Ambassador Klemm Holds Banned #Szekler Flag in Romania, Reportedly Just Want to Be Polite

Posted: 3:35 pm ET
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A couple of years ago, the Hungarian Spectrum posted about The War of the Flags: Diplomatic Spat Over Szekler Territorial Autonomy. A diplomatic spat over a flag. Today, the AP reports on the controversy involving the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and the same flag, the Szekler flag.

On September 14, the US Embassy in Bucharest (@AmbasadaSUA) tweeted a photo of the visit to Sfântu Gheorghe by the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and his wife.  They did not post the controversial photo of the ambassador with the flag but it was posted on Facebook by the mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe, Antal Arpad according to social media coverage. The media has not been friendly. This one says that “It is time to get over an alleged ignorance of the American ambassador vis-a-vis historical realities in Transylvania. The gesture should be seen rather as a premeditated one.” Read more about the Székely land  here.

The Romani Journal citing realitatea.net says that US Ambassador Hans Klemm said that the only flags that matter to him are the US’s and Romania’s.  He reportedly added that the photo was taken within a context when he only wanted to be polite.

Well, now… imagine if we have the Russian, Chinese, German or Indian Ambassador in Washington show up in Texas holding the flag of Texit or Texas Secede! advocates then telling the press he/she was just being polite.

We’ll have back to back hearings in Congress, our elected folks would refused to go home to campaign during the election season. Right.

The Romania Journal also notes the FB post: Antal Arpad wrote on Facebook: “I offered the US Ambassador as gift the flag of the Szekler community, which has become the symbol of authorities’ disrespect towards the Szekler community. I mention that this flag was first used in 1599, when the Szeklers fought alongside Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave – ruler of Wallachia 1593-1601, the first ruler to unite the three historical provinces of Romania – our note).”

Below is the embassy’s response to Romanian media roiled by the photograph.  Via The Romania Journal as it is not available on the embassy page:

In a release as reply to the information in the media, the US Embassy says that Ambassador Hans Klemm is the US Ambassador for entire Romania. He is periodically travelling through the country, he meets various groups from all the areas of Romanian society. As ally and strategic partner of Romania, the United States support and greet the democracy in Romania and Romania’s efforts to consolidate the democratic institutions with the full and balanced participation of all segments of society, the embassy said.

The 2015 Human Right Report says that the ethnic Hungarian population is approximately 1.2 million.  Also the following:

Ethnic Hungarians also complained of obstructions and bans against the use of the regional Szekler flag and symbols. In March local authorities in Targu Mures rejected the National Szekler Council’s request to hold a march to celebrate the Szeklers’ Freedom Day on March 10 and commemorate five Szekler martyrs.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related to their ability to use the Hungarian language. In August the political umbrella group Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania released a report on the government’s implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The report asserted that ethnic Hungarians were not permitted to use Hungarian in courts or administrative matters and that many municipalities did not use bilingual signs. The report claimed that courts obstructed the financing of Hungarian-language newspapers by local authorities and that the government continued to refuse to establish a public Hungarian-language university. The report also noted there were insufficient Hungarian-language cultural institutions and translations of Hungarian-language literature in the country.

In the region of Moldavia, the Roman Catholic, Hungarian-speaking Csango minority continued to operate government-funded Hungarian language classes. In some other localities, authorities denied requests for Hungarian language classes.

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State Dept Public Service Recognition Week: You Rock But No MSIs

— Domani Spero

The Public Service Recognition Week for 2014 ends today. If the official clock was not broken, around 4 pm yesterday, Friday, the State Department’s Human Resources Bureau (DGHR) sent out a message to inform folks that there will be no monetary compensation for the 2013 Foreign Service MSIs.

For readers who may not know this, MSI stands for Meritorious Service Increase per authority in 22 U.S.C. 3966(b) (Section 406(b) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended).  Under 3 FAM 3121.3-2 it is the policy of the Department to provide an increase to the next higher step of the member’s class for especially meritorious service.

