Berane-Kolašin, 2-6 July 2012
In the small town of Berane, north of Montenegro, a large group of young people from all around the world gathering on a hot July day in front of the historical home of Duke Gavro Vuković, the first Montenegrin Foreign Affairs Minister, is a rather unusual sight. In the crowd, a young French diplomat is discussing international politics with her peers.
“Working for years in the French Foreign Affairs, you get a bit caught up in your work and your dossiers,” says Anna Maros from France “This helps you to take a step back and think about the way you envisage diplomacy in a broader way.”
Maros is one of the 40 young and aspiring diplomats who came from 33 countries to participate in the 5th annual Summer School for Young Diplomats “Gavro Vuković”, held in Berane and Kolašin, in the north of Montenegro.
The School, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro in cooperation with UNDP and the Government of Norway, provided an opportunity for young people from different parts of the world starting and enhancing a career in diplomatic service to learn about the main aspects and challenges in contemporary international relations and to get acquainted with Montenegro’s politics, foreign relations and culture. With the number and diversity of participants growing each year, the manifestation has become somewhat of a tradition, gaining international recognition and attracting some of the most acclaimed lecturers in contemporary global politics.
Participants of the School had the opportunity to listen to lectures on topics from International Trade Agreements, post-conflict development and peace building to Montenegro’s role and challenges in the international context and Euro-Mediterranean relations. While in the previous years the School has focused on challenges to diplomacy, regional cooperation and international stability, this summer the leading theme was sustainable development, in the international context and from Montenegro’s perspective.
The lectures and workshops were held by internationally acclaimed theoreticians and practitioners of international relations, such as Professor Johannes Pieter Pronk of the Erasmus University, Professor Paul Meerts from the Clingendael Institute, Mr. Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro and H.E. Ms. Sue K. Brown, U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro. The program was complemented with cultural and social events, including visits to the “Polimski” museum in Berane and “Jasikovac” memorial park.
Apart from the School curriculum, both the attendees and organizers stressed the venue’s value as a networking opportunity for young people with interests and ambitions in diplomacy. Addressing the participants, Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, State Secretary for European Integration at the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, recalled his personal experiences of attending schools of diplomacy abroad and highlighted the importance of personal relationships developed at venues of this kind. “At seminars and trainings I have participated in, I have developed friendships with people who, in the meantime, became Presidents and Foreign Affairs Ministers. All those things make for an irreplaceable value of events like this one.”
In his speech to the attendees, the Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Nils Ragnar Kamsvågechoed the sentiment, placing social skills developed in a diverse environment of peers amongst the most valuable assets of a diplomat. The Ambassador also spoke about the changes incurred and challenges faced by the diplomatic profession in the 21st Century Information Era. “The ease and speed of communication between capitals, stripped off context, can easily lead to simplistic and misguided judgments,” he said, explaining the technologically driven acceleration of communication between contemporary leaders and decision-makers. “In a world nearly drowning in information – real and false – the need for context increases. That’s one of the reasons why the skills of the diplomat are and will still be in demand.”
Montenegro’s Foreign Minister, Milan Roćen, had a similar message about the contemporary relevance of the diplomatic profession while speaking at the School’s Opening Ceremony. “There are those who believe that in the time of internet there is no need for Embassies. But, can computers replace people? I believe this to be a false dilemma. The World will always be in need of capable diplomats.”
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Rastislav Vrbensky, who has given a lecture on sustainable development and post-Rio implications for Montenegro, spoke to the School’s participants about the importance of public diplomacy skills in various aspects of public service. “Public diplomacy is a set of skills and resources which must be governed by all representatives of a country that wish successful communication with various publics,” said Mr. Vrbensky to the attendees.
The importance of the venue’s international nature was emphasized by Stefano Sannino, European Commission's Director General for Enlargement, who addressed the School’s participants at the Certificate Conferral ceremony. “The very fact that this School has been held in Montenegro and that you are here with us today shows how big Europe’s presence is in Montenegro.” Mr. Sannino has also made note of the time period during which the School is being held – in the wake of Montenegro’s getting the date of the negotiations start with the EU. This view was shared by Vuka Golubović, Major of Berane and one of the School’s hosts, who shared the appreciation for Montenegro’s most recent diplomatic achievement.
Paige Reffe, founder of the Reffe Group, has returned to Montenegro to teach in the Summer School for the second time. Along with his lecture on the role of Lobbying in the NATO and EU Enlargement process, he had something to say about the School’s networking potential. “One of the ideas the organizers should really develop is the way you take this group of people and keep them together: whether it’s an alumni network or a newsletter, or another way of keeping these relationships and building upon them,” Mr. Reffe has suggested.
His ideas to establish an alumni base gained context when looking at the total number of the School’s participants in the last five years – over 200 young people from 40 different countries. Mr. Reffe believes that developing country-specific alumni groups would enhance competitiveness and quality of applicants. “These are the future leaders of tomorrow,” he said, while the diverse group of youngsters from around the world was touring the Biogradsko Lake. “The future of diplomacy is here, in Kolašin!”