News
 International
   Global Views
   Asia-Pacific
   America
   Europe
   Middle East & Africa
 National
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Business
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Taekwondo
 Media
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Life
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Housing
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 Job
 English Teaching
 Translation/Writing
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Business
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Entertainment
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Community
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 PenPal/Friendship
 Volunteers
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
  Europe
Renewal of the Diplomatic Information Activity
Special Contribution
By János Kollár
Budapest, Hungary

There are certain mystics surrounding the diplomatic activity in the public opinion. The reason for that is for the most part the unclearness of the role of the diplomatic information activity or rather of the essence of obtaining information and the misunderstandings connected to it. This short study aims at contributing to understanding in the possible widest range of the public of this determinant part of the diplomats’ job, of its content and also of its possibilities rendered by the renewed technical means which are already at the disposal of the Hungarian diplomacy.

To be a good diplomat

In the company of people not in the branch the words of a diplomat are received with cause amusement when asked about his profession and he tells: Three qualities are needed to be a good diplomat. First of all you must have a wide range of knowledge that is to say you must be a bit proficient in everything. The ability of keeping the secrets is the most important feature immediately after that, and yes, the third is… the most important, that is, well, I have to refer to the mentioned ability of keeping secrets… – the diplomat puts it in a very meaningful way. The audience immediately feels the strengthening of its impression that the diplomats’ work place can be rightfully named as Mystery (instead of Ministry) for Foreign Affairs. Well, in the reality the good diplomat has no such a third quality which must be kept in secret. Nevertheless the diplomats and the diplomatic apparatus of all states have „secrets”, but it is permitted for anybody to come to know their nature

The significance of the information, the role of the public information

In order to make the right decisions in the field of the foreign and security policy the decision-makers of the country need the information which reflexes precisely and truly the outer world, the judgment of Hungary, the intensions and aims of other countries and their real national interests lying behind their public and non-public policy and diplomatic moves. Obviously this information must be provided for the preparers of the decisions, too.

At the beginning of the 21st century the leaders of the country obtain this information and knowledge material overwhelmingly from open sources available for everybody (mainly from the press), but they are provided with important information from the Foreign Ministry also. The latter information generally can not be obtained from other sources or with difficulties only. This information is characterized by authenticity regarding its source, i. e. it is free from the distorting, and mostly competition oriented impacts of the press and inaccuracies caused by lack of professional knowledge. The diplomatic information activity is characteristically never illegal; moreover this activity is often explicitly supported by the public institutions of the target country because it helps the sending country to understand the policy and the aims of the receiving country.

With being not the subject of the present study and having limited knowledge in this field it is important to note that the third most important source for the leaders and preparers of decisions – following the press and the foreign ministry – is the activities of the secret services. One should know, that their work, continuing to be indispensable, and regulated by domestic law, is being done in a varying ratio using secret services methods, from time to time illegal, at least from the angle of the receiving country. The possibilities for obtaining information of the employees by the services are on one hand generally similar to those of the ambassadors, the leading and subordinate diplomats keeping every day contacts with the decision makers and preparers of decision of the target country in the field of security and foreign policy, and on the other hand they are of a quiet different nature. Information obtained by secret data collecting is often of confirmative, specifying and additional character, or it contains such in-depth data and knowledge that they are of limited use in the every day decision-making procedure. All that does not depreciate its value, in some cases on the contrary the confirmation, specification and detailed exploration of the press information, or in extraordinary cases the operative character of the information make possible to take the appropriate security and foreign policy or even military measure. (This does not apply to the military and civil technical reconnaissance as the tapping of international telephone conversations which is definitively out of scope of this study.)

It can be easily perceived that while there had been two hostile and irreconcilable world systems facing each other the quantity and importance of the protected information obtained by secret service methods had been far bigger then nowadays. Naturally, as we have just stated, the activity of the secret services is indispensible even in our days, the determinant part of the information necessary for international inquiry is offered by the open sources. Let us overview the main reasons of the gaining importance of public information. They are first of all the followings:

1. With the cold war coming to an end as we have already referred to it the „antagonistic” hostility which was determinant in the international foreign and security policy as well as the military opposition threatening with world war ceased to exist. With changing intensity the co-operation is significant between the successor state Russia and the US and the European Union, and even the Russian relations with NATO are considerable. In this way the compulsion is reduced for a big number of countries to assure the strict protection of information against each other.

