In today’s increasingly global marketplace, there are clear benefits to establishing closer business and cultural ties with foreign powers. But we were slightly baffled by today’s news that micro-state San Marino has appointed Federico Podeschi as its first honorary consul in Wales. Is it really necessary for two of the world’s smallest countries – neither of which is exactly renowned as a trading power – to have an official diplomatic relationship? And what’s he going to do, exactly?
The appointment of Podeschi, a San Marino citizen who has lived in Wales for the last 11 years, makes the tiny state the 31st to have official representation in Wales. And it’s almost certainly the smallest: its territory ‘extends’ just 23 square miles and is home to about 31,000 people, which means that you could get more than 300 San Marinos into Wales (not exactly a big place itself).
Podeschi himself is apparently an ‘equality and gay-rights activist and social entrepreneur’ – he’s the man behind a social enterprise called LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, which works to improve awareness and understanding on behalf of ‘people who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender’ (and has a sister organisation in San Marino). So he’s not a total stranger to the world of politics and diplomacy.
But what’s the point? Well, San Marino says the aim of the consulate is ‘to foster links between the Republic and Wales’ and to ‘further the interests of the country by encouraging increased cultural, educational and business links between countries’ – while Podeschi himself said he would be ‘available to Welsh individuals and organisations that are interested in the development of cultural connections and trading between our countries’. We’re not sure whether he’s responding to an urgent market need there, but time will tell.
The good news is that everyone seems pretty happy about it. Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan welcomed the appointment and said he was looking forward to ‘a warm and lasting relationship between Wales and San Marino’. And a proud Podeschi proclaimed: ‘I am honoured to have been appointed as a representative of my country to raise awareness about a Republic of which I am a very proud citizen and to have the opportunity to bring together the two countries that I love the most.’
And perhaps this isn’t quite as strange as it seems. After all, the citizens of San Marino are pretty well off – Sammarinese apparently have the third highest GDP per capita in the civilised world. So if Podeschi can just work out what his adopted country can flog there, the Welsh could be quids in...