Review of « Le métier de diplomate » by Raoul Delcorde

Académie Royale de Belgique, Collection l’Académie en poche, Brussels, 2018

In “Le métier de diplomate” Ambassador Raoul Delcorde provides us with a clear and detailed depiction of what the profession of a diplomat specifically entails, from the first manifestation of professional diplomacy in the heydays of the Renaissance Republic of Venice till nowadays. On one hand, Ambassador Delcorde depicts a comprehensive overview of European and International History to outline the way in which the profession of a diplomat has changed and evolved in relation to the larger context of European and International Politics. On the other hand, Ambassador Delcorde provides us with a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the bilateral and multilateral practicalities of diplomacy as well as an overview of the required skills leveraged by a contemporary professional diplomat. This assessment draws upon a deeply rooted and practiced interdisciplinary approach that does not come as a surprise knowing the academic background and expertise of Dr. Delcorde.

Ambassador Delcorde is not only the ideal writer to depict the accurate image of a professional diplomat in all her or his facets, colors and layers, but equally he is a competent and efficient diplomat — overseeing and facilitating the endeavors of the Belgian Diplomacy specifically in some of the challenging diplomatic regions in the world such as North Africa and the Middle East, from Brussels. As convincingly demonstrated in “Le métier de diplomate”, it becomes crystal clear that an interdisciplinary toolkit of skills is nowadays needed more than ever, specifically for diplomats who operate in challenging international environments with historical sensitivities. In this regard, Ambassador Delcorde fits perfectly in the Grand Gallery of Belgian Diplomats, which has inspired him to publish the pioneering book “Les Diplomates Belges” (Mardaga, Brussels, 2010, also translated into English under the title The Belgian diplomats).

It is truly fascinating to realize that a medium sized country like Belgium is and will continue to be the birthplace and growing ground of such an impressive line of diplomats who serve with drive the Kingdom of Belgium and the European and International Community. The Venetian Renaissance connected for trade directly to Bruges, 1815 or the year of both the Congress of Vienna and the Battle of Waterloo before the gates of Brussels, WWI that cut so deeply into Belgium, and the foundation of both the European Union and the United Nations with Belgian politicians like Paul-Henri Spaak amongst many others, are key milestones in the development of the diplomatic profession. These events all have a direct connection to Belgian history while the Belgian sense of pragmatism and flexibility could not be suited better for the high demands of global politics and diplomacy in today’s rapidly changing world. As such, “Le métier de diplomate” is a clear compass to understand diplomacy.

Review by Maarten Vermeir