2. By gaining room of the liberal democracy (if not all but) more and more states tackle a role on the international stage without relying on the possibility of military aggression as a means to realize their national interest in their foreign relations. Though we are still far away from Francis Fukuyama’s vision about the end of the history1 which vision seems to be modified by himself in his book Our Posthuman Future2, we can note that by increasing the number of peaceful countries there are less and less information which are to be protected strictly and which are from that point of view of vital importance taken in their real senses.

3. The globalization and the development of information technology are processes strengthening each other and partly containing each other. The liberalization of trade, the interpenetration of international financial affairs, the interdependence of international markets, the growing integration of economies, and in general the globalization in its wider sense fundamentally demand transparency, open data and knowledge for those taking role in it. As the information technology develops the information which can be written will be written because internet publication possibilities and the radio and television broadcastings through satellites offer almost limitless dissemination. The information is globalized, and it is hardly controllable or kept in check, and the distribution costs are relatively low.

4. First of all in the fields of environmental protection and economy more and more often such global issues come to the agenda of the widest summits like the G6, the G20 and world forums, EU talks in the case of which the individual states and groups of countries and non-governmental communities are represented by some thousands even. The most of these representatives play their roles on the bases of published standing-points and they act publicly in order to reach their goals. A good example for this is that in 1992 on the Earth Summit (the Environmental Protection and Development Conference of the UN) in Rio de Janeiro more than 30 thousand NGO were represented.

5. The globalization and the development of information technology and the gaining ground of the liberal democracy and also the coming to the fore of the global problems result in a situation where the enforcing of interests (let it be political, economical or even military pressure) in the world politics or foreign and security policy in its determinant part happens in front of the publicity of the world. Gaining the public opinion is more and more important in the enforcing of interests and the main role in it is played by the press getting more and more globalized. The point is not only openness of the most important sources of obtaining information but that the convincing, the influencing, the forming of the public opinion and informing it according to our interests and even turning it into a means of pressure is in an ever growing ratio a condition for enforcing interests. In the professional literature the most frequently cited example for this is the role played by the international public opinion in the issues of the prohibition of landmines.

Regarding the factor mentioned in point 5 we note that the means for gaining the public opinion is the public diplomacy. According to a definition formed in 2008 the public diplomacy is „the understanding, providing with information, gaining and influencing of the international public opinion”3. The great powers of the world or other states with great economy have effective forcing means being mainly military and economic abilities by which they are able to enforce the international players to change their behavior. These “weapons” make up the so called hard power which should be translated into Hungarian in the most expedient way “enforcing power”. Nevertheless even these states are compelled to throw in the means of soft power and as part of the latter the means of public diplomacy (social diplomacy) in order to enforce their interests. Soft power means that the influencing is exercised using not force but by convincing, the means of which can be diversified. The argumentation of the influencer or its offer for rendering help in the field of economy or in other fields or for its taking part in the development can be attractive for the targeted international player but the acceptance of the influencer can be also supported by the popularity of its culture and of the way of living of its population. The issue of convincing and credibility also arises more and more frequently in the international allies systems in the case of such grave international conflicts like the involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The allies are unwilling to act commonly and render help in cases when their public opinions don’t accept it completely.

The economic and other means (for example telecommunication, scientific, cultural means) mostly can be used in an enforcing way as well as in exercising the soft power. After the cessation of the bipolar world order the results obtained by soft power are generally more durable then those obtained by enforcing power. A war or a blockade is less productive then the voluntary change of the attitudes of the population of the targeted state, based on consideration or attractive force. While global problems engaging the attention of the world, like the environmental security, generate and terminate the governmental and non-governmental alliances, arcing over boundaries and cultures, we can formulate the statement with absolute certainty about Huntington’s prophecy concerning the clash of the civilizations of the world4 that factors of culture and civilization play an ever growing role in the international influence activities.

Putting into action of the means of convincing is indispensable for all international actors in the fight against the new security threats, like the environmental pollution and terrorism. It is reasonable that such countries with small or medium population like Hungary have to rely more on the implementation of the public diplomacy, and connected to that on their sophisticated diplomacy, diplomatic knowledge, well selected, flexible and rapidly respondent foreign and security policy. For that it is necessary to have very efficient diplomatic activity and a high level diplomatic information activity which serves this activity. The well-founded situation evaluations, reasonable and realizable proposals of the Hungarian diplomacy for managing the conflicts, its steady espousal of the elimination of human and minority rights problems in its environment and somewhere else et cetera make our enforcing of interests more effective in a wide circle of the states. The Hungarian soft power also can be based in its essence on our knowledge and culture, the latter being traditionally on high level at our disposal, and adequate materiel sources and conscious policy needed “only” to implement them expansively.

