Diplomats forced to entertain 'on cheap'
IN the words of the Ferrero Rocher ad, the ambassador's parties are noted for their exquisite taste.
Not so, though, for British diplomats, whose functions must make do with cheap wine, plastic glasses and sponsorship by EasyJet.
The 'low-cost' cocktail circuit shortcomings were highlighted in a UK parliamentary committee report. Not only are parties less lavish, but many senior diplomats no longer even have a residence big enough to entertain guests, forcing them to use restaurants and seek commercial sponsors.
The report also warns that staff face more work as a result of the £170m (about €205m) savings ordered by a spending review in 2010.
Such cuts have forced embassies to rely increasingly on local employees and to put more junior staff in senior positions. One diplomat said that in some smaller missions, it had led to "spotty teenagers" being appointed as ambassadors, which did not always impress local dignitaries, and looked as if things were being done "on the cheap".
One attendee at an event in South Africa said: "We were told it was a black-tie do, but it turned out to be in a breezeblock building that was the staff bar. I arrived late and was given the last glass of cheap plonk, only for a lackey to then appear and ask to swap my glass with a plastic one because the real ones had been hired and needed to go back."
One diplomat said some standards had to be maintained: "The wine we serve is still just about drinkable." (© Daily Telegraph, London)