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Honorary (or not so honourable) diplomacy – Odessa

April 18, 2016

Odessa has approximately 30 consulates sprinkled around the city, with more nations deciding it is a city worthy of a presence.

By far the biggest (and rather splendid) consulate in Odessa is that of China, the most modern looking is that of Poland, the most imposing that of Russia (atop a hill overlooking Arcadia), with the majority situated in aesthetically pleasing Viennese styled buildings in and around the city centre.

The most visible of the resident professional diplomatic corps socially are Turkey, Greece, Georgia and Armenia, the consuls (and staff) to be found enjoying Odessa’s cosmopolitan and numerous restaurants almost daily.

There is an Odessa Diplomatic Club that meets fairly frequently at the encouragement of Konstantin Rzhepishevsky, head of the Odessa Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and decade plus friend of this blog.

It has to be said the Odessa Diplomatic Club is rather fun having attended a few gatherings.  It is always interesting to see who is particularly friendly with who, and listen to the gossip – albeit nothing beats one to one “chats”.

The Odessa diplomatic scene, no differently to many outside of capital cities, is predominantly composed of professional diplomats, but it also includes a reasonable number of Honorary Consuls.

Honorary Consuls are not professional diplomats, and are usually foreign citizens living and working in the host country, paying taxes therein, whilst simultaneously representing their native country on a voluntary (or at least non-salaried) basis.  There may be a few expenses covered such as “Honorary” business cards and ad hoc taxi fares occasionally, but that is as far as it goes for many “honorary” title holders.

The criteria set for having an honorary consul varies from nation to nation.  Some nations simply do not entertain having them.  Others, such as the UK, go through cycles where honorary consuls are in fashion – or not.  (Indeed this blog many, many years ago was approached and asked if acting in such a role for the UK would be possible – but they went out of fashion once again and that was that.)

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There are also issues of what interest, if any, does a nation have in a city where they feel it necessary to have a visible, official presence, but insufficient to have a professional diplomatic presence outside of a national capital.  Is it based on the number of their nationals within that city?  On the level of existing or proposed investment?  Is it that a particular city is deemed strategic enough, or otherwise important enough that a low cost, yet overt and official presence is somehow justified if none of the usual reasons apply?

Whilst there are naturally good reasons for having (cheap) official “diplomatic” representation in far flung, but nevertheless important regions and cities outside national capitals (in certain nations and for certain nations), there are also potential problems.

There are certainly some “colourful characters” acting as honorary consuls for certain nations in Odessa – nations from both Europe and MENA.  Certain individuals seem to use their “honorary” status as a veneer of respectability to put a gloss upon some questionable business activities.  Indeed their “seasonal gifts” can be of a value far exceeding that which would certainly require either refusal or declaration by most professional diplomats if they be accepted.

Indeed so “colourful” are these particular bottom-feeding honorary consuls that Long Term Election Observers (LTOs) that have met them in their roaming, necessarily liaising with candidates and “the local enlightened” during the regular election campaigns, have commented to this blog regarding their lack of integrity.

Yet there are also those that wear the “honorary” title with, well honour, and who assume their positions responsibly as solid citizens representing their nation in good faith and with unquestioned morality, befitting of their professional counterpart’s ethic.

The long-serving German Honorary Consul,  Alexander Kifaku, for decades a practicing lawyer of wholesome repute in Odessa, on 18th April kept the “honour” in “honorary”.

He is about to purchase UAH 30,000,000 ($1.2 million) worth of land (and the property that sits thereon) around the city.  (Specifically 1 hectare of warehousing on Motornaya, 1.45 hectares of land on Proselochmaya, 0.2 hectares on Kanatnaya, 0.3 hectares on Marshalla Zhovokva, 05 hectares on Lustdorf, and 0.2 hectares on Chapeyev.)

He has chosen, though it be entirely unnecessary to do so, to make such information very public himself – perhaps (or indeed probably) to insure that the City Hall/Administration can do nothing opaque or nefarious involving himself, and thus avoiding the potential of an entirely unnecessary stain upon Germany by inference.

Quite wise.

After all, arguably the only honour to be found within City Hall is honour among thieves, and thus caveat emptor applies to reputation as well as purchase.

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