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Reflections on the Council’s Mission to Poland and Romania

I recently returned from a mission to Poland and Romania where I visited as a member of a delegation of American Ambassadors.

I am a member of the Board of Directors of the “Council of American Ambassadors,” a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization made up of former and present ambassadors of the United States (US). The qualification for membership is that an individual, who was not a member of the Foreign Service at the time of an ambassadorial appointment, has been nominated by the President and confirmed by the US Senate as an ambassador. Thus, membership is made up of ambassadors of both parties. Approximately ten to twenty percent are still in service and sitting as ambassadors.  The rest no longer are, and have other businesses, or other affairs including academia and various other pursuits. The Council serves as a resource center to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States.

I have participated in four missions with this organization: one to Russia, one to China, one to Northern Ireland, and then most recently, Romania and Poland. As you know, Romania and Poland have been very helpful to us in Iraq. And they have been emerging as important business, social and military friends. While I was there, I was at the Jagiellonian University, because the faculty and students asked if the delegation would meet with them. I can tell you that several of the persons in the invited audience were Young President’s Organization (YPO) members and all were very happy to see the US as an ally. We had meetings in Poland with H.E. Miroslaw Zielinski, Deputy Minister of Economy, Labor and Social Policy; H.E. Dr. Adam Rotfeld, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA); Ambassador Henryk Szlajfer, Director, MFA Americas Department; Robert Kupiecki, Director MFA Security Policy Department; John Lynch, President of the American Chamber of Commerce, and attended a Country Team Briefing chaired by Ambassador Victor Ashe at the American Embassy.

In Romania, we met with H.E. Ion Iliescu, President of Romania; H.E. Mihai Tanasescu, Minister of Finance; H.E. Traian Basescu, then the Mayor of Bucharest (and now the President of Romania); H.E. Marko Bela, President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania; H.E. Dan Ioan Popescu, State Minister of Economy and Commerce; H.E. Mugur Isarescu, Governor of the Central Bank; H.E. Vasile Puscas, Delegate Minister and EU Chief Negotiator, and H.E. Jonathan Scheele, Chief of the European Commission’s Delegation in Bucharest; and attended a luncheon with members of the American Chamber of Commerce during which we discussed “Doing Business in Romania.”

Regardless of whether we were meeting with the leading governmental, business or academic figures, or the students, all were interested in the business practices of the United States of America and sought potential investors for Poland and Romania.  In fact, the delegation included several names from the business world that you will recognize:  Ambassador Bruce S. Gelb, who became the Council’s President on January 1, 2005; Ambassador Keith L. Brown, who recently retired as our President and is now one of the Council’s Chairs; Ambassador Glen A. Holden, Vice Chair, and Ambassadors William J. vanden Heuvel, Robert D. Stuart, Jr. and Leon J. Weil. Also on the delegation were distinguished diplomats with stellar government histories: Ambassadors James Rosapepe, Julia Chang Bloch and Timothy L. Towell. We also met with the currently serving Ambassadors to Poland, The Honorable Victor Ashe, and to Romania, The Honorable Jack Dyer Crouch II, who is now the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor. 

The people we met in government, business and academia are truly interested in knowing how we, as Americans, got to be where we are. How did you, YPO’ers, who are executives and built organizations, do it? What’s the motivation for Americans to be so diverse?  Freedom is the answer.

It was an eye-opener for me, because after all, we are talking to people who, until five or six years ago, did not know that they could even talk to Americans. And certainly, at the government levels, they admire us, and they like us. And they want American investment in their countries.


This piece is based on remarks presented by Ambassador Korn to the Young President’s Organization (YPO) on November 4, 2004, at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).