Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Belize, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas and the Cayman Islands

Women@EEAS - Meet Carine Claeys, Special Envoy for Space

16/04/2021 - 09:02
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"I was lucky to work for a director who once talked and played with my 3-year-old daughter whilst I was finalising a document for the Council but I also knew another director who didn’t accept my request for two-days leave when my 7-year-old son underwent surgery. Women are too often considered in function of a quality matrix applied by and to men. Men and women are equal, should be considered so, not identical. Women’s identity should be better recognised, so our world can walk on both its feet."

Carine Claeys - Special envoy for Space / Head of the Space Task Force

 

Describe your role and what you like about it

I focussed my entire career on multilateral diplomacy. This is the project of a career, I dare say even, of a life. Let me try to approach, more than to define, this concept: Diplomacy is people dealing with people. It is about creating and maintaining a link between people, even when they disagree. It is about building bridges between people to create, together, a harmonious human landscape for the sake of our “living together” and, in the best case, growing and developing together. Even more for multilateral diplomacy, it is about “building together with many for the benefit of all”. This is particularly true in my present function as Special envoy for Space.

 

"Diplomacy is people dealing with people. It is about creating and maintaining a link between people, even when they disagree. It is about building bridges between people to create, together, a harmonious human landscape for the sake of our 'living together' and, in the best case, growing and developing together. Even more for multilateral diplomacy, it is about 'building together with many for the benefit of all'. This is particularly true in my present function as Special envoy for Space."

 

Building a common understanding worldwide of the challenges, opportunities and threats of activities in outer space, preserving the safety, security and sustainability in outer space – what I call 3SOS, and also 3 x SOS, it is urgent to act, not only act together for the benefit of all today but also for future generations. This gives a sense to my professional life.

 

What has been your greatest achievement?

What I consider my greatest achievement is a team achievement, that of equipping the EEAS with a functioning 24/7 operational chain of command in case of threat to or through the Galileo system, the EU satellite navigation system.

 

"What I consider my greatest achievement is a team achievement, that of equipping the EEAS with a functioning 24/7 operational chain of command in case of threat to or through the Galileo system, the EU satellite navigation system."

 

Back in 2004, the Council considered that the Union should be able to react in situations where the operation of Galileo may affect the security of the Union or its Member States. I was appointed to implement this Joint Action in 2005, but the programme at that time was far from being operational and the minds were not yet ripe for considering a full operational chain of command.

Ten years later, in 2015, an embryo of architecture had been established, a first Special envoy for Space appointed and a Space Task Force created to set up the necessary structure and means in the EEAS to allow the High Representative to fulfil her responsibilities in the Galileo operational chain of command. I was invited to head the newly created Space Task Force. It was the beginning of a long journey that led me and my team to run today the Galileo Threat Response Architecture, including a secure room and secure communications.

Diplomacy is not only words. It is also action, and readiness for action, should it be needed at a certain moment.

 

What is your greatest strength?

Perseverance is my greatest strength, even if I am not to be compared – at least I hope so - with the rover that landed on Mars a few days ago :)

 

"Perseverance is my greatest strength, even if I am not to be compared – at least I hope so - with the rover that landed on Mars a few days ago :)"

 

Perseverance, here and there giving in but never giving up. Giving in not to lose control, not to give up. I am also, as to my colleagues, a bit too fussy about the files I handle. A word should not be used for another. You can often avoid a conflict by using the right terminology and leaving some concepts open to interpretation.

Diplomacy is a world of nuances, not of political shortcuts. Some may call it a weakness. In a “tweeting” world I suggest calling it a strength.

 

What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career? Were there any special challenges you encountered because you were a woman?

The glass ceiling is not a feminist invention. Each and every woman is, one day or another, confronted with this reality, be it in her professional career or in her private life. You are judged (literally) by a society filled with cultural criteria, shall I say bias, which cannot disappear in one day. I don’t say that Europe is worse than other civilisations regarding equality of chances, far from it. However equality of chances does not always mean equality of opportunities.

 

"The glass ceiling is not a feminist invention. Each and every woman is, one day or another, confronted with this reality, be it in her professional career or in her private life. You are judged (literally) by a society filled with cultural criteria, shall I say bias, which cannot disappear in one day. I don’t say that Europe is worse than other civilisations regarding equality of chances, far from it. However equality of chances does not always mean equality of opportunities."

 

I was lucky to work for a director who once talked and played with my 3-year-old daughter whilst I was finalising a document for the Council but I also knew another director who didn’t accept my request for two-days leave when my 7-year-old son underwent surgery. Women are too often considered in function of a quality matrix applied by and to men. Men and women are equal, should be considered so, not identical. Women’s identity should be better recognised, so our world can walk on both its feet.

 

What advice would you give to other/young women who want to pursue a career in diplomacy?

Build bridges towards people – whenever you can. Protect yourself – whenever you need. Be happy in your job – always.

 

What needs to change in the next 5 to 10 years?

We should reinvent the path diplomacy walks. How to enter in the other’s mind to understand better his/her way of thinking and of acting. This takes time – not tweets… This needs in-depth analyses, leading to concrete actions.

 

"We should reinvent the path diplomacy walks. How to enter in the other’s mind to understand better his/her way of thinking and of acting. This takes time – not tweets… This needs in-depth analyses, leading to concrete actions."

 

Our world is a complex world. More than ever. Its multipolarity deserves nuances. If we want to build on the long term (and this should, in my humble opinion, be the will, shall I say, the obsession of each diplomat) we should integrate this complexity in our analyses. Once the decision is taken, we should then implement it and stick to its spirit, if not always to its letter.

I had the honour to work for the first High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and later for the first Secretary General of the EEAS, Pierre Vimont. They are two of my masters in diplomacy, now and for the next 5 to 10 years.

 

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