Archive | December, 2012

10. The “Agrément” in diplomacy today

21 Dec

The “Agrément” in diplomacy today

 1. It is clear that many of the functions now carried out by foreign ministries and diplomatic missions have been the result of contemporary requirements, while others, with appropriate adjustments to the reality of this time, remain virtually the same since their inception .

2. Among the latter, particular attention must be given to the existence of a significant number of protocol standards and procedures, which are usually granted limited importance due to the subtle nature of the broad universe of international politics.

3. In this context it should be remembered that past and recent events show that improper handling of certain aspects of protocol, primarily important factors,  can cause cooling or “interference” in relations between States.

4. Without doubt, the selection of an ambassador to represent his country to another, depends solely on the State that appoints him. However, it must have the consent of the receiving State before the appointment (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 4, paragraph 1). The application of “agrément” or approval is a fundamental protocol formality by which the sending State asks the receiving State if it will welcome the person who has been chosen as the ambassador.

5. As part of the “extreme secrecy” in the process to be performed, usually after 30 days of a request for “agrément”, if there is no response, this may properly be regarded as an implicit rejection. States receiving the request for approval have the right to deny it without offering any explanation, as stated in the aforementioned Vienna Convention (Art. 4, paragraph 2). Note, however, that the request response maintained by monarchies usually takes longer (up to 60 days).

6. However, except in “special circumstances,” if the time-frame has passed without a formal response of an application for approval (i.e., when it has been implicitly rejected), in accordance with international practice the State should withdraw the application, and in a timely manner submit a new candidate.

7. It should be pointed out that in this dynamic, only after the receipt of approval, some countries will then require the ambassador’s approval by their legislatures, e.g., the Senate of the US and of some Latin American countries.

8. Before leaving for his post, the ambassador-designate should obtain the necessary documentation for accreditation: the credentials and the letter of recall of his predecessor. The latter and a copy of the credentials will be delivered to the Foreign Minister of the receiving State when the ambassador-designate visits him formally.  After his meeting with the Foreign Minister he can participate in limited diplomatic activities such as paying courtesy calls on other ambassadors and meeting with officials of the Foreign Ministry in the receiving State.

9. The Foreign Ministry of the receiving State will then designate a date when the ambassador-designate will present his credentials to the head of State of the host country. After his meeting with the head of State, he becomes properly accredited as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of his country.

10. While originally the head of a diplomatic mission was considered the Ambassador of his Head of State, (for instance, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ambassador of the United Kingdom was referred to as the “the Ambassador of His Majesty”), this has now evolved into a new situation where the ambassador no longer represents the person of the Head of State, nor the government, but the State itself.  Consonant with this, with the resignation or death of the Head of State, or the change of government of the State, this does not automatically determines the end of the ambassador’s mission. However, in monarchies on the proclaiming of a new king or queen, the ambassadors of those States are required to renew their credentials. A similar procedure, with its peculiarities, takes place in the Holy See.

11. In the case where an ambassador is not a career diplomat but a “political appointee,” it is normal for him, as matter of courtesy, to submit his resignation if a new administration which does not include his political party forms the government of his home State.

© by Odeen Ishmael


9. Consular Practice

13 Dec

Consular Practice

 1. The establishment of consular relations between two countries is by mutual consent and generally parallel to the establishment of diplomatic relations. In contrast, the rupture of diplomatic relations does not necessarily determine the breaking of consular relations. In this context as diplomatic agents have a representative character of the state, the consuls develop essentially administrative functions.

2. Unlike other diplomats, the consuls (who function within the consular divisions of embassies) have limited diplomatic functions, and they do not interact on a regular basis with official of the receiving State.

3. Because of this difference, there are also different methods of appointment of each other’s representatives. These are usually reflected in the nature of the appointment documents issued, particularly in the case of heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts, respectively, i.e., the Letters of Credence and Letters Patents. These will denote the different content and purpose, resulting in the different ways in which the receiving State may terminate the exercise of the functions of diplomatic agents and consular officers.

4. Since 1963, as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, apart from the usual commercial activities and protection, the consul’s formally recognised functions include the extension of his State’s national passports, granting visas and sending (where applicable) appropriate documents to persons wishing to travel to his State.

5. Also he may act as a notary public or a civil registration officer or an officer with similar functions, and perform certain administrative activities, if not contrary to the laws and regulations of the receiving State.

6. In addition, he can inform his compatriots residing in the consulate’s jurisdiction, in writing, on the right of protection granted to them and their obligations. This responsibility is related to the obligation of compiling and keeping a register of the nations of his State residing in consulate’s jurisdiction.

7. Because of the complexity and importance of contemporary trade issues, commercial consular work tends to overlap with those handled by the embassy. To avoid duplication of efforts, some embassies designate their trade attachés or high level trade consuls to handle these specific matters.

8. With regard to national consular service, there have been important technical, technological and control advances in recent times and these have resulted in consular services becoming more effective. Consulates generally generate significant revenues and, consequently, some heads of consulates (of some countries) receive higher monthly salaries that are allocated to ambassadors.

9. It is also fair to recognise the fundamental importance of consulates located in cities far from the capital (seat of the diplomatic mission), and which may be homes to major national communities and through whose ports there is significant trade with their home States.

© by Odeen Ishmael