Stavros Lambrinidis, foto: EPA/BREIT ROALD
One would think that with Europe surrounded by disasters, the Mediterranean sea a giant liquid cemetery, and the dire state of the refugees in Europe, the EU would need the equivalent of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Holy Grail!… Europe does indeed have, since July 2012, a Special Representative for Human Rights: Stavros Lambrinidis (55), a former Greek foreign minister (a Socialist, technically). Catherine Ashton gave him that job, shielded under EEAS, the EU’s External Action Service, and sternly instructed him to never, ever open his mouth in public. Or do anything, for that matter. And stay hidden.
Lambrinidis thoroughly followed the instructions and set himself the task of achieving an extremely demanding vanishing act. No interviews. No press releases. No communiques, or press conferences. He doesn’t exist. Just takes home the huge salary, month after month, year by year.
He takes home some twenty thousand euros every month. Since 2012, he never had a press conference, never published a press release, never said anything about the refugees crisis.
After the Socialist British baroness left EEAS in 2014 and the Italian Socialist Federica Mogherini landed at the head of EU’s diplomacy, Lambrinidis stubbornly hid and kept quiet. He was severely traumatised by Ashton, or maybe he’s just afraid of women.
The elusive Lambrinidis sometimes tweets photos of himself in the company of bearded gentlemen, under captions such as:
“Always a pleasure to discuss HR situation in world w UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Hussein”… (a Jordanian prince sent out there to defend our rights as humans).
Lambrinidis has a Facebook page with 400 followers… I thought staff at EEAS would be larger than this) His FB page sends us for more information to a long-vanished phantom website: http://www.lambrinidis.gr/.
I started targeting his roaring silence, end of 2013. First, insistently, through the usual EEAS services and corps of spokes, all embarrassed by the opaqueness they had to protect. Impossible to get hold of a phone number, so I dug for his email, buried deeply inside a PDF file on the EEAS website.
Let’s take one polite message I sent him on… on 13 Feb. 2014 (never got an answer, even after I resent the same message many times):
“Dear Mr Lambrinidis,
“The weekly New Europe, with which I collaborate as Brussels correspondent, would like to interview you about your activity as EU Special Representative for Human Rights” etc… (- the rest of the email was detailing the usual banalities a newspaper tells a politician to reassure him of their good intentions.)
No answer. I kept mailing, for more than one year, then I simply sent him (and the EEAS services as well) a set of questions.
Again, nada. Nix. Silence, although it was a nice message. It said:
— “Dear Mr. Lambrinidis,
“Given that I have not yet heard from you, let me provide you with a number of questions that I would like to submit to your attention.
— What would you consider to be your greatest achievement since you took office in July 2012?”
Then some mild questions:
“— How is your office dealing with the refugees crisis? — What are the means at your disposal? Staff? Expertise? Budget? —Who are you accountable to? — How often do you submit reports on your missions?”
Then: “— Do you consider that in view of the global developments your office will gain in importance, and if yes, is that something we have to be worried about?”
Of course, that’s a closed-ended question, of the kind that journalists avoid, since it can be brushed off with a simple “yes” or “no”… But he could have answered that one. It was a friendly hand.
I resisted the urge to ask about his salary. I’m told it’s as large as that of a Commissioner. Something like 20,000 (twenty thousand) euros per month. Deservedly so for someone who is also “Emeritus Professor at the Mariupol Institute of Humanities of the Donetsk University“… yes, you know, that place in Ukraine where there is a humanitarian crisis and a war is raging, as they say in good journalism.