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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 24, 2002
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A Diploma in Diplomacy
October 24, 2002 By Marcin Mierzejewski   
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The Polish diplomatic service will soon become more modern and professional, say founders of the Diplomatic Academy, which has just admitted its first students.

The ceremonial opening of the school, attended by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, EU High Representative Javier Solana and the head of Polish diplomacy, Foreign Affairs Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, took place Oct. 17 in Warsaw.

The first 37 students of the academy, which operates out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were selected in a competition from among almost 600 candidates. For the next year and a half, they will be studying international law, international political and economic relations, diplomatic protocol and custom. They will also have internships in Polish diplomatic and consular missions and international organizations.

Measuring up

“The role that our country plays in the world, our political ambitions and economic plans, the desire to effectively- not just by imitation- participate in solving international problems require a diplomatic staff with top skills and knowledge," said Cimoszewicz during the opening ceremony at Warsaw's Royal Castle. “Of course, we have respectable traditions, but this is not enough today. This explains why we decided to set up the Diplomatic Academy to educate and train diplomatic service employees." Representatives of the diplomatic corps, politicians, academics and the media were also present.

The idea to establish a school for diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was first formulated in 1990 by Prof. Krzysztof Skubiszewski, Poland's first foreign affairs minister after the fall of communism. In starting the school, Poland adopted solutions that have been well tested in many other countries. Similar institutions operate in countries such as France, Germany, the United States, Spain, Russia and Austria. "Many countries have long paid attention to the special selection of employees for the diplomatic service and the need to constantly upgrade their qualifications," said Cimoszewicz. "Diplomatic academies, institutes and diplomatic service centers educate dozens of thousands of diplomats, civil servants, armed forces employees and business managers. These institutions often combine educational functions with scientific research as a source of experts for the foreign service."

Polish contribution

"It is more than a fortunate coincidence that the Diplomatic Academy of the Republic of Poland is created at a moment when Poland is very close to the realization of its top national objective: Becoming a member of reunited Europe," said Solana, the guest of honor at the opening. "The European house of the future will also have Polish architects. Poland's traditional attachment to the defense of European values makes it a natural front-runner of European Common Foreign and Security Policy."

In his opening lecture, dedicated to Global Challenges for the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy, Solana refers to Poland's historic contribution to the spiritual achievements of Europe. "Poland has always been a pioneer for European identity. Let me give only two striking examples which, in my view, are linked to each other: In the Renaissance, Poland was the first country in the world to practice tolerance for different religious convictions within the same state. Less than 20 years ago, the Polish people paved the way for freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe," said the former secretary-general of NATO. At the same time, he expressed a belief that Poland can contribute much to Europe today as well. "Your experience and outstanding credibility will help build bridges from the European Union to the East. Your untiring commitment to freedom and human rights will help others develop democratic values and political culture. I am sure that the institute you are creating today will help guarantee that Poland's future contributions will be of an equally high quality as in the past," Solana said.

Clear criteria

Kwaśniewski congratulated Cimoszewicz and his aides on the successful implementation of the idea of founding the academy. "I am convinced that the academy, which begins its operations today, will serve the implementation of a wider program aimed to introduce greater transparency and legible criteria in the ministry's staffing policy; that it will contribute markedly to better education and the constant upgrading of the qualifications which should determine recruitment, promotion and careers in Polish diplomacy," he said.

As Kwaśniewski said, the Polish diplomatic service is primarily expected to show competence and high professionalism. "Obviously, this means not only foreign language fluency or extensive knowledge of the modern world and of countries or international organizations in which diplomats carry out their missions. This competence and professionalism also requires strategic thinking, imagination, negotiating skills, and an ability to make agreements and compromises," he said.

The president stressed the growing importance of promotional talents in the work of the foreign service, the ability to cooperate not only with government agencies but also with the private sector, business communities and the media. In his address, he listed the key tasks facing Polish diplomacy today (see box).

Expectations and plans

The opening of the academy was a great experience for its future graduates, who were addressed in person by Kwaśniewski and Solana with congratulations and well wishes. For most of them, taking up diplomatic studies was a mature choice in terms of their future professional career.

"The work of a diplomat has always been my dream; I would like to represent my country," one student said.

Speaking about her expectations, the young student of diplomacy said, "I would like to learn more about diplomacy both in theoretical and practical terms. I don't know yet which classes will be the most difficult, but I think international law, European affairs and the promotion of Poland abroad will be especially interesting to me."

Ambassador Jan Woroniecki, responsible for the establishment and organization of the Diplomatic Academy, said that the schooling process would take the form of two-semester postgraduate studies on location. "These studies are intended for people who will successfully pass a competitive exam as part of the diplomatic-and-consular program," he said. "Both theoretical and practical training will be provided. The former has already begun."

Later the ministry will send graduates for domestic internships, in the central offices of the ministry, as well as foreign internships-at Polish diplomatic and consular posts abroad. After the end of the program, academy students will take a final diplomatic-and-consular exam.

The academy's operations will focus on preparing staff for the needs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the future, the academy will also be open to young employees from other ministries and institutions, including local administration. The academy will cooperate with other university-level schools, including Warsaw University, the Academy of National Defense, the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) and the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and invite professors from these schools and research centers as lecturers.

Some courses, especially those from the field of Poland's bi- and multilateral foreign relations and the art of diplomacy will be taught by the best practitioners, including current and former employees of the ministry. It is also possible that foreign specialists will be invited, chiefly from EU countries and the United States. Classes will be taught in Polish as well as in English. Fluency in English is one of the requirements for studying at the academy.

Academy founders want it to become an open place for researchers, politicians, journalists and students of other colleges and schools. As Cimoszewicz said at the opening, this is to be not only a school of top professionals, but also "a place for important discussions about the problems of the contemporary world."
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