*Either a prisoner or an ambassador (an old Serbian adage)
Celebrations have ended, speeches were given, nods were exchanged. The Prez gave an address on Tuesday, warning that the world around us is changing and that organisations like EU, NATO and UN have to either reinforce or reinvent themselves. He also took a pot-shot at the way the government of Janez Janša is treating the judicial branch (changing the penal code in haste, not respecting decisions of the Constitutional court), and so on. The entire text is available here, English translation pending (hopefully).
The Prez and the FM in the back. Years ago Rupel was Türk’s boss
However, fun began an hour or so before the address, as The Prez said in an interview that he will not sign demissions of several Slovene ambassadors prior to elections on 21 September. The catch is that four-year terms of a handsome number of Slovene ambassadors to capitals like London, Washington and Vienna (to name a few) have ended and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed replacements, which – according to the constitution – must be approved by the President (one of the very few powers the President actually has).
As almost anywhere in the world, in Slovenia too ambassadorial positions are both political and diplomatic. It was more than once that a person with little diplomatic skill was named ambassador to a certain country either as a reward for something or as a punishment (in accordance with an old Serbian adage Either a prisoner or an ambassador (Ili u zatvor ili za ambasadora)) and despite the fact that we’re looking at a regular end of a cycle, naming new ambassadors raises evebrows. Because it is quite possible that high ranking politicians are seeking refuge in the face of what is increasingly looking as a change at the helm of this country. Although the foreign ministry claims that all proposed names are career diplomats, roumors have it that names like Iztok Jarc (Minsiter of Agriculture), Matjaž Šinkovec (senior ministry official and former head of the Slovene intelligence agency) and even the foreign minister himself are among the names. Granted, all of them have already served as ambassadors – with some distinction, might I add – but fact of the matter is that at the moment all three are high-ranking political figures.
The Prez, himself one of the most distinguished ambassadors this country ever had, will have none of it. Bang! He said that he will wait with naming new ambassadors until election are over with and thus slammed the door really hard on the foreign ministry and Dimitrij Rupel himself who is apparently eyeing an ambassadorial job in Vienna (possibly something to do with Benita Ferrero Waldner, former Austrian FM with whom he apparently really gets along, if you catch my drift).
Foreign ministry reacted with a two-page statement, written in a recognisible “enumeration” style which suggest that it was written by FM Rupel himself. The statement more or less goes “what the fuck do you mean you won’t name new ambassadors, you fuck, do you know who I am?”, but does it in diplomatic lingo, naturally 😀 . It is a well known fact that Rupel and Türk can’t stand each other. Apparently the former thinks of the latter as overly-ambitious, whereas the latter thinks of the former as utterly incompetent (a notion which pengovsky shares 🙂 )
Despite their personal animosity I think The Prez is right. One, naming ambassadors just prior to elections is extremely bad sport. It’s been done before by LDS government(s), but it never won a lot of friends. It is time to put a stop to bad practices (mostly done under the tenure of FM Rupel, mind you – he served under LDS as well). Secondly, the Prez can deside on ambassadors as he sees fit. Period. There are no ifs and buts to it. The Prez has spoken and the minsitry should accept it without hesitation. Instead it is issuing diplomatic notes as if The Prez is another country and the Ministry is defending Slovene international positions. You don’t really argue with your president. Especially if it is you who is up for re-election. And thirdly, it in extremely bad taste that (provided rumours are true) a foreign minister should propose himself as an ambassador.