A diplomat’s information activity

As our experiences show the outer world knows less about the diplomats’ work. The first which comes to the mind is that they go to receptions where they chat with a glass of drink. Well, this occupation is really in the toolbox of a diplomat, in particular as a frequently used form of obtaining information. Functioning in the diplomatic court of the host country the diplomats i. e. the ambassadors, the leading and subordinate diplomats make acquaintances, get into contact, orient themselves and obtain information from each other on these occasions. Often they arrange to meet each other in more suitable circumstances without the noise of the receptions, in order to hear the evaluation, the information and experience of the partner concerning individual subjects. Another opportunity – out of the many – that the diplomat ask for an appointment from the leaders of the host country, especially from the leaders and experts of the foreign ministry, and the diplomat inquire about the questions he or she, that means the sending state is interested in. Further on the diplomat turns to the citizen of the host country, let it be a leading politician, a member of parliament, a journalist, a businessman, or any citizen, including any passer-by (yet it rarely happens). An especially effective way of obtaining diplomatic information from an authentic source is the holding of bilateral or multilateral talks between the representatives of the subjects of international politics on high or the highest level, and the consultations between experts.

The diplomatic information is usually knowledge of political nature the subject of which is utilizable in the Hungarian foreign and security policy or it has another (economical, cultural et cetera) subject, but it is important regarding the Hungarian national interests and it needs a political management, and which is obtained by the apparatus of the foreign ministry using the means of diplomacy.

It is important to differentiate between the generally publicly available standpoints and opinions on the one side and the real intentions and interests behind them on the other side which are usually not public. The latter can be mostly also obtained provided if the diplomat has the appropriate net of connections and experience, and he or she is capable to put the questions which can “lead” to the real motives behind it. The skilled diplomat applies the methods learned from others and also which are “developed” by him or her in the conversations. One of the most common methods is the “playing the devil’s advocate”, namely in essence to put such public questions, which are accusing the receiving state and the diplomat mentions in advance that he or she does not share the said accuses, but he or she is “still curious what motives are behind these questions”.

Whatever method is chosen by the diplomat for collecting information and gathering data the common and determinative attribute of them is that they are legal, that is to say they are not contrary to the laws of the receiving country. The diplomat raises questions, and the leader, the official or any citizen of the receiving state give the answers. Everybody knows that it is the job of a diplomat, and this opportunity is also recognized in the international convention, signed in Vienna, in 1961, on diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, the answer often must be protected.

Why should be protected the information obtained this way, legally? Let’s take some examples. The approached citizen of the receiving state may speak about the troubles, interests, plans of his or her mother country so openly that he or she would not like if his or her personality and the information given to the diplomat come to light, i. e. his or her opinion is intended to be known to the conversation partner or the diplomatic service represented by the given diplomat. The source of information sometimes would not like if the frequency of the meetings with the diplomat would be known to his or her employer or certain official organizations of his or her own country, because while no information to be protected was given to the diplomat, still he or she may be asked to give explanation for his or her sympathy towards the inquiring diplomat or the sending state. In many cases the source is convinced that reveling the protected information in his or her possession to the given conversation partner, a diplomat, will serve the interest of his or her country, and doing this he or she makes the policy of his or her mother country more understandable, and even a support can be obtained for this policy. Besides that a big part of the collected information, due to the complex knowledge of the diplomat, gains new quality by the evaluation attached to it which already must be protected.

It is not a rare case that on the base of certain other considerations the source of information explicitly requests anonymity in the diplomat’s report, and that the given information be handled confidentially by even the diplomat’s colleagues. Besides that the diplomat, using his experiences, can evaluate, elaborate the given information, which often contains critics of the policy of the government of the receiving country, and in consequence the receiving country or its certain leaders, even the whole government can eventually be placed in an unfavorable light. Analyzing the directions of the information activity and matching the questions like in a puzzle one can make conclusions on the interests and efforts of our foreign and security policy and the partners can make steps to prevent the enforcing our interests. The diplomat can make proposals and suggestions in the information report and coming into light of these would equally endanger our interests. To summarize it up the diplomat essentially does it very well basically if he or she the information obtained by one of the methods mentioned above, i. e. through the means of diplomacy protect “routinely” but consciously.

