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New Minister for European Affairs Štefan (Füle) has had an interesting diplomatic career. It started in the State Institute for International Relations in Moscow (MGIMO) during the Brezhnev era and made the leap to coordinating Czech NATO membership and EU security issues.

(Füle) comes from a military family. His father was a colonel, and while (Füle) was not very enthusiastic about joining the military after his studies, he had a keen interest in being around a center of international security and defense. After abandoning the idea of being a cosmonaut or oceanologist he tried to focus on diplomacy, and toward the end of high school became more involved in security studies. “Normally, it was possible for students to go to study [at a university in Moscow] directly from high school, but in 1981 the university in Moscow began to require one year of Czech university, so my philosophy studies were undertaken to enter the university in Moscow. At that time, my father joined the Defense Ministry in Prague,” (Füle) said.
(Füle) considered it beneficial to see the transformation of the Soviet Union during the rule of Leonid Brezhnev to the succession of Yuri Andropov’s brief reign and the early Perestroika years. “During my studies,my classmates were all foreigners, so my first diplomatic experience was studying with people from many other countries. Language education was very strong; we were taught to solve problems from a historical perspective using analytical abilities, and the number of highranking diplomats who were teaching at the school was another benefit,” (Füle) explained. Building a diplomatic career When (Füle) returned to then-Czechoslovakia, he started working at the United Nations Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “As someone from a military family, ironically, I was responsible for disarmament and security-related issues,” he said. He explained that the Czechoslovak government at that time did not have an established security policy department, so he was only able to focus on UN-related security issues. In 1990, (Füle) arrived in New York two days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when he was responsible for Security Councilmatters, particularly in the Persian Gulf.
The main challenge for (Füle) when he came back to Czechoslovakia was to run the Security Council membership as the UN Department director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the time of a number of politically important issues in Iraq, the Balkans, Georgia and Rwanda.
“At the time we anticipated policy concerning the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partnership, and it was obvious we had entered a very interesting phase of Czech security policy,” (Füle) said. “The second challenge was to get organized because we had no structure for NATO. In the beginning of the NATO membership process everybody thought we would be able to get through by making use of the preparation process for EU membership. Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec asked me to prepare a [NATO entry] structure mirroring the one we had for the EU, but it become obvious that the preparations for the EU would be much slower than we thought fromthe beginning.” The other task he had was to establish the Czech position and strategy on the country’s security and defense.
Kateřina Fialková, director of the Czech EU Presidency Preparations Secretariat (PRES) in theMinistry of Foreign Affairs, was a part of the team that negotiated the accession of the Czech Republic into NATO. She said that she and (Füle) have been friends and colleagues ever since. “During this demanding time, I learned to admire Štefan for his vision, drive and tenacity, as well as his teamspirit and sense of humor,” she said.
Fialková said that she cannot describe (Füle) as a politician because she doesn’t think he considers himself to be one.
In 1998 when (Füle) arrived in Lithuania as the Czech ambassador, he described it as an exciting place because the Czech Embassy there became a NATO contact point for a country that was very active in moving toward NATO membership. The Lithuanians valued “our experience in organizing domestic preparations and our being part of the public diplomacy campaign for NATO in Lithuania. If you ask most people why NATO membership mattered, the first reply would be because of the Russian factor, so it was important to clarify to people that it is a more complex issue than that,” he explained.
After two-and-a-half years in Lithuania, (Füle) was offered the post of first deputy defenseminister, placing himin charge of the foreign relation aspects of security issues. He was part of the one-and-a-half year process to transform the Czech Army into a professional force. In 2003 he went to London as ambassador for the UK and Northern Ireland.
Not the easiest boss to have Now, as minister for European affairs, (Füle) is not only focused on successfully concluding the Czech EU presidency but on helping his staff draw important lessons learned in the process. “The priority is not only to motivate people, but to make sure that they are gaining something from the Czech presidency. This is a unique opportunity to increase the quality of state service in the Czech Republic and I want to create the necessary conditions for that,” he said.
Regarding the rumors that he is changing his staff, (Füle) said that only one person left, who requested a different position. “Otherwise, it was my preference not to make staff changes because it indicates stability, consistency and predictability, words that are my main three criteria in taking over this job,” he explained.
Fialková confirmed that teamwork is very important to (Füle). “For many people, he is not the easiest boss to have because he is quite demanding and is known for losing his temper from time to time,” she said. She mentioned that he is willing to go out on a limb for his colleagues and cares about what happens to them when they stop working for him. “So if you are not afraid, know your portfolio, are sure of your arguments and can raise your voice, you will get along well with him because he actually listens to what people are saying to him. But as a rock fan, I take issue with his musical preferences,” Fialková said, as (Füle) prefers classical music. *

Who i s Štefan (Füle) Born: May, 24, 1962 in Sokolov,West Bohemia Education: 1980–81, Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University; 1986, graduated from the State Institute for International Relations in Moscow. Work Experience: Since May 2009, minister for European Affairs; 2005–09 ambassador and head of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to NATO; 2003–05, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland; 2001–02, first deputy minister of defense of the Czech Republic; 1998–2001, ambassador of the Czech Republic to Lithuania (2000–01 ambassador of the NATO Contact Embassy in Lithuania; 1996–98, director of the Department of Defense Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; 1995–96, director of the UN Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; 1994–95, delegate and representative pro tem of the Czech Republic to the UN Security Council; 1990–95, first secretary of the Permanent Representation of the Czechoslovakia (after 1993 the Czech Republic) to the UN in New York; 1987-90, official of the UN Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia (ČSSR). Awards: The Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, 3rd class and the Cross of Honor of the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic, 1st class.