Hungary’s Orbán Wins Vote to Rule by Decree, @StateDept Issues Weak Sauce Statement 36+ Hours Later

 

 

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Trump Announces Travel Ban For Travelers From Schengen Area (26 European Countries) Over COVID-19

Via WH:
“The World Health Organization has determined that multiple countries within the Schengen Area are experiencing sustained person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2.  For purposes of this proclamation, the Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.  The Schengen Area currently has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the People’s Republic of China.  As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the 26 Schengen Area countries is 17,442, with 711 deaths, and shows high continuous growth in infection rates.  In total, as of March 9, 2020, the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries.  Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”
This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.  This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.
The travel restriction is for “The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.”
Click here for the scope of suspension and long list of  limitations of entry.

Ousted WH Official Mick Mulvaney Gets a New Gig as Special Envoy to Northern Ireland

 

On March 11, 2020, the State Department released a statement on the appointment of former White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as the new Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, a position first created under the Clinton Administration in 1995. Apparently, the formal title is Special Envoy of the President and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.  This is the top U.S. diplomat supporting the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mulvaney’s predecessors  include former U.S. Senator and former Majority Leader of the United States Senate George Mitchell, former S/P Richard Haass, former S/P Mitchell Reiss, former  Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs  Paula Dobriansky, and businessman Declan Kelly appointed as economic envoy to Northern Ireland by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  There were two long stretches where no one was appointed to this job; from 2011-2014 and again from 2017-2020.
The most recent appointee to this position was former Colorado Senator Gary Hart who was appointed during the Obama Administration and served from 2014-2017.  Special envoy positions do not require Senate confirmations.  Some special envoys have offices in Foggy Bottom but we have not been able to find a listing for the Office of the Special Envoy to Northern Ireland in the State Department directory. Any guesses on where they will put his desk?

US Mission Italy: Only Emergency Consular Services Available in Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence Due to Reduced Staffing

 

On March 10, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting that only emergency consular services will be available at all posts in Italy due to the reduced staffing that  goes into effect on March 11, 2020:

Event:  Due to reduced staffing that went into effect March 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence.

The CDC advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy and State Department currently recommends U.S. citizens reconsider travel. See CDC information regarding high-risk traveler categories.

On March 9, the Italian government released a decree prohibiting movement in public places except for justifiable work reasons (commuting, public and commercial transport is allowed), basic necessities (i.e., food shopping), and health emergencies.  The decree also cancels sporting events and public gatherings and closes schools, universities, and recreational facilities through April 3.  The Italian government has stated the new decree does not prevent travelers from departing Italy.

The Italian government has announced that law enforcement authorities would establish checkpoints at airports and train stations to collect self-declaration forms from travelers specifying the purpose of their movement and their destination.  Italian officials have also noted that checkpoints may established on highways to collect these forms.

In areas of Italy with large numbers of COVID-19 cases, the local healthcare system is under significant strain.

Public transportation including airlines, trains, and buses continue to operate, but with reduced frequency.  Travelers should check carrier schedules for the latest updates and work directly with the carrier or travel agent to arrange or reschedule travel.  Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of additional travel restrictions to be implemented with little or no advance notice.

 

USConGen Milan Suspends Routine Visa Services Until March 2, 2020 #Covid19

 

On February 23, 2020, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting the official count of over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy and the suspension of routine visa services at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan “due to reduced staffing levels.” On Twitter, post says that USCG Milan is suspending routine visa services “out of an abundance of caution.” The consulate general will continue to provide routine and emergency American citizen services.

Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Rome, Italy – February 23, 2020

Location:
  Regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Event:  The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas.  Due to reduced staffing levels, the U.S. Consulate General in Milan has suspended routine visa services until March 2, 2020.  Both routine and emergency American Citizen Services will continue at the Consulate General in Milan.  Full consular services are also available at the Embassy in Rome and the Consulates General in Florence and Naples.

