Diplomacy for You

A Journey in the Exciting World of the Art of International Relations

The Humble Lifesaver

2019. április 04. 11:55 - IAMedia

What depends on a talented, well-trained professional during an international crisis? How can you help create balance and mutually beneficial situations in a chaotic world? How do you manage to keep your cold blood when you burst from the inside watching the suffering of others? The answers are given by a strong and successful woman…

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-skiing-austrian-alps.jpgSkiing in the Austrian Alps (Photo by August Ellison)


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Take a Look Behind the Scenes…

For many, diplomacy is a mysterious, obscure, and boggy area. There is hardly anything to know about the negotiations – dancing on the sharp edge of the sword and striving for mutually beneficial solutions – behind the events playing in front of our eyes, as well as being in the crossfire of various political and economic forces.
However, it is exactly these highly educated, intelligent diplomats and their enthusiastic, devoted staff who, in the midst of the overwhelming deluge of information and fake news, safely build the framework of peaceful international cooperation in the background.


Joyful Successes

My articles include thoughts and stories by authentic personalities (ambassadors, attachés, and other members of the diplomatic corps, as well as well-known and respected persons) who carry out their jobs as a true mission to build and develop international relations in the interests of fruitful cooperation. One of them is the Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to Hungary, H.E. Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.


Your impressive professional career speaks for itself. However, what is the source of your strong dedication to public service?

I was born in the sixties in Vienna and grew up in a Europe divided by the iron curtain. Austria played an important role as a neutral country between the two blocks. After my high school exam, I decided that I wanted to become a diplomat to participate in Austria’s important work in this regard. Ever since the world has changed a lot and so has the role of Austrian diplomacy, but I think we still have our place in multilateral, as well as in bi-lateral diplomacy.

In the thirty years that I have had the honor to serve my country, I have worked in very different fields: press, culture, multilateral affairs in the UN and the Council of Europe, negotiating treaties, as well as consular support. A common thread of all these activities has been to foster better understanding between peoples and countries. Every success in these endeavors (sometimes even an ongoing process is a success) has been enjoyable and rewarding for me.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-presenting-credentials-president-ader.jpgPresenting her credentials to Hungarian President János Áder (06.02.2017) (Photo by KEH)


Common Past, Present and Future

Austria and Hungary had been interlinked for long centuries. After four decades of separation, the “reunification” of the people of Europe brought our two nations closer once more. What have been your experiences in the past two years of your mission? How do you feel in your host country, at the so-called “brothers-in-law”?

I have come to Hungary at a time of dynamic growth of economic exchange, investments, tourism equally distributed on both sides. Many Hungarians work in Austria and it is a popular destination for Hungarians students. In opinion polls by various organizations, Austria finds itself on the top of the ranking of the most popular countries in Hungary.
There is also very much sympathy and interest for Hungary in Austria. Many Austrians have family ties to Hungarians. I have been received with warmth, kindness – well maybe like a “brother-in-law”.

Centuries of common history have forged a strong bond, though like any neighbors, we sometimes have to solve issues that regard both countries. Different points of view can, however, usually be approached in a factual matter, good cooperation on common projects prevails by far. Austria and Hungary were always best off when the worked closely together, and this is still true today.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-ludovika-ambassadors-forum.jpgLecture about the Austrian EU Presidency at the Ludovika Ambassador's Forum (12.09.2018) (Photo by Dénes Szilágyi | NKE)


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Assignment at Neighbors

Do you perceive any major differences compared to your previous assignments?

As this is the first time for me to serve in a neighboring country, there are, of course, a lot of differences to previous postings: common history, Central European culture, cross border cooperation, as well as the widely spread, excellent knowledge of the German language. At the same time, Hungarian culture and, of course, especially the language is quite different, too.


Success Story and Bridge Building

During his visit last summer in Budapest at the summit of the heads of government of the V4 countries and Austria, Chancellor Kurz referred to Austria as a bridge-builder. Will you please share, in this regard, some (personal) success stories you are especially proud of as Austrian Ambassador to Hungary.

Rather than referring to a particular success story, I would like to point out that Austria has, for all the above mentioned reasons, a much better understanding of Hungarian matters than many other countries. For instance, as close neighbors, we have noticed with appreciation the achievements of the Hungarian people over the last decades in developing this country economically and creating a democratic society. Hungary is a success story in many ways and can rightly be proud of it. It is this knowledge and appreciation that contributes to bridge building, as Chancellor Kurz has pointed out in Budapest at the V4 meeting in June.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-chancellor-sebatian-kurz.jpgIn the company of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Vienna, 2018) (Photo: Private archive)


Working Together in the Spirit of Multilateralism

What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) of our time? How can we cope with those?

It is a paradox that, even though we are better connected through technology than ever before in this world, we seem to be drifting apart in many ways. There is a lot of frustration and I think that the manifold achievements of multilateralism of the post-war and Post-Cold War era are unfairly overlooked. Certainly, nationalism is no solution as big problems, like the perils of climate change, can only be solved in a concerted manner. We have to find new ways of cooperation, though adapted to the challenges of today, using technical achievements and digitalization to our common benefit.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-working-luncheon-austrian-presidency-2018-group.jpgWorking luncheon in the framework of the Austrian EU Presidency, at the Ambassador's residence (21.11.2018) (Photo by Márton Kovács / KKM) 


Life-Saving Negotiation Skills

I cannot help but address the matters of the Austrian physician under trial back in 2011 or the young woman sexually abused in 2014 in Dubai, who both are safe and sound thanks to your intervention during your time as Head of the Department for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What are the thoughts that come to your mind, and mostly your feelings, when reminiscing about these extremely sensitive cases?

