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Brosse Street Journal » Politics:

Very British? Open-minded? Meet Roy Reeve!

By Arevhat Grigoryan
Brosse Street Journal
Friday, May 14 2004
Print article  |  Mail article   

Roy Stephan Reeve
Roy Stephan Reeve
"I am an old, ancient rugby player".†

"He is a real senior diplomat in the true sense of the word. He is a real person to work with, a mentor, from whom I can learn a lot".†

"Iíve eaten a lot of khorovats (Armenian barbecue) the last two days. I am a great meat eater".†

"I am aware of his analytical capabilities and the way he runs our mission. He has all the qualifications necessary to function in this region".

"I am a jazzman. I love modern jazz".†

"He never sits in the back of the car. Other Officials sit in the back, but not him. He sits next to the driver. He smokes cigarettes, there is music in the carÖHe will never say how important he is: "I am Roy Reeve. I manage the biggest mission in Georgia."†

And donít forget: he is the head of the biggest mission in Georgia!"

The head of the biggest mission in Georgia is Roy Stephan Reeve, and the biggest mission is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)). It has 400 personnel and an annual budget of 21,271,900 euros.

Its mandate is to promote negotiations aimed at the peaceful political settlement of the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to assist in the development of legal and democratic institutions and processes, and to monitor the border between Georgia and the Chechen Republic, Georgia and Ingush, and Georgia and Dagestan.

Reeve, a 62-year-old nativbe of London, assumed his duties in Georgia in August of 2003. He headed OSCE mission in Armenia for almost four years before moving to Georgia.

In one of his latest interviews in Yerevan, Reeve said to Edik Baghadasaryan, reporter for the electronic newspaper "Hetq": "I am moving from a small boat to an aircraft carrier". By comparision, the staff in Yerevan numbered 20 and the annual budget was 1,133,400 euros.

"The OSCE office in Yerevan deserves praise for its effective chairmanship of the International Working Group on Elections, for its role in improving voter lists and for its timely procurement and delivery of transparent ballot boxes, twice and on extremely short notice" --- an extract from a U.S. State Department Statement in Response to the Report of Ambassador Roy Reeve, Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan.
Hans Wesseling, Deputy Head of OSCE Georgia Mission, is the associate quoted at the beginning of this story talking about Reeve. He says Reeve never gets nervous, never gets angry.

It is true that for Armenians who knew Reeve for four years found always affable, and smiling. No one could ever guess whether he had problems or not.

There was one exception. During the pre-election periods in Armenia for both presidential and parliamentarian elections in 2003, he was under pressure. There was a very short time to bring from Europe those very transparent ballot boxes. It was perhaps the first time Armenian journalists saw a non-Armenian so concerned about their country, their homeland, so much concerned about their future. They could hardly believe he was a foreign ambassador, who would leave the country as soon as he finished his work.

Journalists who covered the election campaigns saw worry on his usually calm face, anxiously waiting to see if it was possible to ship the ballot boxes. But his bright eyes were shining when the boxes arrived in time. He met them at the airport and showed them to the journalists himself. And smiled.

Anyone who wants to be a diplomat can get valuable lessons from Reeveís life, work and lifestyle.

How did he decide to become a diplomat?

"It was an accident," he said during an April 12 interview. "My profession was journalism, and then I was a Soviet specialist at a university."

In the 1960s he joined the British diplomatic service and worked in the British Embassy in Moscow. After deciding to stay in the field, Reeve held different positions in Johannesburg, Sydney and the Ukraine.

When Reeve assumed his duties in Tbilisi, he started a new policy in the office. According to Wesseling, the office was not speaking out a lot. Under Reeve, the public relations policy has dramatically changed.

"He wants to show Georgia, not only Georgian politicians, and Georgian bureaucrats, but also the Georgian people, what OSCE is all about," Wesseling said. "He has no desire to hide. He is open, very transparent, as is OSCE. We are an open organization, and Georgia is a member and Roy wants it to reflect that openness.

"He wants us to be transparent: what we think, what our actions are, why we are active. He is the right man in the right position." Reeve also says he is going to have regular meetings with journalists and students.

Reeveís former co-workers in Yerevan say they enjoyed the time they spent with him from both professional and personal points of view.

"Thatís very flattering," Reeve said. "One problem with being in the diplomatic life means that every three or four years you have to move. To someone like me who has done this many times, itís a little easier to say goodbye to the team left behind. For them itís more difficult. I mean particularly in Armenia, because we started the whole thing together. There was no OSCE before we came."

"Heís very accessible," said Wesseling, adding that Reeve often doesnít wear a tie to the office. "Usually diplomats are not like that. They keep their distance, always showing how important and inaccessible they are. I donít think he is a regular diplomat. He is quite an extraordinary diplomat."

Wesseling thought quietly for a few moments about the question: "What are the ambassadorís negative sides?" His answer turned out to have more positive sides than negatives.

"Look, Mr. Reeve has a British way of saying things half-jokingly," Wesseling said. "I can understand what the Ambassador means, because we think the same and have similar educations. But it can be incomprehensible for the people here. They wonder if they can ask for an explanation. They are shy because he is the boss."

Wesseling says Reeve is a very kind and straightforward person, but knows when to be tough. "He usually is kind with those under him, but he can be tough with his own management team. One of them is me, because he knows he canít hurt me," Wessling said.

Both the deputy and the boss are tough concerning deadlines and quality, and Wesseling offers a lesson for beginner diplomats: "Strict leadership, but personal touch. "

Wesseling says Reeve is a boss to whom his deputy can say: "You are wrong." Wesseling says he or any other person can make his boss change his mind, if they can convince him he is not quite right.

It was well-known among Armenian journalists that Reeve very much likes a clean environment and fresh air, and does everything possible to protect them. He enjoys both at Krtsanisi Governmental Residence, where the Missionís building is located, Itís number 62, isolated, the very last house on the street, surrounded by trees. There is a small lake just in front of the office, and a lot of fresh air. One can hardly believe it is possible to get any closer to nature anywhere else that is just 15 minutes by car from the Opera House in the very center of Tbilisi.

It seems like the house was built just for Reeve, but it was actually built back in the Soviet period. It was formerly Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchevís residence in Georgia. From the balcony of his office, Reeve points to the roof of one-time secret police chief Lavrenti Beriaís former residence. Reeve agreed he was lucky to have Khrushchevís house, not Beriaís.

There is a path among the trees, where Reeves once saw Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili jogging. Also, there are lots of frogs in the lake. They were giving such loud croaks during an interview there was a need to close the door of the balcony.

Reeve says he has no problems with neighbors, even noisy ones. He says this while smiling and drinking coffee from a huge teacup. For Reeve, coffee is for the day, and in the eveningÖcooking!

"Cooking is my therapy," he says. "If you cook, you forget about anything else". What does he like to cook? Whatever I have in my refrigerator." Wesseling gives away one secret. Reeve loves Indian food, but he doesnít necessarily have to go to restaurants. He can cook it himself

Wesseling says he has never eaten any of his bossís dishes: "He is with us all day. So he needs to relax in the evening. Usually at home he cooks and reads."

The ambassador says he likes to read military history. But for relaxation (he chuckled, saying that he doesnít relax) he has time only to drive up to the mountains for clean air and different views. "It gives me," Reeve deeply breathed, "some sort of feeling of space."

Mountains and old churches are what he loves to see. He says the new churches arenít as interesting to him "because I am old."

This "old" person has a desire to motorbike again when he is back to London. He says the roads in Tbilisi are too rough. He has a driver for long trips such as Kutaisi, but he often drives his own car here, as he did in Moscow, Kiev and Yerevan.

So does he know a lot about Caucasus traffic inspectors? "The one advantage I have is that I have a red number (diplomatic) plate on my car. The traffic inspectors do not interfere with red number plates either in Armenia or in Georgia."

"Thatís not fair," he is told.

"I know," he says as a radiant smile appears on his face. "But thatís the reality."

Does the ambassador often break the rules?

"No, no, no, no." No nervousness or exertion in his voice.

"Mr. Ambassador, do you also whistle while you drive here in Tbilisi?"

"Yes. I canít change my habits. Never."

He doesnít change the habits, but reconciles them to new realities. In Armenia they donít play rugby. And now, "my one great joy in Georgia is they play rugby. It is very good to watch my favorite sport."

Reeve and his deputy are both rugby fans. They spend some evenings in Tbilisi in the Irish-American pub "Hangar" where Wesseling says they drink beer and watch their favorite rugby teams.

Impatience and anxiety may appear in Reeveís eyes one more time. This August his younger daughter is going to give an exclusive present for her fatherís birthday. She is scheduled to give birth to his first grandchild.

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