Officials count over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the majority of which are in the Province of Lodi in the south of the Lombardy region. Two cases have been confirmed in Milan, and one each in Bergamo, Monza, and Turin.  Cases have also been reported in the areas of Brescia, Cremona, and Pavia.  Lombardy regional officials have cancelled schools for the week. City, regional and national officials continue to meet and assess the situation as more information becomes known.

Coronavirus infection rates are still very low, but those concerned that they are presenting multiple symptoms should contact 112 or 1500 to consult with Italian emergency healthcare professionals.

Previously, on January 31, 2020, U.S. Embassy Rome issued a Health Alert noting two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Rome:

On January 30, 2020, the Italian Ministry of Health announced two confirmed case of novel Coronavirus in Rome.
Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

On February 7, 2020, USCG Naples issued a Health Alert noting the mandatory thermal screening required at Italian ports of entry:

On February 5, 2020, Italian public health officials implemented mandatory thermal screening at all Italian air and maritime ports of entry in response to the recent Novel Coronavirus outbreak.

On February 21, US Embassy Rome issued a Health Alert noting 14 confirmed Covid-19 cases in two areas and the mandated closure of public schools and offices:

On February 21, the Italian Ministry of Health announced 14 confirmed case of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region and two cases in Vo’ Euganeo near Padua.

Public school and offices have been closed in the affected areas and Italian health officials have advised residents in these areas to avoid public spaces. Travelers in the area should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

 

New U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan Presents Credentials to President Putin

 

 

Secretary of State, Fourth in Line to the Throne, Sends “Perfect Message” and Gaslights the Whole World

 

Just before we went offline last week, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo went viral for his after-interview encounter with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly (see  Oy! NPR Host’s Questions About Amb. Yavonovitch Triggers Pompeo Meltdown).  And because bullying behavior is not a bug but a feature in this administration, Pompeo’s treatment of the NPR host was readily approved by the President of the United States. “That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh? I think you did a good job on her, actually.” Such normalized behavior that the whole room broke into laughter and Pompeo even got a standing ovation, and a pat on the back for his effort.
How come the State Department has not given this guy their professional ethos award yet? How long before the Foreign Service Institute start teaching Pompeo’s leadership principles? When are you going to hang up your selfie with somebody who is obviously a “perfect” role model for diplomatic demeanor and professional behavior in this upside down world?
Prior to Pompeo’s trip to Europe and Central Asia (London, U.K.; Kyiv, Ukraine; Minsk, Belarus; Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan January 29 to February 4), NPR reporter Michele Kelemen was notified that she was being removed from the press pool covering Pompeo’s trip. It should be noted that Michele Kelemen is NPR’s diplomatic correspondent and Mary Louise Kelly, the reporter who Pompeo reportedly berated is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning afternoon newsmagazine. Unlike Pompeo (who’s meltdown was triggered by questions about his “defense” of Ambassador Yovanovitch), NPR President and CEO John Lansing came out publicly to defend an NPR employee doing her job. We expect that Mr. Lansing and NPR will pay a price for making that difference in treatment starkly clear.
This is not the first time pettiness was demonstrated by State when it comes to its treatment of journalists covering the agency. In 2018, Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams covering Pompeo’s trip to North Korea wrote about Pompey breakfast of “toast and slices of processed cheese” thereafter known as “the Pompeo cheese incident.” Somebody wasn’t happy with that coverage and Wadhams was subsequently informed by State that he would not be allowed on Pompeo’s plane for then upcoming trip to the Helsinki summit.
It seems writing about unhealthy food intake and dropped f-bombs can get reporters booted off the USG plane.
On February 2, during a stop in Kazakhstan, Pompeo was asked about the NPR incident and the kind of message it sends to countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, whose governments routinely suppress press freedom. And below is Magic Mike’s response about the “perfect message” it sends:

QUESTION: Okay, let’s turn to the question about rights and press freedom. Last year RFE-RL journalists were physically attacked while doing their jobs, multiple times, and authorities have made no progress to try to find those responsible. Before you departed to this trip you had a confrontational interview with a National Public Radio reporter, and after that trip your department removed another NPR reporter from the press pool. Did you retaliate against NPR? What kind of message does it send to countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, whose governments routinely suppress press freedom?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I didn’t have a confrontational interview with an NPR reporter any more than I have confrontational interviews all the time. In America that’s the greatness of our nation: Reporters like yourself get to ask me any question and all questions. We take hundreds and hundreds of questions. We talk openly. We express our view; they ask their questions. That’s how we proceed in America. And with respect to who travels with me, I always bring a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest. And when they’ll do that, they get to participate, and if they don’t, it’s just not appropriate – frankly, it’s not fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside of them.

QUESTION: But what kind of message will it send?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It sends a message – it’s a perfect message. It’s a perfect message about press freedoms. They’re free to ask questions. There were – there’s a reporter from that very business who was at a press conference just yesterday. It’s wide open in America. I love it. I hope the rest of the world will follow our press freedoms and the great things we do in the United States.

Perfect message!
Jesusmariajosep!
Pompeo asking “for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest” is one of the most laughable parts of that interview with the 70th secretary of state. Tee-hee-hee! When he makes this kind of point, it makes us laugh and pee-pee in pain. Ugh! Get us some Depend Hiphuggers already, we won’t be able to stop laughing at this for a while!
Since the rest of the world is not stupid, folks can presumably see what kind of “perfect message” the secretary of state is actually sending to the press corps. In the aftermath of “the Pompeo cheese incident”, even if they were wronged, Wadhams and Bloomberg reportedly declined to make any comment. As far as we know, Bloomberg has not been blocked from the plane in other trips.
In the case of NPR, the public radio’s CEO came out to defend his reporter, and Mary Louise Kelly not only reported about the bullying in the post-interview incident but also wrote about it (also see “Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me)“. The State Department’s response was to bar, not Kelly but another NPR reporter from covering the trip. The message is perfectly clear: if they don’t like your questions, or your reporting, or demeanor when conducting an interview, they will not only kick you out, they will kick out every other reporter from your organization. They will put you in an ice box and they will bury that ice box under the dog house 60 feet down, and throw away the shovel.
So the next time something like this happens, will our media outlets expect their reporters to just take the abuse quietly? Or lose their chance to ask questions from this um … “exemplary” public servant (and great secretary of state in an alternate universe) who gets a standing ovation for behaving badly. We hope they’re thinking about this now because this will happen again. And again.
We’ve seen this happened in other countries, haven’t we? In countries where the government has successfully “trained” the media to “behave” a certain way in its press coverage, and where journalists then “get to participate” —  it’s always sunny, life is always great, the people are always free, and their government, of course, is always, always truthful and honest in its  island of perfection.

US Embassy Finland: Thinnest OIG Report Reveals Dysfunctional Relationship b/w Political Ambassador and DCM

 

The previous State/OIG Inspection Report of the US Embassy in Helsinki (PDF) is dated September 2011, 40 pages long, includes 22 recommendations and 38 informal recommendations. The newly released OIG Inspection Report of Embassy Helsinki at nine pages, including a list of four recommendations is probably the thinnest report we’ve ever read (PDF). The report notes that “The Ambassador and the DCM used their access to the senior levels of the Finnish Government to the benefit of the embassy’s foreign policy goals and objectives.” The report’s discussion on fopo goals and objectives occupied a third of a single page and we must admit, we’re not any wiser after reading it.
The Embassy Helsinki report dated December 2019 found four things:
    • Embassy leadership used their ready access to the senior-most levels of the Government of Finland to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives.
    • The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission did not manage conflict between them in an appropriate manner, which resulted in a breakdown of trust and communication that complicated the chain of command and contributed to a stressful work environment for Embassy Helsinki staff.
    • Lack of teamwork and communication between Consular Section leadership and staff had a negative effect on productivity and morale.
    • The embassy lacked policies for some information management support services.
The chief of mission is Ambassador Robert Pence , a political ambassador who arrived in May 2018, the DCM is identified as senior FSO Donna Welton who arrived in August 2016. Post’s new DCM is listed as Deputy Chief of Mission Ian Campbell.
The “longest” part of the report is on Executive Direction.

