Aude MAIO-COLICHE, Ambassador of the European Union to Argentina
As an Ambassador of the European Union to Argentina, I represent a group of 27 countries that have chosen to live in peace together and join forces to provide prosperity to their people. I represent the EU vis a vis the authorities, work in coordination with the 21 EUMS embassies accredited to Argentina, get involved in EU cooperation projects, and liaise with the private sector and civil society. I also play a strong role in EU public diplomacy, trying to project a positive image of the EU, provide explanations on what we seek to achieve and how we do it.
I enjoy speaking to large audiences about the European integration and our policies like the green deal, multilateralism, social cohesion, etc. I was very proud to be chosen by Argentine women economic leaders to 'ring the bell for equality' at the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange in March 2019.
I like to feel the impact of what we are doing. We usually obtain the best impact when we do what we preach : just imagine how much recognition we get when every year the EU diplomats and their family get together with hundreds of European and Argentines for the #EUBeachCleanUp on the river bank of 'El Rio de la Plata' in Buenos Aires.
I also feel the impact of being a woman ambassador as such. I often find myself in a situation where young ladies ask me how I got there, sometimes very young… Our EUDEL driver's 4-years-old daughter could not believe that her dad's boss could be a woman, so that one day our driver took her to our offices to meet with me. It was amazing seeing her eyes grow as big as two apples on her face when she saw me.
Finally, and probably many other diplomats do as well, I particularly enjoy when I have to find the right words to explain an EU position so that my interlocutor ends up agreeing with that position or at least understanding the good grounds for it. This applies vice versa, when I manage to explain to our HQ the fifty shades of grey that may coexist in a given situation developing itself in Argentina. This helps finding the right reaction in order to maintain good relations on both sides… which is, in the end, our core mission.
Since I discovered that the job of representing the EU outside existed, this was probably during my ERASMUS years in the UK and Germany, I knew that it was what I wanted to do and was meant to do. When you have a goal, everything concurs for you to reach that goal they say. It definitely worked out in my case. I became an ambassador relatively early, and was probably among the youngest of the EU network back in 2013.
Paulo Coelho in his novel 'The Alchemist' invites us to follow our 'personal legend'. This was my personal legend and it still is.
The ability to sense what the other(s) feel and react according to it. Empathy is definitely very useful for a diplomat… even more for an EU diplomat who needs to agree with all EUMS first before even starting conversations with the third party.
A first challenge was to learn diplomatic prudence. I was 'taught' prudence at HQ when I entered the European Commission and then had to work with it every day in Venezuela. It meant keeping a cautious political approach in a much-polarised environment. I needed to stick to agreed language or legal principles, not let my emotions drive me.
Another challenge has been to receive high-level visits and hundreds of colleagues during the whole year of the Argentina presidency of the G20 in 2018, with a relatively small team at the EUDEL at that time, on the top of our day-to-day job.
A special challenge I encounter as a woman is probably the interaction with a certain type of 20 years older male colleagues, it is sometimes difficult to assess whether the gender and age bias is more in their heads than in mine!
The only limits are the ones you set for yourself. Go for it if you believe in it. Above all, get posted abroad.
That's where you have a chance to play a diplomatic role whatever your function: a political counsellor, an assistant to the head of delegation, a head of admin, a project manager. Necessary arrangements of your private life are sometimes easier than you may think; ask others who have done it before.
Inclusiveness should work both ways. We need to complement our work on women empowerment with men's inclusion in all types of jobs. If women take more positions traditionally held by men, more men should take positions in sectors traditionally occupied by women.
It means that we have to work on highlighting the great value of work traditionally performed by women and show that everyone can do it. The care industry is probably the best example and the pandemic has shown us how much we counted on nurses and household care for instance.