Protecting information means that the means which contain the information, namely the papers, hard disk or other data carrier must be locked up according to the provision of the relevant law, and this kind of information may be sent to the sending foreign ministry from the mission place as a telegram coded only. Such report must be accordingly protected in the case if sent in currier, ether (continuous oversight, packed securely according to the relevant provisions with five seals etc.).

Internet does not provide any protection as it is already at least since a decade that e-mail messages can be intercepted by the secret services only5. If the diplomat would like to protect the personal data of the source then the diplomat sends the information to the center (the foreign ministry of the sending state) in an open form that is in e-mail, open telegram, using fax etc., without naming the source, and sending the personal data in a coded form referring to the open text.

Depending on its contents the information must be classified according to the law on the protection of the classified data adopted in 2009, with number CLV, which entered into force at the beginning of April, 20106. The classification of the information determines that precisely which level of protection must to be applied. In the time of the renewal of the diplomatic activity exerted in the framework of the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Foreign Ministry) the law on the state and service secret no. LXV, adopted in 1995 was in force which – in comparison to the previous law – remarkably narrowed the circle of the data to be classified as state or service secret. This law was modified then in 2003 by the law no. LIII, which law enabled the real reformation of the system of classification in the Foreign Ministry. While according to the previous law %99 of the classified diplomatic information was “top secret”, thanks to the modified criteria of the classification now the overwhelming part of the diplomatic information with political content if not almost the whole of it is “confidential” and “restricted”. This change also can be brought into connection with the cessation of the bipolar world system. It is obvious that owing to the new classification system the new political information is classified on a lower level and it requires a lower level protection and thus it can be forwarded by more simple technical means. The new classification system was the basic condition for the renewal of the communication of the classified information.

It is worth is drawing the attention to the mistake which can be met in professional circles that the information with the sign “not for public” is evaluated as a classified one while this is just a marking referring to the need of protection according to the law on data protection. (Note that representatives of the portfolios of the government, the secret services, the press and the human rights protection organizations have been engaged for years in talks in an organized way on the system of classification, the criminal law consequences of the break of secret, the relation between the freedom of press and the protection of secrets.)

The postmodern diplomacy and the enforcing conditions of our European Union membership

By the decade right after the change of the political system the ciphering method according to which the diplomats had to write the telegram by hand then the cryptographer had to code it and forward to the centre, had utterly become obsolete. In the ministry the incoming messages had to be decoded either, and then forwarded from that organizational unit to the addressee by handing. This procedure generally took a half day time, under good circumstances. The communication between the foreign representation and the center used telecommunication means (like radio, fax et cetera) and was realized in the form of telegrams, while the documents forwarded by couriers were called “notices” or “reports”, or rather they are still called this way even in today’s reduced courier traffic. Technical means which have been developed by the end of the 20th century have made possible a much quicker transfer of information even in the case of classified information.

In the period beginning with the cessation of the bipolar world of the so called “postmodern diplomacy” in the professional literature7 new actors appeared on the stage of the international policy nearly in masses. The number of the non-governmental organizations grew at the quickest pace. The multipolar diplomacy, burdened by ingravescent global problems and the coordination in global, allied or integration circles focusing on the economic crises phenomena and crises, furthermore on the new type security threats and risks, necessitates intense communication among those taking part in these international events on one hand and among the internal organizational units of the sides on the other hand for example among the representatives of the international organizations and the center or centers of their organizations or among the diplomats of the foreign representations and their centers. With the emerge of the electronic (internet) press, and coming into general use of the satellite technology of the television and the telephone connections, the globalization of the freedom of the press grew into a pressing factor.

All over the world the state administration and especially the foreign ministries have switched over their work to the use of the modern computerized communication means slower as the actors of the economy. In Hungary the modernization of the diplomatic information activity became utterly urgent by the preparation for the membership in the European Union. The membership makes the continuous cross-check and harmonizing of the Hungarian national interests and the viewpoints resting on them with those of the other member countries of the European Union and with the common interests imperative. We can achieve our objectives set inside the Union often at the sacrifice of compromises and by forming ad hoc alliances (“of changing geometrics”) only. We can put it the way that the multilateral harmonizing has become a basic function of diplomacy. The protection and promotion of our national interests, i. e. the enforcing of our interests becomes possible only if we get knowledge about the interests, intentions, stand-points, readiness for compromise et cetera as soon as possible and on time, according to the reality. Obviously the quick transfer, the evolving and the explanation of our national interests and the argumentation for them, the presentation for the public is of the same importance, as well as the precise internal instruction for the Hungarian diplomat regarding the nature of our interests and the target of our step.

