Ambassador in Brussels Prince Nikolaus von und zu Liechtenstein

Ambassador in Brussels
Prince Nikolaus von und zu Liechtenstein

exclusiv in an interview with
Prince Nikolaus von und zu Liechtenstein,
Ambassador in Brussels

• You have been the Ambassador of the
   Principality of Liechtenstein to the
   European Union and to the Kingdom
   of Belgium since 1996. What is your
   upshot after ten years?

Liechtenstein has strongly expanded in the years of its cooperation with the European Union. Above all, the agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) has had a decisive influence on the development of our economy, but has also triggered political impulses. However, the cooperation is not limited to the EEA, as the now ongoing negotiation talks regarding Liechtenstein’s association with the Schengen agreements demonstrate, the objectives of which are an    opening of borders and security-political cooperation.
The relations with the Kingdom of Belgium and the Holy Seat - I am also a non-resident ambassador in the Vatican - are also good. We are respected, despite the smallness of our country. We also perform manifold diplomatic tasks in this bilateral realm, not merely on        the representative level. And so it is repeatedly possible to provide individuals or companies with the necessary information, to provide interlocutors or to offer help in emergency situations.
In a personal upshot one gladly remembers the individual negotiating successes: Solving Liechtenstein’s specific problems with regard to movement of individuals in the EEA, an agreement on the taxa-tion of interest earnings with the EU and concluding an agreement on legal assistance with the USA were burdensome tasks for me as chief negotiator,      but at the same time satisfying moments of a diplomatic life.

• What does your time management
   look like, or how can the citizens
   of Liechtenstein envision your daily
   agenda and your activity?

The day in the office starts at 7:45 a.m. with the perusal of leading European daily newspapers and specialised agency reports. The treatment of extensive post, conversations with colleagues and telephonic appointments then follow in the further course of the morning.            A trade agreement such as the EEA constantly triggers new questions which are to be treated, whereby the coordination with our government, with other official agencies, but also with our     partners in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and in the EU also play an important role. If there is no working lunch with visitors on the agenda, a brief lunchtime sandwich break at the workplace follows. Then the afternoon is taken up, for instance, with writing a speech, an article or the formulation of a Liechtenstein negotiating position. My colleagues are usually at EFTA or EEA meetings. At such meetings it is deter-mined, amongst other things, which EU legal instruments we must adopt in our     legislation, in which research and      educational programmes we take part in, who has to pay how much, and which administrative guidelines are valid for the joint EFTA/EEA institutions. Therefore the late afternoon also serves for reporting on such meetings and the subsequent conclusions for us.
If there are no receptions, seminars or dinners on the agenda, which happens several times a week, I return home at about 7 p.m. My wife also performs representative tasks. For instance, she is the president of an association of  ambassadors’ wives, which, amongst other things, aims at the improved integration of diplomats in our host country Belgium.

• What are or were personally important
   moments for you in your activity
   as ambassador?

The first important moment was the   presentation of the credentials to the King as well as the President of the European Commission and the EU Council of Ministers. First of all, this is a significant representative occasion, and secondly it is the immediate opportunity to foster a dialogue on the relations at the highest level. I also experienced such occasions during visits by the prince and from government members in Brussels. Important signing ceremonies also remain adhered in one’s memory: One special occasion was the signing of the EEA expansion agreement after the membership with the ten new EU countries. The EFTA ministers in Vaduz signed the agreement at noon, and on the same afternoon we signed with the Italian EU Council Presidency in Brussels. This was also an organisational challenge for the EEA chairmanship country Liechtenstein!

• The EU is able to admit states
   of various sizes, e.g. Malta. Which
   advantages of EU membership would
   you perceive for Liechtenstein
   as a current EEA member state?

At the moment, Liechtenstein is in good hands in the EEA: A 10-year solution which can certainly last longer. On the other hand, EU membership would bring more right to a say as well as a strengthened political and economical integration. This has political advan-tages in terms of sovereignty, and might also bring more economic advantages to individual sectors. However, the costs of such a step with its administrative expense are considerable for a small country, and must be carefully consid-ered. Independently of the selected institutional alternatives it seems important to me that Liechtenstein as a European state continues to provide its contribu-tion towards European unification.