Cuneo: Kyiv's 'Dean' Diplomat

KIEV, Ukraine -- As a top diplomat, Miguel Angel Cuneo has to be both articulate and discreet, although he jokes that the only state secret he cannot reveal is his age.

Argentina’s ambassador to Ukraine Miguel Angel Cuneo says that diplomats do more than just “drink Scotch and champagne.”

But not an ounce of his Latin American wit is out of place when the Argentinean ambassador reflects facetiously on mistaken perceptions of diplomacy, as we sat down for a chat at his centrally located Kyiv office.

“One British diplomat said long ago that a diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country,” Cuneo quipped.

“Well, we try to avoid giving people the impression that all we do is drink Scotch or champagne at high-level receptions. We do other things as well,” he said.

Cuneo can’t speak for all diplomats, but he does, formally, have the right to speak on behalf of the diplomatic community in Kyiv. Besides representing Argentina, Cuneo is also the Dean of Ukraine’s diplomatic corps – a position that remains a mystery for most of the country’s visitors and residents, apart from top state officials and Cuneo’s colleagues.

“The position of dean is a very old tradition,” Cuneo explained. The tradition goes back to the beginning of modern European diplomacy in the 15th century.

“In Catholic countries, as in Latin America or Spain, the head of the diplomatic corps is the representative of the Pope – the Nuncio. In other countries, it’s the ambassador who has served in the country for the longest period of time,” he said.

Cuneo was posted in Ukraine in 2000 and is currently the most senior, or longest-serving ambassador in Ukraine.

The position has nothing to do with the size of the Dean’s country or with its political or economical importance, according to Cuneo, who recalled how he was recently asked by his acquaintance why the dean is not the Ambassador of the United States.

The Dean, Cuneo said, is the formal representative of the whole diplomatic community in a particular country in the diplomats’ relations with the local authorities. Responsibilities include things like the ceremonial laying of flowers at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Victory Day or solving the residential problems of diplomats.

Cuneo says his duties may also involve booking a VIP room for a diplomatic delegation at the airport or buying a gift for a departing colleague. More often than not, says the Argentinean ambassador, he “just pushes a bit harder to ensure that the host country makes the life and work of the diplomatic corps as comfortable as possible, as agreed upon in international agreements.”

“There is a difference, of course, in complaining about something as an Argentinean ambassador and relaying a message on behalf of the sixty five ambassadors [who currently serve in Ukraine],” says Cuneo.

“But it’s a job you can’t quit. You get it automatically when the previous Dean leaves,” he adds. The previous Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Ukraine was the Ambassador of Turkmenistan.

But for Cuneo, it may not be that difficult to combine the duties of the ambassador of Argentina and the Dean of the diplomatic corps. The energetic Latin American has served on diplomatic missions in Thailand, Vietnam, Paraguay and Russia, prior to coming to Ukraine.

Cuneo’s solid knowledge of Ukraine’s political scene and close ties with Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry took root when Cuneo worked for the Central and Eastern European Department at the Argentinean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Buenos-Aires in the 1990s.

“Argentina has the fifth or sixth biggest community of the Ukrainian Diaspora in the world, with the first Ukrainian immigrant stepping onto Argentinean land in 1895,” notes Cuneo.

“And Argentina was one of the few countries to have recognized Ukraine’s independence for a short period of time after the First World War,” he adds, referring to the short-lived first Ukrainian republic.

Cuneo feels very enthusiastic about the development of economic and cultural relations between the two countries.

The only thing he desires is that airfares from Argentina to Ukraine get a bit cheaper, so that more Argentinean tourists and cultural tours could visit the country.

“One of my goals while I am still here is to promote stronger cultural links between the two countries,” says Cuneo with animation. “I would like to bring the Argentinean ballet and tango dancers to Ukraine, but it’s so expensive that we’ll need to find sponsors first.”

Source: Kyiv Post



I was just trying to get some info about Miguel Angel Cúneo. I was just curious about him, since I guess he might be Dardo Cuneo´s son (Dardo was a socialist journalist and diplomat at OAS in Washington). I came here just by chance.

Greetings from Argentina.

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