Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Cuba, Greece, Iran: diplomacy works

27 Jul 2015


Which country does not belong on the following list: Cuba, Greece, or Iran? The answer is none. They all belong on there. Thanks to patient but decisive diplomacy, failed collision policies have been replaced with compromise policies, and all three countries have the chance to return to the international arena. It seems July has a cooperative nature.

Diplomatic efforts led by the Vatican and Canada helped Cuba and the US exchange prisoners, reopen their embassies, and enhance the possibilities for travel and trade. Greece and the Eurogroup found a middle ground as soon as diplomats made them realize that radical solutions, such as Grexit and debt relief, didn’t serve anyone’s purpose. Early European diplomatic efforts and the elections in Iran two years ago persuaded President Obama and President Rouhani to talk on the telephone and agree to restarting negotiations.


‘Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose’

Some say everything is settled, while others — Cubans in Florida, Greeks who will lose part of their income, and Israelis who feel threatened — say the agreements are a disaster. In between those extremes is a constructive majority that needs to build trust, which everyone knows is hard to gain and easy to lose.

Diplomacy cannot keep running from incident to incident. Independent organizations are instrumental to gain this mutual trust, including the Organization of American States (US-Cuba relations); the International Monetary Fund (Eurogroup and Greece); and the International Atomic Energy Agency (the six world powers and Iran).

There are more political conflicts to solve, including North Korea, the Middle East, and Ukraine. I have not heard a serious reason leading me to believe that diplomacy cannot solve these problems in the next decade. With all due respect, these local conflicts are minor compared to the global energy, food and water crises. Let’s make sure we can shift our scarce diplomatic skills from local armed and economic conflicts to the challenges facing all humankind.


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  • 27 Jul 2015, 8:15
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About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.