A diplomat trough and through

Like his father before him, H.E. Nelson Antonio Tabajara de Oliveira recently took on the position as Brazilian Ambassador to Austria. In an interview with SOCIETY, he speaks about his career, his objectives and Austrian-Brazilian relations.

You graduated from the Brazilian diplomatic academy in 1983 and, since May 5, 2022 you are Ambassador of Brazil to Austria – was it always your dream to become a diplomat? What are the aspects of your work you like the most? How did you prepare for your post here in Austria?

I feel very privileged to have been appointed Ambassador to Austria and much honoured to have presented my credentials to H.E. President Van der Bellen on May 5th. 

In what regards my career, it has been quite a long way since I graduated from the Brazilian diplomatic academy, and, indeed, there was the dream of being a diplomat, but I am also a third-generation diplomat, so it was almost a natural choice to follow the steps of my grandfather and my father. And literally following my father’s steps, I was appointed here almost 40 years after he was Ambassador in Vienna in the late 1980’s. For me it is a privilege to take this diplomatic assignment after him. It was pointed out to me by Austrian officials that it is a first case, that is, that Austria receives a father and then a son as ambassadors.

The best aspect of my work is that I can meet, interact and exchange ideas with a great variety of people, of all walks of life, government and private, of all nationalities. And the good part of this is that through such interactions I hope to build solid relations with my counterparts, and many times these become life-long friendships.

I did dedicate quite some time to prepare myself for my posting in Vienna. First of all, I had to inform myself about the state of the art of all subjects that I was going to deal with, bilateral relations, trade and economic relations, and multilateral as well, Brazilian positions and proposals at the UN agencies and other International Organizations in Vienna. Then, as a requirement to have my appointment endorsed by the Legislative branch in Brazil, I had to present a program of work, or a plan of activities to the Brazilian Senate, that I believed would contribute to, or enhance, the bilateral relations and expand Brazilian interests and opportunities for my country.

Austria and Brazil share long-lasting relations that date back to the beginning of the 19th century. What are the most important areas of exchange between the two countries and where do you see the biggest potential for improvement?

Indeed, our bilateral relations date back to 1817, when the Archduchess Maria Leopoldina Habsburg went to live in Rio de Janeiro as she had married Dom Pedro de Orleans e Bragança, heir of the Portuguese throne who had moved to Brazil in 1807, then the biggest colony of Portugal overseas. He later declared independence from Portugal, his birth country, in 1822 and became the first Emperor of Brazil and, so, Dona Leopoldina – as she was called – became the Empress by his side. Their son, Emperor Dom Pedro II was half Bragança, half Habsburg.

Since then, of course, many new elements came into play to increase and enhance the relationship, mainly in trade and investments, as well as cultural and political ties that brought Brazil and Austria together as partners in many ventures.

Even though our relations are very rich and solid, I believe there is some room for improvement, mainly to promote opportunities for our populations to get to know more about each other. The pandemic halted many initiatives and many countries had to turn their attention inwards, with lockdowns and restricted activities. Hopefully, with global health coming back to normal, it will be possible to realize more initiatives and more events to promote cultural, touristic and business information about Brazil in Austria.

As Permanent Representative, you promote the Brazilian interests in the Vienna-based International Organizations like the United Nations. What are the most pressing issues for Brazil there at the moment? 

Yes, I do promote Brazilian interests, of course, but not only that in the multilateral scenario. Brazil has had an active participation in the Vienna-based International Organizations with a view to contribute and cooperate in many fora and agencies where international collaboration is the key to overcome challenges in many fronts, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, cybercrimes, corruption etc… In this regard, Brazil is fully aware that there are many fronts where collective action and global partnerships through International Organizations will successfully counter transnational criminal challenges, as I mentioned above. There are also Vienna-based agencies that promote positive and constructive programs in areas such as industrial development, trade legislation, where Brazil has interests as well as contributions to offer from our national experience. In these fora, Brazil has a long list of pressing issues, but we hope to be organizing events, so as to share best practices and success stories to other delegations in the VIC, focused on Brazilian experiences that have had positive results within the mandates of UNODC, UNIDO, UNCITRAL, etc.

In 2007, the first EU-Brazil summit took place, during which Brazil was granted a special partnership status with the EU. How important are strategic partnerships like that for your country? How would you like to see the future Brazilian-EU relations?

Brazil has special or strategic partnerships with a selected group of countries and regions, the EU obviously being a partner where clearly there are mutual interests that, projected into the future, are a platform to consolidate a very prosperous relationship. The economies on both sides are in many ways complementary and have much to gain mutually. Therefore, there are countless opportunities for both sides to explore.

Strategic partnerships are very important for Brazil, because they are the expression of mutual trust and of reciprocal deference based on common views. I believe there are many reasons to be realistically optimistic that Brazilian-EU relations will further be enhanced.

Photos: SOCIETY/Pobaschnig