It is important for the same reason that the documents originating from the EU and NATO bodies be quickly transferred to the national and foreign addressees.

In the last years more and more accent is placed on the speed of the information transfer, especially in the harmonizing work inside the Union. If the instruction for the diplomat engaged in harmonizing work arrives from the center just some minutes after the given body has already decided on the subject then the enforcing of the interests and the presentation of the Hungarian stand-point becomes impossible, even if it is based on a sound argumentation. In our days a significant part of the diplomats taking part in the works of the forums of the European Union use mobile phones, so called “smart phones” for keeping in touch with their centers. The Hungarian diplomats are sporadically capable of transferring information by this rather expensive method. This type of information transfer is realizable because the information in the overwhelming majority of cases is not protected or the quick consuming of the information impedes its misuse by the unauthorized persons.

At the renewal of the transfer of classified information the job was the effective implementation of the achievements of the information technology in the information activity of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The objective of the renewal of the diplomatic information activity is the formation of an information activity which is directed in a “stiffly flexible” way, coordinated inside the apparatus, and which produces largely elaborated information, i. e. knowledge. The instrument for realizing of this job, practically speaking a handbook for it is the Diplomatic Information Policy which was written for the first time in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The Diplomatic Information Policy

As early as in 1995 in certain circles of the co-workers of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs the necessity of evolving a diplomatic information policy was brought up leaving a paper trail8 but this policy was formed parallel to the technological renewal of the information activity only, in 2005. We may disclose as much about it that this policy contains all fundamental knowledge which is necessary for exercising the technically renewed diplomatic information activity. A part of it sets out on the basis of the geopolitical situation of Hungary and of the main directions of her foreign and security policy those information demands which are to be satisfied continuously by the diplomats working at the Hungarian foreign representations and in the center. These demands do not contain details but the basic elements only. The validity of these demands is generally several years, even five-ten years, but every year there are such subjects where the alteration of the information demand becomes necessary. The information policy contains periodic information demands also, the validity of which is mostly measured in months or one-two years, and they are to be updated continuously. The answers to these information demands serve first of all the workshop activity done in the center, which is focused on the examination of the foreign and security processes, the emerging of new tendencies, the prognosis of their formation and the planning of the occasional answers to them by the Hungarian foreign policy. Finally a part of the information policy is the “chapter” of information demands at short notice where the demands serve the daily or “operative” measures of the foreign policy. If well directed these three groups of information demands complement each other without hiatus or they partially overlap and cross-connect each other as well as the relevant diplomatic information answers coming to them to the center or rather to the system.

A part of the information policy is the reporting technique applied at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, namely the structure of the report, the style of the text and even some questions of orthography. There are the explanations for the necessity of some structural elements of the report (like the summary, the determination of the subject et cetera). The summary which can be found at the beginning of the report is important not only because the leaders and the co-workers of the ministry could decide by reading it if they are interested in learning the detailed report but because the diplomat by writing it is “pressed” to think over what is the new information in the report and what it is about in essence.

The Diplomatic Information Policy contains in addition the basic (with some exception the non-technical) operation principles of the new Protected Network for Foreign Affairs (further on the PNFA) which network was introduced in 2004 for the transfer of classified information.

From another point of view the information policy in essence contains in a systematic and comprehensive way and according to a standardized conception those elements and several “tricks” of the diplomatic reporting work which used to be previously imparted by the experienced and senior diplomats to their younger or else carrier-starter colleagues using the method of “oral tradition”. But even these senior diplomats stood upon differing views on some questions, and they did not follow necessarily the same professional principles.

Previously the means of information transfer had been indigenous therefore the central direction of the reporting activity had been less felt. Besides the instructions for the ambassador and later the case by case instructions the ambassador and the colleagues basically listened to their political sense and their “political instincts”.

