Does the EU like the Central African Republic’s new diplomat? Boris Becker’s hopes rest on approval.
Faced with a bit of unpleasantness in our financial dealings, has a former tennis player identified a convenient way out? Could it even be the end of the road for the cottage industry that’s sprung up around ‘individual voluntary agreements’? For readers unfamiliar with daytime-TV advertising, there are companies that promise heavily-indebted people a pain-free alternative to bankruptcy.
The question arises following tennis ace Boris Becker’s assertion of diplomatic immunity to halt various bankruptcy proceedings by becoming attached to the Central African Republic’s mission to the EU.
Is this something we could all do, assuming the CAR is game?
Certainly the plus-points would include surprising your more cocksure creditors. The PR firm for private bank Arbuthnot Latham, which is involved in proceedings against Becker, found out about Becker’s new role from team-Becker’s press release, the Gazette was told.
Whether, once attached to the CAR mission, you can tell various hire purchase companies, Visa and your bank to try next door depends on the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which I’ve just read.
It starts off reassuringly (for Becker’s opponents): ‘The purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions as representative states.’
But of course, diplomats commonly use it to avoid paying parking tickets – a small version of the alleged Becker bank-debt, which runs to tens-of-millions. But, as most of the people using diplomatic immunity to generally take the proverbial are, well, diplomats for the country whose embassy they’re attached to, it gets a bit murkier for normal people like world-famous tennis stars.
As the CAR embassy Becker is attached to is its mission to the EU, what does the EU think? At the commission’s daily press conference, spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said: ‘We have neither been involved in this appointment nor been asked for EU accreditation.’ She suggested the press contact the Central African Republic.
Under the convention, as host state you’d expect to accredit just the ambassador, who then appoints his staff, and the host ‘state’ can decide, if they want any diplomats slung out, that they are ‘persona non grata’.
Hmmm. But Boris is unusual. As the convention puts it: ‘Members of the diplomatic staff of the mission may not be appointed from among persons having the nationality of the receiving state, except with the consent of the State, which may be withdrawn at any time.’
So it is sort of is up to the EU, and this can come down to whether the EU ‘likes’ someone.
Perhaps that’s why Becker went out of his way paint an unflattering picture of his opponents: ‘A bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats.’ A long way of saying: ‘Non-celebrities.’
Becker’s counsel is Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC who, a press release reminds us, represented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, now resident in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Likely no need, though, to make up the bed in the CAR Brussels mission. If accepted, diplomatic status means immunity from involvement in any legal proceedings, and Becker can move freely through the EU – unless, of course, he becomes persona non grata.