Luxembourg’s first ambassador to Brazil, Carlo Krieger, talks about setting up an embassy from scratch in Brasilia and how an economic mission could soon be on the cards.
Jess Bauldry: You were appointed Luxembourg ambassador to Brazil on 1 September. What have the first two weeks in post been like?
Ambassador Krieger: The first two weeks in a new post are always exciting and eye-opening. In this case even more so, as my wife and I are the first Luxembourg diplomats to be stationed here. The descriptions we read of this enormous country fall short compared to the first impressions we got when the airplane touched down and we actually experienced it first-hand. My wife and I landed on 1 September here in Brasilia, the federal capital, which is located on the Cerrado plateau in the geographic center of this enormous country-spanning a huge chunk of the South American subcontinent.
The initial feeling is one of the friendly welcome we received here by our Belgian neighbours and friends, especially ambassador Dirk Loncke, his wife and the entire embassy team, who host us in their offices on a transitional basis.
Already in our first week we experienced the Brazilian national day with a civil and military parade unlike any we saw before, traditional Brazilian singers and folkloric dancers were followed by historic military horse riders and carriages, spanning from the colonial times to independence and ending with a spectacular fly-over of Brazil's own aerial acrobatic Esquadrilha da Fumaça, flying Brazilian-made Tucan airplanes. In the meantime I also participated in meetings with Brazilian officials and EU colleagues.
Carlo Krieger, pictured at a Chinese new year event in Luxembourg in 2017, was appointed the first ambassador to Brazil. Image: LaLa La Photo
We also are house-hunting and finding our way among the specific stores and local goods they carry, in addition to sampling the diverse Brazilian cooking. So much of it is unknown to us in Europe.
Prior to moving here, I had come here together with a colleague in order to prepare our diplomatic presence. The Brazilian foreign ministry protocol department received us with open arms and greatly facilitated our first steps, even making it possible for me to be accredited already in late June during a formal ceremony with president Temer.
Please tell us about the short and medium-term goals of the embassy in Brasilia?
The very first activity is to set up an office in our temporary location inside the Belgian embassy, and to look for permanent premises, offices and a residence, in this wide spread capital city.
Next, I will contact our network of honorary consuls who have been diligently defending Luxembourg's interests during numerous decades in four major cities in Brazil, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo, Rio and Porto Alegre. Three of them are descendants of Luxembourg engineers linked to Arbed, Belgo Mineira and Paul Wurth, and were thus instrumental in helping set up Brazil's steel industry since the late 1920s. Talking to them is crucial in order to learn about Brazil in general and specifically its industrial history and potential.
After all Brazil is the world's fifth largest country (for size and population) and even today, in difficult times, it ranks among the ten largest economies of the world. Meeting the individual economic actors from Luxembourg in Brazil and from Brazil in Luxembourg is key to well representing our country and to assisting in opening doors in the future. Several bilateral agreements already exist for many years between our two countries, some need updating and new fields may require new agreements. Among them a new bilateral social security agreement has just been ratified by the Brazilian Senate.
Given that this is the only Luxembourg embassy in South America, does the scope of the embassy extend beyond Brazil?
The embassy does indeed have a regional vocation, which will be put into practise step by step. The key South American countries are obvious, as many of them have strong links to Luxembourg, while others host a potential which Luxembourg's economic actors might want to explore.
Will Luxembourg open further embassies in South America?
As far as I know there are no current plans to open other embassies.
What plans are there for an economic mission from Luxembourg to travel to Brazil in future?
There are regular economic and financial missions and the Chamber of Commerce organises country days and other recurring opportunities providing new contacts in Luxembourg. There are tentative plans for an economic mission in the first half of 2018, but they are not yet finalised.