The Chief of Mission was a first-time, non-career Ambassador who arrived in May 2018. The Ambassador was the founder and Chairman of the Board of a commercial real estate development company. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was a career Senior Foreign Service officer who arrived in August 2016. A first-time DCM, she served as Chargé d’Affaires (Chargé) from January 2017 until the arrival of the current Ambassador in May 2018. She previously was detailed to the Department of Defense as the acting Director for Southeast Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy). During the inspection, the DCM was in the process of transferring to her onward assignment and was scheduled to depart Helsinki on June 1, 2019.

OIG found that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM fully modeled the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. Embassy staff told OIG that, initially, the two leaders worked reasonably well together. However, about 9 months into the Ambassador’s tenure, their working relationship deteriorated. In separate discussions with the Ambassador and the DCM, OIG noted that there was profound disagreement between the two about what led to the breakdown. OIG received information about various issues that contributed to the poor relationship, but ultimately concluded that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM managed the conflict in an appropriate manner, as called for in 3 FAM 1214b(9). According to embassy staff interviewed by OIG, the conflict led to a breakdown of trust and communication between the Ambassador and DCM that complicated the chain of command and decision-making. The conflict also contributed to creating a stressful work environment for embassy staff. For example, because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Ambassador and DCM, staff stated that it was not always apparent to whom they should report and who was making decisions on particular issues. Senior staff members described themselves as “caught in the middle.”

OIG discussed with the DCM her role in the conflict and, related to one particular issue, advised her that, even though she had been serving as the Chargé and was in command at the embassy in the Ambassador’s absence, it would have been prudent for her to have consulted with the Ambassador before signing off on what she acknowledged to be an important and potentially controversial action. At the time of the inspection, she agreed. OIG concluded that the DCM’s approach on this issue contributed to the troubled working relationship.

In discussions with the Ambassador about the conflict, he told OIG that, with the DCM departing in a few weeks and a new DCM scheduled to arrive at the end of June 2019, he was confident that employee morale would improve. However, based on OIG’s interviews with U.S. direct hire employees and LE staff, OIG advised the Ambassador that elements of his leadership and management style also contributed to the stressful workplace environment. OIG encouraged the Ambassador to:

      • Meet regularly, substantively, and face-to-face with individual Department section and other agency heads to provide performance feedback and to determine how the Front Office could assist each section and agency to achieve the embassy’s goals.
      • Document his general instructions to all staff regarding the issues he expected to come to him for approval and how he wanted the information formatted and provided to him.
      • “Walk the halls” to observe and interact with the various sections so that he could better understand the embassy’s functions and operations. • Meet regularly with the leaders of the LE Staff Committee to understand and address the unique concerns of the LE staff.
      • Solicit formal feedback on embassy-wide performance and morale to obtain information to formulate specific actions to address employee concerns.

OIG also provided the Ambassador with Department tools to help chiefs of mission lead their embassies. These tools included the Department’s morale survey that is used to solicit feedback from staff and identify issues that are negatively affecting morale.4

 

US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year

 

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U.S. Senate Joins House, Passes Resolution Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

 

On October 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-11 agreeing to H.Res. 296 “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”. October 29 is also Turkey’s Republic Day, the 96th anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
On December 12, the U.S. Senate also passed S.Res.150 “Expressing the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.” The Resolution was agreed to in Senate without amendment and passed by unanimous consent.

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