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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Secretary Kerry Swears-in Hans Klemm as U.S. Ambassador to Romania

Posted: 10:58 am EDT
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Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Certificate of Competency – Klemm, Hans – Romania – April 2015

The WH release the following brief bio when it announced the nomination on March 24, 2015

Hans G. Klemm, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of State, a position he has held since January 2015.  Previously, Ambassador Klemm served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department’s Bureau of Human Resources from 2012 to 2015.  Before that, he was Senior Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2012, and Senior Coordinator for Rule of Law and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012.  He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste from 2007 to 2010.  Prior to that, Ambassador Klemm served as Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 2006 to 2007, and as Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Career Development in the Bureau of Human Resources from 2004 to 2006.  He was a participant in the Senior Seminar at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2003 to 2004, Director of the Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs from 2001 to 2003, and Deputy Director of the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 2000 to 2001.  Ambassador Klemm’s earlier assignments with the Department of State included postings in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ambassador Klemm received a B.A. from Indiana University and an M.A. from Stanford University.

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FSO Robyn McCutcheon: A proud woman of transgender experience serving her country

Posted: 12:13 EDT
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In 2012, we wrote about FSO Robyn Ann Jane Alice McCutcheon, the first transgender diplomat serving in the State Department. Prior to joining State, Robyn worked for a NASA contractor where she was on the Hubble project before it was officially named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble.  See What Do Uranium and a Transgender Foreign Service Officer Have in Common?

Robyn has served in the last ten years in Washington, Russia, Uzbekistan, Romania, and Kazakhstan.  Her journey had not been easy.  “It included failed transition attempts, a week in a psychiatric ward and, more than anything else, years and decades of deep hiding and attempts to make it go away.”  She writes“I’m writing here because I have a debt to pay.”  Her story is one with a happy ending and we are  very pleased to see her as part of NYT’s Transgender Today series that just launched.

Via NYT’s Transgender Today series.

A message from Robyn McCutcheon, a trans* woman serving as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State who transitioned openly while serving overseas at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, in 2011. (Part of the N.Y. Times Series, “Transgender Today,” at nytimes.com/trans-today.)

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Arms Traffickers Extradited for Conspiring to Kill U.S. Officials in Colombia and Providing Support to the FARC

Posted: 00:37 EST
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The Justice Department announced on February 26, the extradition of Cristian Vintila, 44, Massimo Romagnoli, 43, and Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 42, international arms traffickers charged with conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC) – a designated foreign terrorist organization – to be used to kill officers and employees of the United States in Colombia. Vintila, Georgescu, and Romagnoli, all of whom were arrested in December 2014, were extradited from Montenegro and were arraigned in front of U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams last week.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Administrator Michele Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today the extradition of Cristian Vintila, 44, Massimo Romagnoli, 43, and Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 42, international arms traffickers charged with conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC) – a designated foreign terrorist organization – to be used to kill officers and employees of the United States in Colombia. Vintila, Georgescu, and Romagnoli, all of whom were arrested in December 2014, were extradited from Montenegro yesterday and will be arraigned in front of U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams later today.

“As alleged, these three men were ready and willing merchants of death, poised to sell sophisticated weapons to a terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “It is further alleged that they conspired to sell the weaponry with the understanding that it would be used to shoot down American aircraft and kill American officers.  We once again laud the efforts of the DEA to stem the flow of lethal weapons that could be aimed at U.S. officers and to deter weapons traffickers who mean harm to the United States.”

According to the Indictment, which was unsealed in December 2014:

Since at least May 2014, Vintila has been a Romania-based weapons trafficker, Romagnoli has been a Europe-based weapons trafficker, who is able to procure fraudulent end-user certificates (EUCs) for military-grade weaponry, and Georgescu has been a Romania-based weapons broker.  Between May and October 2014, Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu conspired to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, with the understanding that the weapons would go to the FARC to be used by FARC against the United States.  During a series of recorded telephone calls and in-person meetings, Vintila, Romagnoli and Georgescu agreed to sell the weapons to three confidential sources working with the DEA (the CSs), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC.  Vintila, Romagnoli and Georgescu agreed to provide these weapons to the CSs with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill officers and employees of the United States and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes.  Romagnoli further agreed to provide fraudulent EUCs in order to make the illegal sale of weapons look legitimate.

During their recorded meetings, Vintila and Romagnoli provided the CSs with catalogues of military-grade weapons they were prepared to provide the FARC.  Vintila gave the CSs a catalogue of weapons that included pistols, machine guns and other high-powered weaponry, and Romagnoli showed the CSs a catalogue that included automatic weapons and shoulder-fired rocket launchers.  Romagnoli additionally showed one of the CSs a sample fraudulent EUC.  Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu also discussed the logistics of receiving payment for the weapons from the CSs and delivering the weapons to the FARC.

The indictment charges Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu, with two separate terrorism offenses:

Count one charges all three defendants with conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees.  If convicted of count one, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.  Count two charges all three defendants with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the FARC.  If convicted of count two, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

The allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Read the full announcement here.