Sunday, December 3, 2023

A smile and a thought….

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

 Column by Eelco H. Dykstra, MD for Diplomat Magazine

Eelco Dykstra writes a monthly column called “A smile and a thought…” The columns put a playful spotlight on the interface between the Dutch and the International Community it hosts. Yes, his musings may appear at times to be mildly provocative at first sight but they are first and foremost playful – with a little irony thrown in here and there… You be the judge!

His columns are intended to give you ‘a smile and a thought’. A smile because perhaps you hadn’t quite looked at something that way and a thought because the column may leave you wondering…

Misbehavior diplomats no longer tolerated

This headline in the Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant of April 24, certainly draws attention – as headlines are supposed to do…

So it is time – to read on.

The article reports on a cabinet level decision initiated by two ministers (Foreign Affairs and Safety & Justice) to apply pressure on misbehaving diplomats by ‘naming and shaming’ them for not paying traffic fines imposed for illegal parking and speeding.

A ‘cabinet level’ decision? Two ministers?

Surely we must be talking about an issue with a very high priority, perhaps even an issue of national interest?

So it is time – to read on.

Applying pressure by ‘naming and shaming’?

This is not new – nor news. As the article confirms, a list of the top-10 countries with most transgressions, i.e. unpaid traffic fines, had already been publicly announced by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September of 2013. On the list were, from top to bottom, the embassies of Russia, China, UAE, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, Bosnia I Herzegovina, Ghana and Malaysia. It is well known that under the rules of the Vienna Treaty, diplomats enjoy varying levels of ‘diplomatic immunity’ for these kinds of things, so how effective is this ‘naming and shaming’ method? We don’t know because no information was provided on that one.

So it is time – to read on.

Misbehaving diplomats?

There are about 20,000 diplomats and family members who live in the Netherlands. By their own admission, Dutch government officials confirm that this group of 20,000 people is “in comparison to the average Dutch person, considerably less likely to violate the law”. That being the case, why then single out this group for the ‘naming and shaming’ method?

So it is time – to read on.

According to sources from within the Dutch government, we’re talking about unpaid traffic tickets totaling € 500,000 over a five-year period. That is the same as € 100,000 per year and divided by the 20,000 people, we arrive at € 5 per person within the group of diplomats and family members.

Let us reverse this calculation.

Since the diplomats and their family members are less likely to violate the law, let’s put the amount of unpaid traffic tickets for the average Dutch person at € 8. Multiply this with the 17.5 million inhabitants of the Netherlands and we arrive at € 140,000,000 in unpaid traffic fines.

140 million Euro’s?

Such an amount is certainly worthy of making this a cabinet-level issue requiring decisive action by more than just two ministries – the Ministry of Finance being one of the firsts… It seems therefore almost certain that, after the ‘naming and shaming’ campaign aimed at diplomats and their family members, we can now equally look forward to a new ‘naming and shaming’ campaign addressed at the Dutch population, wouldn’t you agree?

Let us think about how this campaign would work. For instance by listing a top-10 of cities with most misbehavior? Or perhaps by listing the top-10 places where Dutch citizens park their vehicles in spaces reserved and marked with “For use by diplomats only”?

“Misbehavior diplomats no longer tolerated”.    Is this a case of ‘playing to the gallery’? Is this a Dutch ‘toneelstukje’? Is this ‘politics as usual’?

You tell me.

So it is time – to move on.







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