Supporting Austrian citizens in need abroad, also in legal difficulties through consular support where appropriate, is one of the core responsibilities of a ministry of foreign affairs. The ministry’s or consulate’s role is usually to give advice on how to find legal support and representation.
During six years heading this department, our dedicated team came across various quite difficult situations. We were asked for help in situations of abducted children, forced marriages, criminal arrests… Especially in faraway countries with different cultures and legal systems, the situation can be very difficult and scary for both the citizen concerned and their families. Assisting people in these situations, you get very close to their stories, fears and hopes. I have to admit that I still do think once in a while about one or the other, how they went on with their lives and how they could cope, even when everything had been solved for the moment. It was sometimes not an easy but altogether very rewarding time.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-austria-womens-national-u18-ice-hockey-team.jpgWith the Austrian women's national under-18 ice hockey team after the game with the Hungarian team (Photo by Josef Jungmayr / Austrian Embassy)


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Building Friendships Abroad

The memorial year 2018 was special for Austria in many ways: The commemoration of the end of the First World War with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the centenary of the founding of the First Republic, as well as its ever-alarming annexation to Nazi Germany 80 years ago that, ultimately, led to Austria’s constitutionally enshrined neutrality. Also, let us not forget about the introduction of universal suffrage 100 years ago. Without that, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation, let alone seeing strong women of your caliber in such responsible positions. How can a mother, who also happens to be an excellent diplomat, find her harmony both at home and at work?

Harmony in the family and at the working place is important for everyone. It is especially important for diplomats as they lack the support of the wider family and lifelong friends being abroad and away from home.
I am lucky to work, at the Austrian Embassy in Budapest, with a very dedicated and professional team of colleagues sent from Vienna, as well as locally employed staff. The same is true for the staff working at the Austrian residence.
With regard to my family, this is the first posting during which I am separated from my daughter and son. Both stayed in Vienna to pursue their University studies, I am proud to say, very successfully. We are, however, in regular contact and, fortunately, Vienna is not too far from Budapest.

Forging new friendships is important, too. I enjoy making acquaintances with Hungarians, for instance at work-related meetings during the day, at dinners and events in the evening, I have found many new friends among them.
Relations with my fellow ambassadors are cordial and especially close with the female colleagues, Budapest Lady Ambassadors, who have a very close network.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-lady-ambassadors.jpgMeeting of Lady Ambassadors accredited to Hungary at Károlyi Castle in Fehérvárcsurgó (02.10.2018) (Photo by by Dávid Pólya-Pető / OGY)


Soothing Classical Music

Being aware that you are playing the violin, I wonder how you keep connecting to music and what it means in your life? Are there any other passions that enrich and make you whole?

Playing the violin more often is one of my resolutions for the New Year, as I have not had much time to do so in the last years. However, I do listen a lot to classical music and attend concerts whenever I can. (The quality of classical music performances in Budapest is excellent indeed.) Listening to classical music I like, I can find calm during busy times. I also love the outdoors, nature hikes and attending art exhibitions.


Ambassadors in Concert

Music as a universal language can serve as an important tool to build bridges. Do you sometimes play together with some of your fellow ambassador colleagues who are also devoted to an(other) instrument?

I am a bit out of practice and have not started any initiative to play with other colleagues due to lack of time. That would be a very nice initiative though...
Every year in Vienna, there is a concert entitled ‘Ambassadors in Concert’ featuring both domestic and foreign performers playing together. It is amazing how many talented colleagues there are.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-habsburg-gyorgy.jpgGeorge Habsburg and H. E. Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer, Ambassador of Austria to Hungary (Photo by Ivan Aigner)


Achievements of the Austrian EU Presidency

Austria’s motto of the recent Presidency of the Council of the European Union was “A Europe that protects.” What steps have been taken, what results already achieved with regard to this great endeavor?

This motto was chosen in response of many European citizens’ worries. It included the aim to strengthen the European economy, as well as to combat uncontrolled illegal migration.
With regard to that, a migration agreement was reached under the Austrian Presidency to strengthen the Frontex mandate for the protection of external borders and cooperation with third countries.

During the Austrian Presidency, the EU succeeded in once again placing greater focus on the Western Balkans and initiating a new dynamic in the process of rapprochement for all countries with an EU accession perspective.
Good and substantial progress was achieved on the next Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU budget for 2021‑2027. Let me also mention the ‘Europe Beyond Anti‑Semitism and Anti‑Zionism – Securing Jewish Life in Europe conference that took place in November in Vienna.
A ‘High‑Level Forum Africa‑Europe’ in December brought together almost 1,000 companies, as well as heads of state or government from both continents to strengthen long‑term partnership. Progress could also be achieved in environment and climate protection.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-working-luncheon-austrian-presidency-2018.jpgWorking luncheon in the framework of the Austrian EU Presidency, at the Ambassador's residence (21.11.2018) (Photo by Márton Kovács / KKM) 


Personal Wish for 2019

What is your wish for this New Year on both a personal and a professional level? Where is the bridge you help building with your heart and mind leading to…?

For this year, I look forward to contributing to strengthening the ties between both our countries even more through bi-lateral contacts on all levels and through new common projects. Personally, I also look forward to visiting more places in Hungary and learn more about the culture and society.


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Useful Links

Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Austria in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Austrian Embassy...


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