The information technology had already made possible the complete automation of the ciphering and the transfer of the information protected this way in seconds or in some countries in minutes consequently the confidential and even continuous communication between the foreign representations and the center. In the course of this swift information transfer the usage of the previous naming “telegram” and “document” became senseless as all information material reach the addressee with the speed of a telegram, even to a hundred addressees, simultaneously. The directional role of the center could strengthen in the information activity. This role can not be limitless and having a purpose in itself. The goal is namely the “ideal direction”, i. e. the just appropriate adequate degree of the central direction, what is called in the professional language the stiffly flexible direction. This means that the information demands of the center reach the foreign representations in seconds while the diplomats working there naturally choose even simultaneously the question for reporting on their own, relying on their political sense. Nevertheless the diplomats’ opportunity to have a say in the formation of the policy taking place in the center. The ambassador and the colleagues practically can hold a real time dialogue and can have consultations with the competent leaders of the center. As regarding the quality of the planning work and the proper management of the operative matters all these compose a big advantage of the renewed diplomatic information activity.

When renewing the information activity the demand of improving the knowledge of the diplomatic apparatus and the possibilities of being informed. It was evident that in case all diplomats could use the knowledge stored in the PNFA. The storing happens on the bases of a “semiautomatic” system of subject names, put in common parlance in a virtual system of drawers, which drawers compose the part of other drawers, as it is possible virtually. For illustration let us suppose that we can find a drawer named “bilateral relations with Hungary” in a bigger drawer named ”Serbia”. The former drawer furthermore contains more drawers and thus the informational material with the (here fictive) subject “The signature of the readmission protocol” can be found in all three drawers, but if we open the smallest drawer then we find the materials which belong to that drawer. The retrieval or the search of the reports is possible on the bases of all characteristics of the report (the date, the place of writing, the subject et cetera), moreover it is possible by the method of free word searching, “making just some clicks”. The storing of the ready reports happens also by using the drawer system, on the same virtual surface. All these new features enhanced the ability of the diplomat to get knowledge in a way not imaginable before. Today it is natural that for example a diplomat working in Ankara first reads all those freshest information about Azerbaijan and its surround which have been collected at our embassy in Baku, at all embassies all over the world and in the center before if he or she intends to make a visit to his or her Azerbaijani partner with the aim of getting acquainted and gathering information.

In the information policy among the basic principles of the reporting work it can be read that the foreign representations play a key role in supplying the preparers of the decision making with information and knowledge. In the result of a rational and planned personnel policy the well prepared, experienced ambassador with a vocation and the similarly purposefully chosen subordinates on the bases of their knowledge of the relevant languages, of the local culture and traditions, making use of their wide and high level system of contacts have the most authentic and the biggest knowledge about the given receiving country, the region or the international organization. They have the advantage that relying on their experiences they are able to evaluate the press information and to select the public information. The foreign representations should try to send as elaborated information as possible i. e. not only data, facts, but knowledge, prognosis and action alternatives also to their center.

The Diplomatic Information Policy stipulates emphatically for the education of the diplomatic information activity for the apparatus, especially of the diplomats to be sent to foreign missions and the career-starters on.

The foreign representations must take notice that they can’t compete with the press. Using the money of the taxpayers they will be never capable of live television broadcasting from the spot as the CNN and the like. Apart from the help rendered to the center in selecting the public information the diplomats on assignment in essence should try to submit to their centers such grounded information and knowledge reflecting the intentions, the plans and interests of the receiving country which can not be collected from other sources. That is why these reports are of such a high quality that their contents must be protected. Starting from that point we can state that the most important or the most precious reports of the foreign representations are classified.

Naturally, as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs struggles with the abundance of information, the diplomats working on the foreign representations should help it by submitting (sending) public information, obtained from open source because as we have already mentioned these professionals, living in the place of their missions are able to select with greater certainty those press news, press commentaries which reflect the real intentions, possibilities, circumstances et cetera of the receiving country or group of countries. The most frequent form of the press-sourced report is the press review and the press telegram. The former present a sort of a panorama composed of the selected press information while the latter concentrates on one article or subject. These reports should reflect briefly and in a “crystal-clear” way the information published in the press, naming the source precisely. Likewise the foreign representation reports in “open telegram” about her public diplomatic activity including her own programs (press interviews, radio and television appearances, receptions, cultural and other functions) and the attendance at the similar functions of other representations provided they are important for the center from a certain point of view.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been provided for many years with a registration (filing) system which on the bases of a subject name system is suitable for storing and retrieving of those non-classified notes and reports stored in it but the purpose of it is not the creation of a database of the information published in the press. This system aims at storing and circularizing all other non-classified reports and notes written in the center in the widest circle of the subjects of the foreign affairs. Among them the most typical documents are the evaluations of the decisions and talks of the international conferences and discussions, of the talks hold by the ambassadors accredited in Budapest and the diplomats stationed there, the description of the bilateral and multilateral diplomatic contacts, the forwarding of the instructions, of the regulations, of the jobs et cetera. These documents are not classified thus they can be transferred in e-mail to those foreign representations which need them the most. Nevertheless from the point of view of the diplomatic reporting work it will be useful if its development will be finished in the foreseeable future and it will be available for all foreign representations.

