Appointed by the Gambian government as the first and last resident multilateral Ambassador in Vienna, Professor Gyorgy Suha has a long and prominent diplomatic career by serving The Gambia since 1996. Born and graduated in Budapest, Hungary at ELTE University in 1989 and continued his doctoral studies abroad. Prior to his graduation he worked as a freelance journalist. In the 90’s he had taken the roles of spokesman of the National Police. In 1995 he has been appointed as senior cabinet advisor, personal press secretary to Gyula Horn, the late Prime Minister of Hungary.
He joined the Gambian foreign service and covered a wide range of international relations in different diplomatic and consular positions. As an expert of African issues and international development co-operation he served the Gambian government first as Honorary Consul, Attaché at the Embassy in Paris and Consul General in Central Eastern European countries until 2014. Ten years ago, he was appointed as the ever first resident Ambassador, Permanent Representative to UNIDO and CTBTO in Vienna. He returned to Budapest in 2010 and currently he is a full professor of international relations at several prestigious international educational institutions from Russia to Hong Kong. Professor Suha undoubtedly is one of the most influential persons among the scholars dealing with African issues in the diplomatic circles of Central Eastern Europe. He talk about his commitment to the magic continent in Budapest in an exclusive interview for the first festive issue of European Diplomacy & Economics magazine.
You have served the Gambian flag in Vienna for six years as Permanent Representative and you came back to Budapest in 2010 as Honorary Consul General. From your diplomatic career can it be seen that this is a kind of step down or a backstep?
No, not at all. For such countries with limited resources in foreign affairs – including the budget items as well as human resources – the honorary consular institution is of the utmost importance.
Our roles as honorary consuls for Gambia are pivotal to our foreign policy as well as to the socio-economic development of the nation. The work of a head of consular mission transcend into what Gambia, as a nation, wants to accomplish, what she has successfully achieved, our challenges and what she wants for the future. Moreover, I do believe that representing an ECOWAS country in a EU-member state should be considered as a real challenge in transforming the relations from bilateral level to multilateral dimensions.
Like all states, we have interests that have to be defended. But it is fair to say that African countries have a bigger stake in developing a framework rooted in sustainability and shared interest. Regardless of the formalities, our global positioning is not only critical in relation to what we hope to achieve from our diplomatic efforts but also to our identity as a nation.
Personally as citizen of three countries (for family reasons I do have French passport) I was always very much interested in the consular work during the last fifteen years. I had the chance to be elected as founding president of the Honorary Consular Corps Accredited to Hungary and still holding the Vice Presidential position of the European Honorary Consular Federation, F.U.E.C.H. Believe me, sometimes the honorary consuls can do much more in favour of their sending countries than the career diplomats. The reason is very simple, this double identity is a real advantage in understanding each other and for strengthening the ability to pro-actively influence the international community. The consular institution is viewed by several colleagues of mine alike as the poor sibling of diplomacy, but this opinion is under serious criticism nowadays. Concerning the African examples – especially in our region – it became clear that the consuls could bring fresh insights and new perspectives into the traditional diplomacy.
”I was always very fortunate,
I am still travelling
a lot, this was always
a significant element of
my preferred way of life”.
How would you describe the African community in Central Eastern Europe?
A difficult question indeed and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. It is impossible to describe the whole African community in this region with a single statement or any label that would apply to all. The only thing that is common to all, is the African cultural heritage. What I mean by this is that not all came to this part of the world at the same time and for the same reason. The fact is that most arrived to Central Europe during the last decades, the “Economic Migrants”. Their reason for migration was basically to find a secure job and better life. They didn’t want to be labelled as political migrants at all.
In our globalized world, I would rather suggest to apply a different approach: these Africans – more or less integrated into our societies- should be playing key roles in the development of economic, cultural and even political relations. We all know that serious interconnected challenges, increasing role of diplomacy – as a side effect of globalization, internal and external policies become more interconnected than before. If we try to respond to the urgent challenges including requirements of the society, the business and civil actors, we must ’use’ the knowledge, the lobby power of the African communities. We need to involve this intellectual portfolio, network capital to a larger scale. This is somehow a diplomatic task…
How do you view the present Africa-EU relations?
Well, its maturity as well as its geographical and historical dimensions make EU-Africa relations quite unique. However, such features can shape the partnership either positively or negatively. They can play a positive role if they allow both continents deal with the issues of their common – sometimes sorrowful – past. Just let me recall to the slavery or colonial exploitation in this regard… They can also be negative by hampering progress. My personal opinion that the key issue is the transformation of the current donor-recipient relationship into a meaningful win-win partnership between Africa and Europe. We have to learn how to work as partners. Globalization led to a new global context and as a result, Africa no longer accepts to be treated as a property. We need to change our ’old-school’ mentalities.