Sunday, Jun 07th

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2~ What I learned as an intern in Prague ~


By Rik Haverman


The work of a diplomat and an embassy is often unclear; therefore, stereotypes about diplomats are widespread. A popular image is one of a suave official in a pin-striped suit, who goes from reception to reception and does some negotiating in international relations on the side.


My experience as an intern at the Dutch embassy in Prague is completely different. During my time at the embassy, I noticed busy diplomats and staff members in a variety of functions in different fields. All of the employees, including the interns, had a lot of responsibilities while representing the interests of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Of course, one aspect of the work is actually being present at official openings and the additional receptions. In general, however, the work can be divided in a range of activities, which can all be reduced to one main task: representing the interests of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its citizens. Citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including the Dutch Caribbean, can knock on the door of any Dutch embassy in the world when in trouble or need of help. The embassy in question will give consular assistance to all Dutch nationals.


THE HEAD OF an embassy is the ambassador; in Prague the ambassador is Ed Hoeks. A well-known function of an ambassador is to represent the head of the Dutch state. This function is political, ceremonial, cultural and economic. The function of an ambassador manifests itself when, for example, the relations between two countries are deteriorating and one country recalls its ambassador. This act has a strong symbolism of disapproval.


Another example is when an ambassador must answer to the host country’s head of state. The ambassador must then justify acts or statements of his country. Ambassador Hoeks adds to this description by saying: “As an ambassador, I try to enhance the visibility of the Netherlands in the Czech Republic. I have a great team to promote the Dutch interests here and we continuously try to create a better understanding of the Dutch ideas on many political and economic issues.” Besides these functions, an ambassador also manages employees within an embassy. These employees have a wide range of responsibilities, which a lot of people don’t know about.


THE DEPUTY Head of Mission of the embassy of the Netherlands in the Czech Republic, Peter Keulers (who acts as deputy ambassador in case of absence of the ambassador), describes the activities of the embassy in Prague as the following: “We have a wide range of activities at our embassy. Our work concentrates on political, economic, cultural and consular work. Especially economic diplomacy and the support of cultural projects of Dutch interest are of high importance for us. The latter is an important instrument to intensify the relations between the Kingdom of the Netherland and the Czech Republic.”


Keulers also pointed out that public diplomacy is important for the Embassy in Prague. “We try to bring more transparency about our activities by being very active on Facebook and organizing presentations for visiting student organizations from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On our Facebook-page, which is in English, Dutch and Czech, citizens can follow our activities closely.”


THE CONSULAR work of Dutch embassies consists of help and advice to Dutch citizens who are living or traveling overseas. This assistance includes matters such as the provision of replacement of travel documents, support in case of an accident, visitation of imprisoned Dutch citizens and the registration of the birth of Dutch nationals. Next to the consular work, there are economic and cultural attachés at the embassy. They work under the authority of an ambassador or other diplomats on economic diplomacy and cultural projects. The Dutch embassy in Prague is an exception. This embassy doesn’t work with attachés but with policy officers: Czech employees who speak Dutch and take care of the cultural and economic interests of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Czech Republic.


The Senior Policy Officer of Press and Cultural Affairs in Prague, Katerina Procházková, describes her work as the following: “We promote the Dutch arts and culture by means of supporting the local organizations in their efforts to present the best there is of the Netherlands in the Czech Republic. On a yearly basis, we support, co-organize or initiate about 50 cultural projects and activities.”


THE TASKS OF the Policy Officer of Trade and Economic Affairs are similar. This officer is supporting the interests of the Dutch companies and economy in the Czech Republic. In Prague, this position is fulfilled by Petra Vytečka Šedinová. Here’s how she describes her job: “My main task is to help Dutch businesses (mainly small and medium sized ones) entering the Czech market. We do so through answering direct trade questions that we receive on a daily basis and through a so-called Business Market Scan, which is a more profound research of the specific sector of the market that a company is interested in.”


Since the Czech Republic is a priority country within the Dutch international cultural policy, the embassy tries to integrate the economic and the cultural interests. Procházková: “The embassy tries to identify chances to let cultural and business events coincide and is proactive in searching for possible cooperation. We support individual projects with an eye on further structural cooperation and promotion of the exchange of multidisciplinary knowledge and expertise between the Czech, Dutch and international professionals.” Staff members of the embassy of the Netherlands in the Czech Republic try to operate as one team. As revealed in the integration of the economic and cultural work, employees often move in different fields and are, to some extent, all-around employees.


THIS REFLECTED ON my own responsibilities as an intern at the embassy in Prague. Besides political reporting of Czech elections and summits of the European Union to the Dutch government in The Hague, I was assisting in the social media proceedings (public diplomacy) and supporting the cultural and economic policy officers in their work. My time at the embassy was an enriching experience and I found the work very diverse and educative. Every academic (Master’s or Bachelor’s) student with the Dutch nationality can apply for an internship at Dutch embassies around the world.


Finally, the situation in the Dutch Caribbean is one that is worth mentioning. Since Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as constituent countries within the Kingdom, there is a representation for the European-Dutch on the islands. The Representation is considered an “outpost” of the Netherlands and has some similar activities as Dutch embassies.


For example, European-Dutch citizens who are visiting or residing in these countries can approach this representation for consular assistance in emergencies. Also, they represent the Netherlands in its political dealings with the governments of Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten. For travel documents, visas, or residence and work permits, normally tasks for the Dutch embassies, the European-Dutch can’t contact the Representation. These services are provided by the governmental institutions of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.


Website of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Prague:

Facebook of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Prague: