Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
Her Excellency Ms Eva Hager has acquired extensive experience in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America as well as Europe over the course of a long and successful diplomatic career. Her posting in Bangkok is her initiation to Asia.
Ambassador Hager came to Thailand at the end of 2017, around the time the Austrian mission moved into the newly constructed embassy built inside the same park-like compound that housed the old embassy. The new embassy in Soi ‘Nantha-Mozart’ off Sathorn Soi 1 looks super-modern, but it retains a classical feel, starting with a sign out front marking the name-change of the soi to Nantha-Mozart in 2012 to honour Austria’s most famous native son. Ambassador Hager gave a tour of the embassy compound during a wide-ranging interview.
At one point we spotted a long-time resident of the embassy sitting under a tree in the spacious garden. It was a splendid male peacock, who began slowly walking away when he saw us approaching. “He is a very cute, beautiful and old territorial animal who likes to be solitary. Embassy people feed him.”Ms Hager said.
Background and duties in Bangkok
Asked if the posting in Thailand was her choice, she replied: “Yes, in a way. In our system you have to submit applications for several posts in order to be eligible for assignment. I was pleased to learn I had been chosen for Thailand.
“I am also Ambassador to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. It’s not an overloaded job for me, because while serving as Ambassador in Mexico between 2013 and 2017 I was also looking after seven other countries – Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
“I have to keep up with the latest information on all four countries I am ambassador to, and I do it on my own, already in the morning from my residence at the embassy compound. This is the first thing I do over breakfast or immediately after. I read Thai English-language news sources and other sources on the internet. Then I look at news from Austria, the EU and around the world.
“After getting acquainted with what’s going on in the world and especially Thailand and the region, I take the short walk to the embassy. I decide what the priorities are, especially in regard to Thailand, and I may call on my staff and collaborators to discuss matters and distribute tasks for them. Then I get to less pressing duties, which includes office work.
“Essentially, the task of an ambassador is to promote relations with the country we are assigned to in the best possible way, in all fields – politics, economic relations, culture, education, you name it. In order to do that, you have to take part in a lot of activities such as attending meetings and give presentations. You also have to participate in cultural and social events such as –but not limited to – national day receptions and organize events for guests and so on. Most of this occurs in the evening hours. You have to develop and maintain good relations with officials as well as people from the civil society in your host country.
“It is a very versatile and flexible job, and it requires a lot of travel. I travel to each of the other three countries I am accredited to a couple of times a year, and maybe more. It depends on whatever operations and activities, like official meetings, there may be.”