In any case, the email message explains that State faced “serious financial difficulties” in 2013 due to several factors including sequestration.  “We made a number of decisions to conserve resources including halting the monetary portion of extending meritorious step increases granted to a portion of those employees recommended for promotion by the 2013 Selection Boards but not actually promoted.”  In fact, DGHR points out, no other Foreign Service, Civil Service or Locally Employed Staff received a monetary award for 2013 performance, with the only exception being Safe Driver awards apparently targeted toward the lowest paid Locally Employed Staff.

Apparently, following the passage of the FY 2014 budget, there were questions about retroactive payment to 2013 MSI awardees. Since it appears that retroactive funding may not be a possibility, there were also questions whether the step increases could be funded going forward.

Yesterday, just before COB, the acting Director General Hans Klemm (nominee as DGHR Arnold Chacon is still stuck waiting for confirmation in the Senate) informed everyone via email that “after careful thought and deliberation on how best to handle the 2013 MSIs”  it’s been decided that there will be no retroactive monetary compensation to those MSIs conferred by the 2013 Selection Boards. There was no mention what happens going forward.

Part of the message from Ambassador Klemm says that Bureau of Human Resources is “determined that we do two things equally well:  manage a vigorous program to recognize and reward truly outstanding performance, and enhance intrinsic motivation as we face continuing fiscal challenges in the coming years.”  We imagine they have to figure out how to make everyone simply enjoy an activity or see work as an opportunity to learn, explore, and actualize their potentials?  He pledged to “doing the best for all of our talented and committed employees, recognizing that some things we want and arguably deserve are not always within reach.”

Uh-oh!  The email message reportedly closed with an exhortation that employees continue to “do your best.”

We understand that things are fiscally tough (unless related to the money sinkhole in Afghanistan) and we must confess we don’t know how much money is needed for the MSIs. But where’s the fire?  This is the bureau tasked with rewarding and motivating employees.  And it could not wait until next week when it’s no longer Public Service Recognition Week to to deliver the bad news.

Bravo for picking the most imperfect timing of the week! Here have some candies!

By Ewon Amos via Wikipedia

Original image  by Ewon Amos via Wikipedia

 

Less than an hour after Ambassador Klemm’s email blast, Secretary Kerry sent out his own email with the subject line, “My Thanks on Public Service Recognition Week.”

On his ‘thank you’ message to State and USAID employees, Secretary Kerry complained that Hallmark doesn’t make a card that celebrates Public Service Recognition Week. So he sent an email thanking his employees for the work they do. He notes that the work isn’t always easy and often it’s even dangerous – but that all of the employees – Foreign Service Officers, Civil Service employees, USAID team, Diplomatic Security, and locally employed staff “make a difference in the great enterprise of making this world a little safer and a little stronger each and every day.” 

He writes in part:

“One of the things that has struck me about the State Department and USAID is the remarkable diversity, expertise, and experience we have to offer – and the unique way each of you fits into the larger mosaic of the work to try and do something pretty fundamental but pretty profound: making this complicated world a little less complicated, a little more orderly, a little more free.  That’s about the best epitaph anyone could ask for, the best gift you can share through your service. And none of it works unless we’re all working together.”

“Everywhere I travel, in every meeting, from Bogota to Beijing” – he writes that he is deeply impressed of his employees’ “commitment to a future that’s stronger and more prosperous in a world that’s changing faster and becoming more interconnected than ever before…” 

Sorry folks, he has traveled 418,891 miles to 48 countries; we think, he really meant from here to here but that’s too many places to list down.

The best part perhaps — this part of the message:

“You get to spend your whole careers believing in something that will never go out of fashion:  You believe in diplomacy – you believe in something bigger and more important than any of us as individuals…”

Enhanced.Intrinsic.Motivation.

