on airfares are as follows: First Class – 20%; Club World – 20%; World Traveller Plus – 15% and World Traveller and Euro Traveller – 10%. For further information, please contact our Secretariat at: email@example.com.
- We have established an Advisory Committee of the World Federation of Consuls for the first time. I would like to place on record our sincere appreciation and thanks to Hon. Kartar Bhalla, Hon. Demosthenis Severis, Hon. Dr. Sribhumi Sukhanetr, Hon. Peter Naschitz, Hon. Vagn Jespersen and Hon. Turgut Koyuncuoglu for accepting this responsibility. I would like also to thank them for their work, opinions and guidance given to me during the year.
- We invited Hon. Harry Blassar, Secretary to the Founding Board of FICAC, to Chair a committee to develop the history of FICAC. He has not only agreed to do so, but has sent an initial paper from which our history can, for the most part, be developed. I record herein our thanks to Hon. Harry Blassar for his work. A meeting will be arranged with him and others to develop the history of FICAC further.
- We have given full support to the Belgian Consular Union and most of our Directors joined them at their Annual Banquet which took place at the beautiful Palais d’Egmont. I had the honour to address the banquet, thanking them for their support and their contribution to FICAC over the years. At the end of my Address, a Special Presentation was made to Hon. Willy Deswaef, President of the Belgian Consular Union, for his contribution to FICAC.
- We have developed an Education programme with Centre d’Etudes Diplomatique et Strategique, Paris, France, and we are now be able to offer lectures on International Relations to all member countries when required.
Consular operations can no longer be confined to the issuance of travel documents and attention to the welfare of the Nationals of the countries that we represent, as globalization has altered the framework for bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Several Countries worldwide are closing their Embassies for budgetary reasons and are appointing Honorary Consuls to serve instead. Developing countries are appointing more Honorary Consuls to represent their countries.
Today, therefore, I would like to share some perspectives with you, on these key international developments.
- This Administration has changed our centres of influence to be more inclusive of the Americas, Asia, Africa as well as Europe, to reflect that new reality.
- The role of the Honorary Consul must be expanded to encompass the full range of economic, political and diplomatic relations.
- This expanded role is particularly important for developing countries and small States who cannot afford global deployment of their Foreign Service.
- It is in this context that Consular representatives must constantly update the theory and practice of the craft, as we must become more relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.
A critically important component of the foundation of peace, democracy and development is economic growth.
In today’s world economy, which is being transformed by a comprehensive process of advanced globalization, international trade is the engine of economic growth, and has assumed an increasingly prominent role in State to State relations.
The development of trade and its promotion is one of the main functions of the Consul, and is also an integral part of the objectives of this Administration.
As part of this process there has been renewed momentum for the conclusion of trade agreements whether at bilateral, regional or multilateral levels.
We must mention here that the World Federation of Consuls is currently in discussion with the European Union to see how we could partner with them in order to develop an international trade promotion programme, with an objective of turning these dormant trade agreements into real business.
The World Federation of Consuls is potentially ideally suited to participate positively in trade promotion activity. There is therefore an urgent need to re-dimension our role to encompass trade promotion and advocacy.
Indeed Consular Corps have a comparative advantage in undertaking trade promotion because Consular Corps have a much broader geographic deployment and can therefore provide more extensive coverage than the Diplomatic Corps. This is particularly so for developing countries who are unable to afford diplomatic representation in all the locations where they have important economic interests.
The Consular Corps has a presence in all major cities, in the centres of business and commerce, whereas the Diplomatic Corps is concentrated in capital cities which, in several cases, are political rather than economic centres.
The Consular Corps include a high proportion of persons with considerable business expertise, and they are therefore ideally suited to trade promotion.
The members of the Consular Corps are more immersed in communities in ways in which Ambassadors cannot be, and their knowledge of local conditions and local products can be useful in identifying niche markets, distribution networks and new tradable goods and services.
