Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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BEYOND SIGHT: Merci, EU! Au revoir, Amb. Jessen!

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By Monsi A. Serrano

I am no stranger to dealing with the venerable diplomats. On many occasions before, I’ve met with ambassadors and state representatives and have been invited to more intimate than official functions.

I have to admit, one of my favorite assignments for the THEPHILBIZNEWS is the diplomatic community, being a less toxic than usual coverages. Fellow journalists would can attest to this truth. Perhaps, that is the reason why Wikipedia cited The Philippine Business and News as “one of the new players in the online news portal” in the context of Filipino readers turning to alternative news sources because of the proliferation of disinformation and fake news. It wrote THEPHILBIZNEWS “tackles diplomatic and business news from foreign chambers and embassies, and also business stories of start-ups as well as micro, small and medium enterprises in the Philippines.”

While I am personally commending the European Union mission in the Philippines, along with its member-state embassies, for all their efforts to strengthen ties by helping the country, this is not to say that they’ve outdone our closest business and historical allies in Japan, United States, United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea, Australia, and other allies. All of them have brought something to the table as a testament to their friendship with the Philippines.

But I have worked up-close and personal with the former EU Ambassador that I believe I’ve earned the right to call him a good friend. I’m talking about former EU Ambassador Franz Jessen. He is a warm and sincere friend as well and, because of him, had the easy opportunity to interview several ambassadors from the EU member state embassies like Czech Ambassador Jana Sediva, German Ambassador Anke Anke Reiffenstuel, Austrian Ambassador Bita Rasoulian, and Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries.

THEPHILBIZNEWS also earned me a seat next to Nordic state envoys like Norwegian Ambassador Bjørn Jahnsen and Danish Ambassador Grete Sillasen. But I had a chance to interview former Korean Ambassador Han, and also plan to interview Polish Ambassador, His Excellency Jaroslaw Szczepankiewicz. Tomorrow, I also have a scheduled interview with the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Ambassador is Jorge Moragas, to talk about the Quincentennial celebration of the Philippines.

For the information of our readers, let me share how the EU has been a reliable partner of the country. The EU has always been the first ones to respond to our country in times of distress and calamities and one of the biggest grant donors to the Philippines. They’ve provided us grants – meaning it is given free, a distinction from loans. I’m just not so sure as to where and how these funds are utilized by our government! Classified as a major donor, the EU is one of the biggest contributors to the Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines. Apart from that, the EU is the Philippines’ 2nd top export destination, and the 4th top source of OFW remittances.

Unknown to many, the EU has been very supportive to the Duterte administration even on several occasions the ill-tempered President took his venom out on EU Amb. Jessen and even warned the EU ambassador and all other EU member states ambassadors in Manila that he could cut diplomatic channels and order them to leave the country in 24 hours since he has China and Russia at his beck and call.

But the programs of EU for the Philippines despite the adversarial stance of the current administration continue from governance, economic, job creation, disaster management, the peace process, renewable energy, and assistance to vulnerable populations, education via Erasmus Mundus Scholarship wherein Filipinos are given the opportunity to pursue their higher education and research in Europe and pay it forward to their home country. Then there are annual cultural activities from the EU that foster camaraderie, collaboration and appreciation of the varied interesting cultures of other EU member states embassies and the Filipinos which was continued by EU Chargé d’affaires Thomas Wiersing in the absence of EU Head of Delegation. Through the years, the EU has proven its sincerity to the country and its people. For all that has been and all that will be, thank you so much EU.

Last 2019, I was honored to have attended the intimate farewell party of former EU Amb. Jessen. I’d say he’s not only soft-spoken but also a gentle and kind-hearted envoy who has professed his love and admiration for the Filipino people, especially the youth since he had worked several years with Filipino staff in the EU Embassy.

During the Q&A, media who attended his au revoir party bore witness to his nonchalance and big heart as he showered the Philippine President, who often took time berating the EU, with good words. What diplomatic class to the very end of his tour of duty, indeed! In doing so, Amb. Jessen grew more admirable than the president for whom he was building up.

With the new European Union Ambassador under the tutelage of His Excellency Luc Véron, the Filipinos and our country can look forward to the continuity of all the wonderful programs that the EU has started during the time of Amb. Jessen.

Yes, there might have been some disagreements in the past with the EU, but at the end of the day what is important is respect and unity with everyone and not just with the preferred country and for all intents and purposes, we are not even aware that our preference turns out to be a Trojan horse.

There ought to be unity in diversity, as the Swiss Cardinal Hans Urs Von Balthasar said, and I quote, “Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.”

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