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