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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 17:59 GMT
Welsh wisdom wins Nato's ear
Nato flag
Sir Emyr Jones Parry moved to Nato last year
BBC Wales' Europe Correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd profiles Britain's ambassador to NATO at work in the Brussels HQ.

He's quite masterful at giving half-hour unofficial briefings now and again, but BBC Wales were given a few hours to track Sir Emyr Jones Parry at work in NATO's Brussels headquarters.

Sir Emyr Jones Parry: Old Gwendraeth Grammar school boy
Sir Emyr Jones Parry: Old Gwendraeth Grammar school boy

At 0830 GMT sharp on the day we were given access to film the former Gwendraeth Grammar schoolboy prompted his most senior officials in the UK delegation in NATO to brief him on next week's Prague summit when seven new members will be announced.

The ambassador, after lengthy negotiations and hundreds of meetings, will be there with the UK government team of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon.

The other 18 members, all new aspirant countries and roughly 30 more "partnership" countries will also be at the table in Prague.

NATO's Eastern Europe expansion will happen before the European Union's expected "big bang" in 2004.

Now with the current "game" being played between Iraq and the UN's security council and the US in particular, all eyes next week will be on Prague.

For a bank manager's son, who moved from the Gwendraeth to Lampeter, Ammanford, Mountain Ash and back to Burry Port and Hendy, before embarking to studying theoretical physics at Cardiff, and then gaining a doctorate in polymer physics in Cambridge, it has been ideal training.

Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson
Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson; Celtic ally

"My background in academic training is problem solving, and it's a logical step in a career where multilateral diplomacy is important. I've done that for 20 years," he said.

We shadowed his meeting with NATO's Secretary General Lord Robertson and the US Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

The affable former UK Defence Secretary George Robertson, in a broad Western Isles accent, teased Sir Emyr about cricket and his Welshness.

But, privately, afterwards he was quick to explain: "Having a fellow Celt here is a great support, a common way of thinking and a shared sense of humour.

"And, of course, there's that rivalry between the Scots and the Welsh which keeps people awake in meetings and us on our mettle."

Lord Robertson also praised the Sir Emyr Jones Parry's ability.

Nato flags
Sir Emyr could soon be leaving Nato behind

"Underneath that facade of a humorous Welshman is a pretty high-powered diplomat, a man of real quality and serious endeavour, who has come to one of the most important positions in the world."

The ambassador understands Welsh perfectly, and even if his spoken Welsh is rusty, his pronunciation is still expert.

He undertakes his Welsh-language radio and television interviews with the same eye to detail as he did when answering questions in English.

He still visits Wales for major sporting events as often as he can, and his retired brother lives in Bala in Gwynedd.

He claims to be a "lost hope" following the plight of Swansea FC, and has been an avid supporter of Glamorgan cricket for the past 40 years.

The Foreign Office was not a strange choice of profession for a scientist, and now, with a fairer meritocracy in place, feels his Welsh background did not work against him.

"Today's Foreign Office is very different to the one I joined.

"Now it represents the whole of the UK, and it believes in diversity but especially believes in merit.


"And I hope I am where I am because of merit."

He arrived at his post two days after 11 September.

Those attacks on New York and Washington has shaped his representative role in NATO.

And with his 10 years of experience working in Brussels on European affairs with various institutions, some thought him the main contender for Britain's EU Ambassador post before another appointment by Downing Street in September 2000.

Now there are rumours, from within the Foreign Office itself, that Sir Emyr Jones Parry is about to move again - to an even more prestigious role as Britain's ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

See also:

21 Jul 02 | Country profiles
16 Oct 02 | Europe
25 Sep 02 | Europe
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