We must note that since Friday was the last working day of the week, it would have been weird had the Secretary sent his thank you email today, the end of the Public Service Recognition Week. But certainly, DGHR should have been more attentive.

“Makes for a nice end to the week,” the  snarky angels of Foggy Bottom said.

And the most requested video to feature in this blog is, you got it — Alanis Morissette singing, Ironic…

 

 

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US Embassy Egypt: From the Real Post Reports – the New Cairo; Plus Western Embassy Targeted

Target: Western Embassy Cairo

Today, the BBC News reported the arrest of three al-Qaeda militants in Cairo.  The reported target is a western embassy. That probably means, the three militants who were in the final stages of their terror plot were targeting New Zealand or Uruguay, either would do as a western embassy.  Dear US Embassy Cairo – since the mob was there to just say hello to you last year, it’s not you, carry on.  Excerpt from the BBC:

Egyptian police have arrested three al-Qaeda militants planning a suicide attack on a Western embassy, the country’s interior minister says.

Mohammed Ibrahim did not specify which embassy had been targeted, but said a quantity of chemicals had been found.

Mr Ibrahim gave the names of three men and said they were planning attacks in both Cairo and Alexandria.
[…]
All three men, described as jihadists, had been in touch with an al-Qaeda militant in Pakistan as well as another in the Sinai peninsula, the minister said.

He also linked the men to a group arrested last October who were accused of setting up a cell in the Nasr City area of Cairo.

Knife Attack: Not Tied to Any Larger Conspiracy

Last Thursday, Christopher Stone, an American citizen and a fellow at the American Research Center in Egypt, was attacked outside the perimeter of the embassy. US Embassy Cairo quickly released a statement that says the ongoing investigation has established that the “incident was not tied to any larger conspiracy.”

“Police investigating yesterday’s knife attack on the Embassy perimeter reported that the perpetrator has admitted to the attack and claimed his motivation was to seek revenge over U.S policies in the Middle East. The perpetrator carried out the attack after establishing his victim to be a U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen victim is reportedly recovering and should be released from the hospital in the next day or so. The investigation, while still ongoing, has established that the perpetrator acted alone, and the incident was not tied to any larger conspiracy.”

Of course, it’s not a conspiracy! What a silly thing to suggest!

US Embassy Cairo – The Real Post Reports

Post Reports if you’re not familiar with them are detailed reports of every diplomatic post in the U.S. foreign service that are intended to help personnel decide where they want to go next.  It is part of the official bidding resources (see this old one from 2004 still available online via ediplomat.com – Post Report on Egypt).

A while back, the State Department removed the Post Reports from the Internet. Updated reports are now available only via Diplopedia in the State Department’s Intranet website.

Since these are part of the bidding tools, one can easily tell that every post report’s goal is to look as attractive as possible to the prospective bidders. And that’s probably the main reason why the Real Post Report (RPR) was born.  The Real Post Reports is the brainchild of a few Foreign Service spouses and now resides in the privately-run Tales from a Small Planet.  The website, run by volunteers no longer requires registration, so we feel better linking to that from this blog.

There are RPRs going back years.  Sometimes, you’re lucky if you see an RPR once a year. Here are a few examples:

  • Sana’a Yemen  has RPRs submitted in 2006, 2007 (two) and 2011.
  • Kabul, Afghanistan has RPRs submitted in 2008, 2009, 2010 (three) and 2013.
  • Peshawar, Pakistan has one RPR submitted in 2009, and one in 2010.
  • Baghdad, Iraq has one RPR submitted so far in 2013.
  • Tunis, Tunisia has one RPR submitted in 2012.
  • Khartoum, Sudan has at least one RPR submitted every year from 2006 – 2011.
  • Tripoli, Libya has one RPR from January 8, 2007

The RPRs, of course, are done voluntarily and submitted primarily by members of the Foreign Service as well as members of the expat community.