We note that the idea of the necessity of creating a database or information system which in essence identically to the PNFA would be suitable for transferring, especially storing and searching of the press-sourced information. But for the time being the usage of the internet has become so general and the internet itself developed so well that the basic public knowledge is available for every diplomat easily and quickly therefore this conception is not as much timely today.

Summary

The diplomatic information activity in the framework of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been renewed: the system created for the transfer and use of the most precious information requiring classification technically reflects the possibilities of our age and in its contents it renders all those possibilities for the apparatus using of which it is capable of providing with almost “up to minutes” information and knowledge swiftly for the political decision-preparers, the decision-makers, the leadership of the foreign affairs and other government institutions. Our results are especially remarkable if we compare the today’s practice of the management of information in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs based on the diplomatic information policy to the state of the information handling just a decade ago, when the renewal of it became a burning necessity first of all at the preparation for the membership in the European Union.

Let us examine some requirements for the handling of diplomatic information which were formulated at that time by a leading diplomat Mr. György Tatár in a study published in the journal Külpolitika (Foreign Policy) in the year 20019:

“We must resolve to reach… that the data of the information pile be at the disposal of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the embassies, and they should be retrieved in a simple way, with the minimal search for them, i. e. the professional diplomats should not need to spend a remarkable part of their time and energy by obtaining the information which is actually already collected and stored. We have to create the central database which is updated during 24 hours which means actually continuously…”

Here the author notes that he means first of all the handling of the public information but he adds that “in the case of the non-public information we should also make efforts to have an information bases for common use as big and as wide as possible”. Supposedly he did not take into consideration that these requirements could be met so quickly in the case of the classified information. In another place the author also puts into words the necessity “of creating the possibility of general accessibility to the information”: “The target is … that in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and in the embassies an information bases systematized and managed on the same principles would be at disposal (…) By the development we should achieve that the foreign representations would be involved in an essential and operative way in the formulation of the important documents and they should not play the role of a sort of “subcontractor” only.”

Well, it has been for some years now that the whole diplomatic apparatus (in the center and in the foreign representatives) has an access to a database consisting of classified information and knowledge which database is continuously supplemented and thus updated according to the principles of the diplomatic information policy renewed according to need, for 24 hours. There was no need to erect a special team of experts for the management of information because the diplomats who obtain the information themselves place the document into the appropriate drawer of the database (on the bases of the system of subject names) by making some clicks and this way it is searchable and retrievable. In case of need the information can be as big as 100 pages, it has no limits of extension (in case of life-like usage), the addressees get it with the speed in Internet at the same time including the organizational units dealing with foreign relations of the other ministries. The opportunity is given also for the foreign representations to take part in the elaboration of the documents in the center and they even can have a sort of dialog and consultation with each other.

According to our knowledge the level of the Hungarian intellectual and technical system of the diplomatic information activity is higher than the level of the system used by the foreign affairs apparatus in a number of developed European states. Nevertheless the apparatus of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs “can not sit back” in the possession of these possibilities because the renewed diplomatic information activity can play its role with high efficiency if the information policy is being really continuously renewed and the diplomats meet the requirements for the contents and forms of the reporting work in a disciplined way. The basic condition for it is that the personnel of the ministry including its chiefs and subordinates, have those qualities which make them good diplomats (see the introducing paragraph). To be quite serious: Only the well prepared and professionally devoted apparatus can make of absolute use of the possibilities given by the technology and is capable to keep the information policy up to date and to place such reports and knowledge to the database which are utilizable masterfully.

The above story is compiled from Mr. Ivan Simic, ditrector of The Seoul Times' EU Center in Budapest, Hungary.




 

back

 

 

 

The Seoul Times, Shinheung-ro 36ga-gil 24-4, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188 Email:seoultimes@gmail.com
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange