2 November, 12:00 PM
It was kind of cold in GI-Land recently, at least considering they are supposed to be in a tropical climate zone. Just 14°C on average in the last few days, very cloudy: It was like the city of Atlantis had a filter, that made everything look grey, put upon it. Marja Sanddorn, the newly elected chancellor of GI-Land, found that quite depressing.
“Well, I mean it fits the news…Why would they go to war?”, she asked herself, combining her thoughts of the weather with the thoughts about the Izaakian declaration of war against NAGB, she received earlier. She pondered about that question a little more before the captain of the governmental jet told everyone in the cabin, which included the foreign minister and former WF speaker Christian Strunk, the current Gianlucian WF ambassador Helene Meise and General Heimann, that the plane is going to start its journey to the runway now and that everyone should be seated and put their seatbelts on.
Everyone did as they were told and then went back to the silence, that existed before. The jet made its way to the runway, then activated its full thrust and went up into the air. When the travel height was reached, Strunk was the first to break the ice.
“What is our goal, Mrs. Chancellor?”, he simply asked.
“To make the right choices to stabilise the region”, Sanddorn replied broadly.
“I see”, Strunk commented without showing he was disappointed of her answer, because he expected her to lay out a fully detailed plan on how and why and with what goals to talk to the Frost Empire. Well…Maybe, because she’s new to this office, she needs some time to adjust. She wasn’t even voted into it for a full week, so it might be okay for her to not immediately have detailed plans on how to deal with conflicts yet. He hoped however, that she was forming the ideas in the next 2 1/2 h, that it’d take to arrive in the Frost Empire.
President Revan Kensei was busy working through a mountain of paperwork when he heard a knock on the door to his office. “Yes?” he asked without lifting his head, his eyes scanning the newest piece of legislature approving funding for the poll workers and renting facilities for the upcoming referendum for the future of Reizen and the Empire. “The Gianlucan Delegation has entered Frost Airspace and we expect them to land in a half hour sir. I would like you and the Vice President to get ready to receive them sir.” said Foreign Minister Nagisa Kuribayashi.
The President sighed, “What of the IWW? They could receive the Delegation and guide them to my office like they did with the Late Chief Finix.” “Sir, The late Chief understood the gravity of the Reizen Civil War and ignored the insult of not being received by the Host country’s head of Government. I know Minister Strunk would be understanding, but this Sanddorn? We’ve no idea who she is, or what her policies are regarding our Empire. I would advise against potentially snubbing a head of government to approve additional measures to ensure a fair and transparent referendum.” replied Kuribayashi. “Very well, inform the IWW that I’ll be at the airport in 10 to receive our guests.” Kuribayashi smiled, “Understood sir. Should I grab anyone else to join us?” The President looked up at her and said, “Since the Izaakians will be inevitably be brought up, have someone from the Imperial General Staff Office join us.”
“That won’t be necessary, Revan,” A voice said faintly, causing the Foreign minister to turn her head slightly. The President rose from his seat as the Minister bowed, “Your Majesty!” he said bowing, “How may I assist you?” The Crown Princess smiled, “Allow me to represent the Imperial Military and the Imperial Family in Greeting the Gianlucan Delegation.” The President’s brow furrowed as he thought about her request when Kuribayashi spoke, “She is a member of the Admiralty and served with distinction. It would also save time on our end as well as it would take an hour for the the Staff office to send someone. Not to mention the Minister of Defense is out sick with Malaria.” Kensei sighed, “Very well… Admiral Remilia Firenze, I would be honored if you would join the delegation to represent the Frost Empire.” “It would be my honor to join” she replied without skipping a beat.
“Nagisa, I trust you have an idea on what the Gianlucans want?” asked Remilia. “Vaguely, madam. However, on our end, we will be trying to strengthen ties with the Gianlucans to secure our Western Flank so that we can consider punitive measures against the Izaakians from closing off trade routes or if it becomes necessary a naval air blockade of the occupied territories of La Montagne and Brodmark to contain the Izaakians. Best case scenario we convince the Gianlucans to side with us and use their considerable soft power to put into motion a series of resolutions that end with World Forum Peacekeepers in both Izaakia, Izaakia’s occupied holdings, and the NAGB. Worst case scenario, the Gianlucans continue to exercise their restraint and refuse to assist us in our efforts against the Izaakians. Their neutrality would ultimately keep us from amassing a sizeable fleet capable of blockading both La Montagne and Brodmark while also defending Reizen Province and the Home Islands.” responded Kuribayashi. “I see.” responded the Princess. “In any case… Sir, Madam, Shall we get going?” asked Kuribayashi. The two nodded quietly, joining the Minister to a car that awaited to transport them to Oured International to receive the Gianlucan delegation.
The plane was on its approach to Oured International Airport and the chancellor had difficulties to equalise the air pressure in her ears.
“This is why I’d rather take trains”, said the Green politician to her foreign minister, who could only chuckle.
“I’ve got special ear plugs, because I have that pressure problem too”, Strunk told her. “Anyway, we are arriving on Frost in just a couple of minutes. When we’re at a standstill, you immediately get to the door, check in the mirror, if you’re tidy enough for his Majesty and if so, the door will be opened. You lead us - me, Meise and General Heimann, in that order - outside, down the staircase. I have not visited the Empire too often, but I know, that they are sometimes a little reluctant with the symbolism. Probably a relic of their isolationist past or something about their pride or so. What I want to say with that: If you are only greeted by the President or the foreign minister without a red carpet or a corps playing our anthem, don’t be disappointed.”
“Frankly I do not care about the formalities too much, I just want this meeting to go as smoothly as possible. If that’s costing us our national anthem or a red carpet, I couldn’t care less about it”, Sanddorn told her subordinate.
“I thought about your question during our trip. What I think is important, would be to show the USI, it crossed red lines and unlike with the annexations of La Montagne and Brödmark, those are unforgivable. We need to do something to show some strength, at best together with the World Forum. If that’s not possible, I want to be sure, that the Empire has our back, the same applies to our other North Cordilian partners”, the chancellor elaborated.
“That sounds pretty vague”, the general chimed in from the row in front of Sanddorn. “You need to use clear words with our partners. Tell them, that the army is ready to fight for the greater good”, Heimann suggests. “We cannot just do that, General”, Sanddorn answered sternly. “We have a parliamentary army, remember? But I’ll think about your suggestion. If there is something more…indirect, maybe we’ll mobilise the Bundesarmee…”
Shortly after that conversation, the plane taxied towards its parking position and the chancellor checked her appearance once more, just like Strunk had advised her. Her leaf green blazer had the top button closed, underneath she’s wearing a black long-sleeve shirt. Her trousers match the blazer. Overall one could say, she was dressed smart casual, with the emphasis on casual. This was not a problem however, because her body language was painting over the fact, she was probably a tiny bit underdressed. With a high level of confidence, she climbed down the stairs and saw two people probably around 200 metres in front of her: President Kensei and Minister Kuribayashi.
President Kensei and Minister Kuribayashi walked into their positions as the plane came to a complete stop 200 meters from them. Oured International airport bustled with activity with flights coming and going every few minutes, but the Government runway they used to receive the Gianlucan delegation was more private. The Runway was mostly quiet save the 51 members of the Imperial Welcome Wagon (IWW) who readied their instruments to play the Gi-landian anthem, the President, Foreign Minister, and the Airport staff who were called in to assist in the debarkation process. There were no crowds of cheering people, no reporters, or red carpets to receive the guests. To some that may be insulting, but to the Frosts, it was a modest welcome that tested the personality of its guests.
However, despite the modest welcome, the IWW worked diligently to ensure that their guests wouldn’t be overly insulted by the lack of pomp. They learned the anthems of most of the countries of the Region as well as folksongs that could double as an anthem for stateless delegates. Often times the IWW would practice for days and weeks until they got the anthem down perfectly. They also went through many lengths to ensure that a delegation would be welcome such as securing the elite 901st battalion and a war hero to personally escort the late chief of Fihami to Reizen General HQ when adequate preparations couldn’t be made during the civil war to receive her. All 50 members of the IWW breathed a collective sigh of relief when they heard from the Minister that not only the President but also the Crown Princess herself would greet the Gianlucan delegation.
The IWW started to play the Gianlucan national anthem as the Chancellor stepped out of the plane. The President and Foreign Minister watched silently as the Gianlucan delegation exit until the Foreign minister broke the silence speaking in Alman with a Frost accent. “Greetings Chancellor Sanddorn, President Kensei and I formally welcome you and your delegation to the Frost Empire. We hope that you will be able to enjoy Frost Hospitality despite the topics that will be brought during the meeting. I’d also like to inform you now, that when we arrive at the Presidential office, the meeting will take place in Austral and not a mix of Hinomoto and Alman, where I’d translate my delegations words and Minister Strunk translating for your delegation.” She then gestured to the one member of the IWW who held a basket of traditional frost goods. “We also hope that you and your delegation accept this as a small token of friendship.”
Sanddorn bowed lightly and said: 「ありがとうございます。」*, when receiving the gift. She was never remotely taught any Hinomoto, even though it is a typical choice for Gianlucian students as a 3rd language in high school. That phrase of thankfulness however, she picked up in some animation film on Risa…Whisper in the Wind or so it was called in Alman.
She gave the gift to Meise, who stood behind her, so she had her hands free again. “That’s okay, her Excellency. I think, whatever we will agree on: The substance is important, not the language”, the chancellor replied in Austral with a smile. “I’m looking forward to the moment, where we can present our common strategy”, she added in Alman. “Lead the way” was the last thing Sanddorn told her before she received a welcome by President Kensei and Minister Kuribayashi and they all drove to the residential office.
The Minister bowed slightly and gestured to the limousine parked further down the runway in response to Chancellor Sanddorn and led the Gianlucan delegation to its door. As they all reached the limo, the Minister then gestured to a women dressed in a naval officer’s uniform who exited the limo, “Chancellor, this is her R-” “I am Admiral Remilia F. Firenze, Commanding officer of the Imperial Frost Combined Fleet. It is a pleasure to receive you and the Gianlucan Delegation on behalf of the Imperial Frost Military ma’am.” interrupted Remilia saluting the Gianlucan delegation before gesturing them to enter.
The guests from mainland Cordilia saluted back and Strunk answered: “It’s an honor being welcomed by you.”
The rest of the delegation nodded in agreement before entering the car. The crown princess sat opposite to Sanddorn, who was sitting pretty much in the middle of her bench. “Hm…I would’ve really liked to get a glimpse of the area, we’ll be driving through”, she thought to herself, but scrapped that thought, when she was noticing, Remilia asked for her well-being and how the flight was.
“Pretty well, pretty well. I was trying to calm myself a little. As you know, this is my first state visit. That combined with my role as first female and first Green chancellor of GI-Land, the public is viewing this meeting very critically probably. If it won’t end with a success, the yellow press has prepared several sensationalised headlines already telling me how I’m weak or whatever. However I am pretty optimistic, that we will find a consensus.”
Marja was biting her lip. Well, not actually, but she would have, if she’d be by herself, because she wasn’t sure, how her hosts will react to her statement. Would it already frame her as a weak negotiator or person? Was she rambling too much, regarding the fact the question was a simple “How are you and how was the flight?”
She looked at the opposite bench for another second, before General Heimann was interrupting the passengers’ thoughts. “You have beautiful parks around here.”
Yes, he was having the honor of sitting in a window seat.
“Are those trees a special breed, that can only be found around here? I have never seen them on Frastinia!”
It was somehow cute and amusing, how such a middle-aged man from the military can become so giddy and excited for the botanics of another place.
As someone else answered Heimann’s question, Marja Sanddorn was actually having an idea for a first introductory question, that could indirectly start off the negotiations between the two countries.
“So, the situation in Crabry is obviously worrying, which is why I’m happy that you accepted my suggestion of meeting here as quickly as you did. I think, someone told me, I’m the first or one of the first Gianlucian heads of government visiting your country. This makes me wonder: What’s the connection between Crabry and receiving our delegation?”
She sat back and listened closely to the response.
As the Foreign minister answered the General’s questions, the President spoke, “The Crabry situation is indeed worrisome, Chancellor Sanddorn, but my administration believes that we have delayed the meeting between the heads of government for our respective Country’s. I would have invited your predecessor for talks to increase cooperation, but the situation then was far too… precarious to allow the Frost Empire to host a foreign Head of Government. Now that things have stabilized and work for a fair referendum on the Status of Reizen almost finished, the Empire is able to respond and welcome your delegation. And to your question, there is only one answer, The Empire is a seafaring state, one that needs friendly ports, as Krabry becomes destabilized by war, our historic trading partners within the TCC may not be able to provide the necessary trade goods and so we must look elsewhere to satisfy the demands of the citizenry before it becomes too late. And though we were enemies during the great war, the restraint of your predecessors during the Reizen Civil War and the cooperation of the bundesarmee during the Serevan war have done much to quell historic mistrust.”
“I’m happy, we were able to prove ourselves in the last few years after several decades of being either enemies or self-absorbed. Now as for Crabry, your explanation with the TCC and your seafaring-ness is logical to me. GI-Land’s time of having a huge naval tradition are long over - for good -, even though since the incorporation of Atlantis we of course gained some more interest in the sea once again. The main focus lays on other mediums of transport, street and rail mostly, though. Maybe we’ll extend our conversation on that topic later again. Before we arrive at the office, let me dig deeper on another thing you said: the Reizen referendum will be underway as planned? Is your country prepared for a full secession of Reizen province?”
As Strunk heard that question from the chancellor, he widened his eyes. Whether out of shock or interest or to stay awake during the relatively cozy ride, the seats of the limousine were way softer than those in his ordinary caboose, could not be read off his face. He leaned a little forward though to hear Firenze’s answer.
Foreign minister Kuribayashi briefly glanced over to Chancellor Sanddorn and then President Kensei and Admiral Firenze before continuing to answer the General’s questions. The two barely reacted to the Chancellor’s questions when Admiral Firenze responded calmly, “As the representative of the Imperial Frost Military, I can assure you that the military will respect the civilian government’s decision with respect to the potential independence of Reizen. If the Kensei Administration chooses to respect the results of the referendum and allow for independence then we will accept that decision. However, I don’t believe the citizens of Ikireijin would accept secession in the war, so we may see some partition of Reizen.”
President Kensei then added, “Of course, we will accept the will of the people. If the people seek an orderly and peaceful secession from the Empire, then my administration will allow it to happen gradually. We have been working around the clock to ensure that we can accept any result from the referendum. If the province chooses independence, then snap elections will be held to welcome a new Reizen government. The Empire will then start bilateral negotiations with the fledgling government in order for Reizen to take its place as a sovereign state in a reasonable timetable. Some independence voters may be disappointed that they won’t get immediate independence, but the Frost Empire still has a vested interest in ensuring that the new state does not become an unstable state and easy to invade.”
“That sounds like a solid plan. One cannot say, that many governments would act as open-minded as you or are too well-prepared for such events. It is good to know, that you are willing to act upon and accept any electoral outcome. The self-determination of the people is an important right, that was trampled by too many other governments around the world. It is good to know, that a partner of ours will not do the same.
If any help is needed to conduct the referendum or otherwise secure the stability of Reizen, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
With that said, the limousine was already taking its last turn towards the presidential office. “Do we expect any PR? Should we leave the car in a certain order or pose for a photo?”, Strunk was asking for the Gianlucian delegation.
President Kensei replied, “My administration… has made many promises and compromises to not a cross a certain line. Now that the war is over I intend to honor those promises. If we require assistance to maintain the stability of Reizen We will not hesitate to contact our allies for assistance since we are aware that the presence of Imperial soldiers may escalate tensions at times.”
Foreign minister Kuribayashi then spoke, “Chancellor, we should not be expecting members of the press until after the meeting. Members of the press have been given strict guidelines to adhere to maintain access due to some unpleasant incidents with foreign ‘journalists’. They will be meeting us in the Western annex after the meeting to take photos and ask questions if you are able.”
“Okay, that’s good…Good”, Sanddorn sighed in relief. In the little time she has been chancellor, she was not used to the extensively more media coverage she received even in comparison to when she was prime minister. This is why she always needs some breathing space between her different appointments.
The limousine stopped in front of a building. Inside, Frost-Gianlucian relations are supposed to take a step forward. Marja thinks she’s ready. She takes one more deep breath in, before she opens the door of the car with confidence, steps out to the fresh air and turns towards the group of people still seated inside the vehicle.
In the back she sees the street they were just driving on, but also some artistically cut bushes. Lush green, which is not surprising during this season.
Admiral Firenze, Strunk, Kuribayashi and the rest of the entourage joined her after a moment and eventually led her inside the building.
Foreign Minister Kuribayashi led the way into the conference room which was a simple room with a table and several comfortable western office chairs and a wide bullet proof window letting them look over a stone garden. As they entered the room President Kensei gestured to the Gianlucan delegation to sit on the designated seats which had a placard of their name that was prepared after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs learned of the Gianlucan delegation’s roster. The Frost delegation also did the same sitting where their placards were, but curiously only Admiral Firenze’s lacked a placard, but she joked that she wouldn’t be needing one as she is the face of the military. As both delegations settled into their seats, a frost aide carrying empty cups and tea entered the room offering refreshments. The Frost side silently nodded accepting the tea from their aide, the aide then looked over to the Gianlucan delegation and asked, “Honorable delegates, would you be willing to accept our tea?”.
After the Gianlucan delegation accepted or declined the tea, the President spoke, “I would like to once again welcome you all to the Frost Empire, we have much to discuss and I hope we can foster friendlier ties between our two countries.”
“Sure, it would be a pleasure”, Strunk answered before Kensei spoke. Sanddorn took over in answering him.
“It is very nice of you to accomodate us here. Looking at the current political situation, it is without a doubt we have to talk and find a common strategy to gear our region through the conflicts already on the horizon rushing towards us.”
The Chancellor led that metaphor sink in for a moment before she continued.
“Therefore our agenda for this meeting is also of significant size. Some of our key points to discuss should match up though, so I don’t worry about not getting to a result later tonight. One that we both can happily agree with of course. We are all ear now, what you want to discuss first.”
Sanddorn took her cup of tea and her hazle eyes were looking directly into those of President Kensei. “The main concerns of the Frost Empire should normally be related to international law and trade”, she thought. An inner unprofessional side of her might have added to that: “I’m super excited what he’ll present now”.