As of this writing, Cairo, Egypt has already six RPRs from January – March 2013 alone.  If that trend continues, we’ll have 24 RPRs by the end of the year. The reports were all written by volunteers affiliated with the US Government in Cairo with overseas experience ranging from a first tour to a seventh/multiple tours. (Note: The day after this post went online, two more RPRs were posted on Cairo here).

Here are excerpts from the Real Post Reports on Cairo culled from six eight reports:

Size of expat community

  • Large, but shrinking because of the political unrest.
  •  Dwindling.
  •  Not as large as before the revolution, but there are still a fair number of expats here.
  • The expat community in Cairo is very very large. Beyond the USG community (which is huge), there are substantial communities from the other embassies, a huge US military/contractor community, and a huge oil community. In addition, there are faculty at CAC and the American University in Cairo, along with other donor groups.
  •  Getting smaller by the day.

Morale among expats

  • Extremely low. Post management was too late in spotting and/or admitting that Cairo is getting worse, not better. Post management is highly unsympathetic to the plights of the little people, and they live a fairly sheltered life with teams of bodyguards and walled villas — while we hope we don’t get sexually assaulted or mugged on the way from our apartment to the Maadi House.
  •  At the moment it is pretty low because of the uncertainty. Crime is on the increase, and people are worried—not sure what is going to happen. The U.S. Embassy community is struggling because of our location right near all the activity of the last two plus years. But, having been here four years, I don’t regret it. I have enjoyed my time here and, if I had a choice, would have done it again. It’s been good for family. But I definitely see that many people are unhappy
  • Extremely low since the revolution – this place really is bad now. It seems that everyone you talk with is counting the days until they leave or they are contemplating curtailing.
  • Long gone. People are waiting for the end of their tours. The use of alcohol is increasing, and rumors about the deterioration of Egypt are circulating everywhere, including at school.
  • Among those I interact with it is very poor. Pessimism about the situation pervades life here. People don’t feel safe and don’t see any prospects that Egypt is going to improve in the near-term future. Even some long-time residents are packing up and heading elsewhere.
  •  Extremely poor. Everyone is trying to get out at the earliest opportunity. It has clearly not always been that way, but the country is going downhill fast.
  • Moral here is mixed. Really, it depends on who you spend time with! Many USG personnel prefer to spend their time only in the USG community. For many folks, it seems like Egypt is their first (and possibly only) developing world post – these folks often seem to be generally negative (i.e., it’s dirty, people are like home, etc.). It’s true that life in Cairo has its quirks, but It is a fascinating place. Egyptians are a generally nice people (who love kids), and life here is relatively easy in terms of amenities. That said, as in many places, the people who thrive here are those that can laugh at the quirks of the developing world and those who make sure to get away for breaks on a regular basis!
  •  Poor. Egypt has always been very dirty and frustrating, but for some people it used to be fun and exotic. Now, with the increasingly poor security, deteriorating infrastructure and criminality, and sense of entitlement of its population, most people—Egyptians included—are desperately trying to flee. Morale at the Embassy is poor, with people hoping for an evacuation.

Are there any special security concerns?

