Malta ’s open door policy leaves no one waiting

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Aug 20 12:58:39 UTC 2007

Malta's open door policy leaves no one waiting

How accessible are ambassadors? Malta's envoy proves diplomacy can be
spontaneous and off-the-cuff. During the dog days of summer, finding a
story for the diplomatic page can be somewhat challenging: embassy
hours are shortened, ambassadors are vacationing abroad and official
events are rare. With no interview set up for this week's issue and no
invitation to a national holiday reception, we decided to create a
journalistic challenge: Take a walk down embassy row on Ameliagade and
find out how long it takes to meet an ambassador without scheduling a
prior appointment.

The first embassy we came to - which will remain unnamed - presented
only a closed circuit camera and intercom speaker to the visitor. Upon
pressing the button for the embassy, a metallic voice asked if we
needed assistance. 'We would like to speak with the ambassador.' A
long pause followed, and we could almost sense the staff member
considering whether to call the police. 'I'm sorry, but his secretary
is on vacation,' he said. 'Can you call next week and schedule an
appointment?' Desperate for a story, we asked if he minded being
quoted on that.

'Er, no, thank you,' came the reply followed by silence. The doors of
the diplomatic corps seemed increasingly inaccessible for visitors on
the street. On to the next embassy, the Mediterranean nation of Malta,
which opened its Copenhagen office in 2002 during the run-up to its EU
accession. The embassy's sign stated they were closed during lunch
hours, but we decided to walk up the stairs anyway. Luckily, two men
were moving a leather sofa into the office and we slipped in and
presented ourselves to Paul Radmilli, the deputy head of the
diplomatic mission.'How can I help you?' he asked.

When we explained our mission, he gave a thoughtful look and replied,
'I'll see what I can do.' Within a few minutes, the doors to
Ambassador Noel Buttigieg-Scicluna burst open and we were welcomed
into his office. 'I was wondering when The Copenhagen Post would be
along to interview me,' he laughed. 'I was beginning to think there
was something wrong. But I guess you saved the best for last.' In the
ensuing 20-minute interview, the ambassador shared his impressions of
diplomatic life in Denmark, discussed his passion for antique
collecting, and managed to make a sales pitch for visiting Malta -
even though the meeting was unscheduled and his secretary was on

The ambassador himself had just returned from two weeks of holiday in
his homeland, where life settles down to a relaxing pace in the summer
and the Maltese enjoy the sun, the sea and eating long dinners
together. 'Maltese people are lovers of their homes. They inherit this
from their families,' he says. To decorate his residence in Denmark,
the ambassador has taken up antique collecting. He confesses a passion
for 'potting' around to various markets looking for interesting
products of a lost age.

'In this world of mass production, it's a pleasure to appreciate
pieces which people have poured their mastery and insight into. We are
losing that workmanship today.' When it comes to conducting diplomacy
in Denmark, Ambassador Buttigieg-Scicluna finds it exceedingly easy to
conduct affairs here since English - the official language of Malta,
along with Maltese - is so widely spoken. In addition, the ambassador
finds Scandinavians' practicality makes informal communication

'Diplomacy is a heavy business,' he explains. 'There are a number of
rituals for doing things when diplomats meet. But here, you get
straight down to business and can take care of matters over the
telephone. You don't have to meet face-to-face.' The fact that the
ambassador welcomed a stranger into his office proves that there
happily are exceptions to that rule.

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