Consuls can be important conduits for information which can inform international trade negotiations and enhance the awareness and involvement of the public. We can make a meaningful contribution to the promotion of trade in this area, and I ask you all to give this matter serious consideration. The future lies in the development of fair trade in the region and in the world.
This Administration has been setting up Regional Committees in East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Oceania in order to be able to give better service to our members and achieve our goals.
We can now say, for the first time, that FICAC is truly a global network of Consular Corps and Associations, created to support and improve the status, legitimacy and effectiveness of all Consular Corps in all sending and receiving States.
It is of critical importance for you to know that we abstain from all religious or political activities and from the practice of any discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, colour, religion or other such grounds.
Questions have been asked especially a few years ago as to what benefits a Consular Corps or its members can derive from being a member of FICAC. That question was never properly answered.
Participating in programmes developed by the World Federation of Consuls will bring members added benefits. Programmes such as;
- Education We have excellent contacts with the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatique et Strategique in Paris, a similar operation in London and Florida. Members who require particular educational programmes can write to our Secretariat requesting such a programmme and a lecturer who is an expert in that particular field will be made available to them.
- Trade The development of trade is one of the most important functions of the Consul. Members can network effectively in this area. International Trade Fairs and Expos have been organized by members successfully in the countries in which they have the honour to serve and working documents on these projects are available on request. The countries that are doing this on an annual basis have seen the image and status of the consuls and consular Corps involved grow considerably. They have earned the respect of the Government of the country and in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
- Cultural Exchange Programmes International cultural events have brought similar results to Consular Corps who organize them. Working documents for these projects are also available at our Secretariat. Member countries can assist each other in organizing cultural programmes.
- Negotiations Members of FICAC have benefited from assistance with disputes and other irregularities between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Consular Corps. We have successfully negotiated CC license plates and other benefits on behalf of members of the World Federation of Consuls.
- Travel Benefits The British Airways deal has been successfully negotiated by FICAC and several Consuls have benefited and are benefiting from the British Airways Deal. Discussions are taking place with hotel chains which hopefully will bring positive results soon.
- Information and Networking Information on member countries can easily be obtained either through their colleagues in that country or through our Secretariat. Sourcing of goods and services is one of the more frequent requests from members.
- Lobbying The fact that our membership has increased considerably, makes the Federation a very important organization in this area and shows that FICAC has become a strong source of influence worldwide.
- FICAC/UNICEF Our Humanitarian Outreach Programme. (Working Documents are available at our Secretariat either in Jamaica our in Brussels). This programme’s Slogan is “Consuls turning Caring into Action” The programme involves the Consular Corps organizing a formal fundraising banquet and inviting all the Consuls, Dignitaries, Diplomats, Ministers of Government and Business Leaders to attend. The price per ticket would naturally be larger than normal in order to be able to make a reasonable profit which would be handed over to UNICEF in that particular country. This Black Tie affair will become a great social event and the publicity for FICAC and UNICEF will be extremely strong and positive. This programme was successfully launched in Bangkok, Thailand by Hon. Dr. Virachai Techavijit and a presentation was made to UNICEF from the profits of the banquet.
- General Being a member of FICAC lifts the status of the Consul by itself and I think that each Consul should have a FICAC lapel pin to identify himself or herself when going to official functions.
They are on sale here. Just ask Mr. Patrick Debus, Director of our Secretariat.
Every programme designed by FICAC and employed by its members will improve further the status of the Consular Corps and earn the respect of the country in which it serves.
If there are any problems or you need information, please do not hesitate to call our Secretariat in Brussels or our Secretariat in Jamaica or call me at any time, night or day. FICAC is here to serve our members in every way possible.
The purpose of my Administration is to serve the membership and not dictate to them.
I would like before closing, to say a few words about my Board of Directors. The Team that I have the honour to lead and to serve are exceptional gentlemen who have dedicated their time and energy to the development of the World Federation of Consuls. We have had more meetings in 1 year than other Administrations have had in their 3-year term of office. They have never complained. They are working very hard and making an excellent contribution to the development of your Federation.
Please give them a big round of applause.
Thank you my friends.