  • The security situation in Cairo is rapidly deteriorating. Egypt is seeing more jihadi extremism, constant protests/riots around the US Embassy, carjackings, and muggings. As tourism bottoms out, people are getting desperate and know that expats have money. Also, sexual assault and/or harassment is pretty much guaranteed to affect you or someone close to you.
  • Crime is on the increase since the revolution, but this is still a safe city.
  • Where to start? Daily power outages, sexual assaults on women, robbery by sudden snatching, theft, assault and battery, rape, getting shot at or attacked with rocks are now all common-place events since the revolution. Even the safe districts of Maadi have seen these issues, rise and the State Department thinks we are still the same 15% post we were pre-revolution. This is easily a 25% diff post now and the tours should only be for two years.
  • And how! Law enforcement, as noted earlier, is ineffective, and criminals have become more brazen—likely because they feel much more confident that they can get away with theft, robbery, sexual assault, etc. The security situation in North Africa and Sinai has created an Egypt in which there is no shortage of guns and other dangerous toys—and bad guys willing to use them. It isn’t at all clear whether a large-scale attack against Westerners hasn’t occurred because there is a lack of capability or a lack of will. Uncertainty about the security environment has created a tremendous amount of stress among expats and Egyptians alike.
  • Absolutely. This place is a war zone. The police are totally ineffective and will stand there and watch while you get robbed or are groped and molested. Carjackings are becoming a problem, with even a senior government minister falling victime to a random carjacking.
  • Since the revolution, security has become more of an issue. But Cairo was abnormally safe for a city of its size prior to the revolution and has now really just shifted to a security level one would expect for city of this size. The key factor is that the police force is relatively ineffective. So, when something does happen, there is little that can or will be done about it. In the expat areas (Maadi, Zamalak, and Dokki, primarily) there have been increases in issues such as purse snatchings, etc.
  • During Mubarak’s regime, Egypt was extremely safe. Now there are few police, and they are quite scared themselves to intervene. On a daily basis you see more and more disorder and chaos. Women are regularly accosted throughout Cairo, and crime has become a real problem.

Knowing what you now know, would you still go there?

  •  I would not wish this post on anyone.
  • Yes, I would do it again, but perhaps not four years. It’s never boring, and I can’t say that I love the place, or will ever come back, but I don’t regret the four years. And yes, I would do it again.
  •  NOOOO!
  • Yes. But we’d like to be recognized for the sacrifices we make. This would be as simple as seeing post management demonstrate that they care about our safety and security and recognize the very real hardships and dangers we face.
  • No. And when I leave, it will be with the intention of never returning. I had wanted to come to Egypt for quite some time, and it’s been a major disappointment.
  • Absolutely. It’s an experience that eveyone should have at least once in their lives—unless you have already lived in a war zone.
  • In a heartbeat! We have loved it, and would have no issues coming back here again, even with all the post-revolution changes—assuming, of course, that things don’t go downhill more than they have to date!
  • No way! Don’t come.

You may read the full Real Post Reports on Cairo here.

Meanwhile, on May 1st this year, Financial Times reported that homicides in Egypt tripled from 774 in 2010 to 2,144 last year; home invasions jumped from 7,368 in 2010 to 11,699 in 2012; kidnapping for ransom rose from 107 in 2010 to 412 in 2012.  The US Embassy published its Egypt 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report in February last year. It’s now May and we’re still looking for the 2013 report.


Quick Check – Is There An Abyss in “Abysmal Morale?”

Now, if you’ve been following this blog, you will noticed that we’ve been blogging about the goings on at the U.S.  Embassy in Cairo. No, not just because its Twitter team occasionally make a large splash but also because of a reported “abysmal morale” at post. See this blog post —  US Embassy Bangui: 15% Danger Post With Terrifically Bad Trimmings, It’s Not Alone –Wassup Cairo?

Can you imagine what happened then?

Apparently, following the blog post, the DCM (is it still Marc Seivers?) stormed into the security office demanding to know “who leaked the story to that damn blog…”  and not getting the answer he want, slammed the door on the way out.

Uh-oh!

But really, it’s okay, we’ve been called worse than “damn.”

So anyway, “that damn blog”  has learned that Embassy Cairo was recently host to high level visits presumably to see if there was an abyss in “abysmal morale.”

We understand that post visitors included Ambassador Hans Klemm, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Human Resources (DGHR),  Elizabeth Dibble, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Paul Reid, the Director for Entry Level Career Development and Assignments (DGHR/CDA).

We don’t know yet what they found at Embassy Cairo.  But we heard that there is one team heading that way to um ….  look around or something. Another team who’s trip had been previously postponed is also heading that way again …

What a relief that the Interior Minister did not specify which western embassy had been targeted.  It could have been Venezuela, you know.

— DS