Two Norwegian diplomats in Spain


Norwegian-Embassy

If you like to travel, learn different cultures and live in different countries, working in an embassy is the perfect job.

Kristian Røed, first secretary of political and economic issues and Lars Andersen, Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of Norway in Madrid, tell us how is the work of a diplomat, their functions and other opinions on Spain in a Norwegian view.

In the Norwegian Embassy in Madrid there are about 20 employees. Seven of them are Norwegian diplomats sent from Norway to work in Madrid and the rest are Spanish employees on permanent contracts. The Norwegian Embassy in Madrid is considered as a medium embassy. A big embassy, explains Lars, would be the one in New York with 50 diplomats, as well as the one in Berlin and London.

When I asked them about the function of the embassy they both answered in one word – “interests” – keeping up the interests that Norway has with Spain.

Their adventure as diplomats started after completing a three years training program as candidates in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs combined with practice in Norway and abroad. Lars tells us that apart of the training, the languages are a very important part of it. The Norwegian level must be high in addition of having a good knowledge of the country. To work in the Norwegian Embassy in Madrid you must have a good knowledge of the Spanish language, Kristian says. His Spanish has greatly improved thanks to the Spanish staff working in the embassy.

The most important position in the embassy is the ambassador and secondly comes the executive minister, in this case, our interviewee Lars. He says “My most important function is to replace the ambassador when he is away. I also manage the budget and handle issues regarding the European Economic Area. In fact my position is multifunctional.”

Kristian’s function is to analyse the political and economic situation in Spain, “which by the way is very interesting” he says. At the moment the political relationship between Spain and Norway is closer than it was before. Regarding trade, Norway exports gas and fish, including the famous beloved salmon, he smiles. Spain exports wine and vegetables to Norway – actually very good Spanish wine which he loves.

There is a big difference between Spanish and Norwegian economy. Kristian explains that “Norway has been quite lucky with oil and fish although we had an economic crisis in the nineties regarding the housing crisis. “Norwegians tried to make a change. They modernized and are now better prepared for future crisis.”

With regards to Spain, Kristian believes that despite the problems, Spain works well. Spain has a very sophisticated economy that is not only based in beaches and tourism. He points out that one of the fundamental problems in Spain is the educational system which he compares to other countries, especially mentioning the programme for international student assessment (PISA).

As diplomats in a foreign country they have to adopt. This is very important. I asked them about their progress regarding the understanding of Spanish customs. Lars answers that “at first it was difficult because Spain has a different way of organizing for example the form of making contracts.”

Kristian however, emphasizes while laughing “In Norway a business meal takes at most half an hour. However, when it comes to Spain it takes almost the whole afternoon”. But after this he gets serious and says that “Norwegians are very naive, we trust everyone, but once we leave the country we must look for “very good lawyers.”

Being a diplomat is a very interesting job. You travel a lot and get to know many different cultures. To find more information, Lars advises us to enter the website of the Norwegian government, www. mfa.no, where we can find more information about Norway. Kristian encourages us and all those who want to be diplomats and emphasizes the importance to study hard and “not only learn the language and the theory in the university, but also read and study what is happening in the world each day. You have to be updated” he concludes.

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