From diplomacy to practice, a full blown discussion with the consul of Peru

Edgar Alvaro Salamanca, Consul of Peru in Greece

Lydia Veneri

Greece-Peru bilateral relations and the responsibilities of the Consul of Peru under the microscope. Edgar Alvaro Salamanca talks to Lawyer about the current challenges that diplomacy is facing and whether it will be able to meet the demands of the pandemic.

  • Tell us about your career/studies/ posts. How many years have you been in Greece/ Which are your responsibilities as consulate of Peru in Greece.

Well, I have been serving as a diplomat for my country for almost 16 years.

I have a previous background as a lawyer with some knowledge in the field of human rights. Both experiences have been rewarding so far, not only professionally talking, but at a personal level, as both gave me the opportunity of being in close interaction with my society and trying to solve sensitive problems of my citizens.

Since July 2018, I work in Greece as Consul of Peru in Athens. Before I was posted as Consul in Frankfurt, Germany, staying there for about 5 years.

The Consulate provides in general different services to our resident community not only in Greece, but also in Bulgaria and Albania, as the responsibilities of our Embassy and Consulate comprises 3 countries including Greece, and probably in the short term one more country: North Macedonia.

An important amount of this work has legal content, like the notarial documents, civil registers, legal and humanitarian assistance, among others.

Besides, I am also the economic and commercial counsellor of our Embassy. This is a very challenging issue, as the economic relations with Greece and in general with the countries of the Balkan Region, are still in process to be developed.

For instance, Greek and Peruvian market are not naturally convergent. We produce similar goods like in Agriculture and have dependence on specific economic activities like Tourism.

So, we have to work together with the private sector like producers, retailers, export unions, in order to convince them on the opportunities given by growing new markets, and the legal and political framework which encourages foreign businesses, focusing on trade and investment. In fact, I have to acknowledge the remarkable work that Enterprise Greece has been performing in this field and I truly believe that it has become a model to imitate by other countries like Peru.

  • Tell us about bilateral relations between Peru and Greece. Which is the number of Peruvian permanent residents in Greece. Have you noticed similarities between Peruvian and Greek people?

There is a healthy and cooperative relation between our countries. We have the tools to work in a closer relation with a strategic view, focusing on topics like tourism, cultural heritage, maritime issues, among others

In general, there is a healthy and cooperative relation between our countries. That means that potentially we have the tools to work in a closer relation with a strategic view, focusing on topics of natural coincidence like tourism, cultural heritage, maritime issues, among others. This projection for sure, assuming we manage to get the proper political support from both sides.

Although at first sight, it seems that so distant and geographically different countries-like Greece and Peru- may host opposite societies, reality and my own experience living here showed me that there are some links between our nations and up to a certain point, resemblance between our people.

Culture perhaps is one of the keys to approach to the topic. The foundations of our nations are both rooted in ancient civilizations and strong traditions. This fact has an influence that reflects even nowadays in the way of life of our people.

The communities from Peruvian Andes for example, preserve a philosophy of living and working in balance with their own environment and have a strong identity based on history and customs.

I could feel the same atmosphere meeting Greek families and visiting Greek towns in the continental area and in the islands. Maybe that could be the start line to build a bridge between our nations.

By the way, as you already know, on international level, there is a young multilateral organization formed in 2007 as an initiative of a group countries -one of them Greece- called “Forum of Ancient Civilizations”. This high-level mechanism of political cooperation is precisely based on the common privilege of the country members of being cradles of foundational civilizations in different regions of the world.

The 10 country members are joining efforts to project the shared cultural heritage as a strengthened tool of soft power.

As Peru also participates in this initiative, we can explore together a political approach at bilateral level, with mutual benefits that could be extended to our economies.

There is an additional issue that turns into a growing link between us. We have a Peruvian community of around 400 citizens, not small if we compare the numbers with neighboring countries in the region. I am proud to say that they have managed to integrate into Greek society in different ways, through responsible work, music and other arts, studies and our traditions like our gastronomy.

  • Do you believe that the pandemic has influenced diplomacy on a global level? How candiplomacy be adapted to the new circumstances?

In fact, we can see the influence on the agenda and its priorities, in the way of performing as a professional, and in the means and mechanisms to exert diplomatic functions.

Those trends, specially the third one are not new. However, the sanitarian crisis at global scale has sharpened the transition.

The impressive technological advance in information and communications has affected the way of life of our societies and Diplomacy is part of the phenomena. Our traditional responsibilities like representing, negotiating and supplying information are not the same since many years ago, and the Pandemic is pushing us more to virtual interactions.

Instead of continuing adapting diplomacy to the “new reality”, we could try adapting virtuality and technology to our core tasks as diplomats

So, perhaps instead of continuing adapting diplomacy to the “new reality”, we could try adapting virtuality and technology to our core tasks as diplomats. Plus, it is time to seriously incorporate experts in communications platforms and big data analysis into the management of international relations. This is a whole topic to discuss in another occasion, if you give me the chance….

  • Have the commercial relations been influenced by the pandemic as it has happened with people’ s circulation across borders?

The Pandemic is showing clearly the limitations of the global market dynamic. This does not mean that we are rejecting free trade as a principle, but we must rethink on the priorities and focus on the necessity of securing primary goods and services to our people. If we are watching now a crazy market competition between Governments to get medicines and vaccines, there must be something that we are doing wrong, right?  There are moments like this when competition has to stop in order to give space to cooperation. Unfortunately, the valuable efforts of multilateral diplomacy have been insufficient so far. However, this experience is teaching us again which is the only way to overcome global crisis.

  • Which is the biggest challenge at the time/ how do you think will be things at the future? Which is your wish for the future?

We must evaluate the limitations of global market in the field of Health and assume a strategic view working simultaneously on different levels: local, regional and multilateral. Securing the vaccine for our population is a matter of cooperation at the highest level. If we let this issue to Adam Smith´s Invisible Hand, it will not be difficult to predict the results.

In the middle term, we should work on adjusting production and supply chains to sustainable levels. In the long term, we should change our way of life focused on consumption. In a nutshell, the future depends on deciding if we are consumers or citizens.

A wish for the future…. More free time for individuals and families in daily life. And by the way, it is sort of ironic to see that new technologies are making us work more, and in general, absorbing our time.

  • Has Peru adopted legislation concerning personal data protection and sustainable development in accordance with European standards?

We are improving in the field of information management and data protection and we have specific legislation concerning personal data.

In fact, it is a priority in our public policies, in the framework of e-Government and IT tools. Sustainable development is also prioritized in our public agenda, as our country is fully committed with UN 2030 Agenda. Besides, we have a specific interest for being a vulnerable country to global threats of Climate Change and natural disasters.

Peru is nowadays in the process of being a future member of OECD and in that context is taking progressive measure to reach the standards of the Organization in the abovementioned topics/standards, which are also similar to European standards.