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Ministry responds to false statements about diplomatic mission in Kyiv

Due to numerous false claims made over the past few days by media outlets and subsequently by individual political parties about the decision to send a chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Republic of Slovenia to Kyiv, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to communicate its response to the most frequently highlighted false statements. It should be noted that the claims relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the procedure of appointment of a chargé d’affaires have not been previously verified with the lead authority.

1. “Armed military diplomatic mission”

The media outlet 24ur.com was the first to use this term on 23 March 2022, followed by some individual politicians in their statements. The term itself does not exist, it is inaccurate and incorrect. There is no such term in the Foreign Affairs Act (ZZZ-1) providing a fundamental legal basis for the functioning of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and laying down the procedure of appointment of diplomatic representatives, nor in any other legal basis governing foreign affairs.

2. “The Committee on Foreign Policy of the National Assembly was not aware of the secondment of a chargé d’affaires ad interim to Kyiv”

This critique is the result of a lack of understanding of the procedure of appointment of a chargé d’affaires. According to established diplomatic practice, when the post of head of a diplomatic mission in the receiving state falls vacant, another member of the diplomatic staff of the mission shall be assigned as chargé d’affaires ad interim (temporarily performing the office of head of the mission), which falls under the competency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Article 21 of the Foreign Affairs Act and Article 19 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations). As this is not a matter of an appointment of the head of a mission of the Republic of Slovenia abroad, neither a decision by the Government nor an opinion by the Committee on Foreign Policy of the National Assembly are provided for under the Act. In this specific case, the chargé d’affaires ad interim will be a staff member temporarily assigned to a diplomatic post within the Slovenian Embassy in Kyiv and will be the only one present in the receiving state.

3. Reports by some media outlets stating that at its correspondence session yesterday the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted a decision to send a team of volunteer diplomats to Ukraine are false claims. The Government did not discuss the issue, let alone adopt a decision relating to it, as the Foreign Affairs Act clearly stipulates who is responsible for the appointment in such cases.

4. The allegations stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not find any volunteers willing to accept the diplomatic post of chargé d’affaires ad interim in Ukraine are unacceptable. The Ministry carried out an internal inquiry and some diplomats, including in the ambassadorial rank, expressed their interest in the post. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all of them, as their readiness expresses that Slovenian diplomats stand ready to act even in perilous situations.

5. The statement that Slovenia was one of the first countries to withdraw its ambassador and all other diplomats from Kyiv following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine is incorrect. The Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to Ukraine left Kyiv on 25 February 2022, while ambassadors from 12 other EU member states, the Ambassador of the EU Delegation in Kyiv and the ambassadors of the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and Israel left the city before this date.

6. Statements by some politicians that sending a diplomatic mission to Kyiv “is creating a state of emergency and is an attempt to get Slovenia entangled into the war in Ukraine as well as an unnecessary provocation to Russia and a further escalation of the conflict”, are utterly unreasonable. In diplomacy, sending one country’s representatives to another country means strengthening and deepening their relations, not straining them. Relations are strained by recalling the ambassador from the receiving country.

7. The opinion that the diplomatic mission in Kyiv would not have a formal diplomatic status, thus posing a greater security risk for the seconded staff members, is ill-founded. The composition of the mission is particularly adapted to the situation in the receiving state and the area where the mission is to be located (Kyiv). The person selected as chargé d’affaires ad interim is a staff member with years of experience, including in peacekeeping missions of international organisations. This is not an isolated case, as every developed diplomatic service acts in this way with a view to adapt their missions to the situation on the ground. To cite just two examples: Karl Eikenberry, who served as military commander in Afghanistan before being appointed as US Ambassador in Kabul, and Jacques Lanxade, a French admiral and former navy chief, who also served as French Ambassador to Tunisia. For example, the US Department of State operates a special programme to encourage war veterans to join the diplomatic service precisely for the above-mentioned reasons, while similar cases can be found also in other Western diplomatic services. Slovenia is sending to Kyiv a chargé d’affaires ad interim to perform diplomatic tasks on the basis of field assessment and in accordance with the procedures set out in the Foreign Affairs Act and seek opportunities for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in accordance with the declaration on the current situation in Ukraine adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia on 9 March.

8. The statement that such mission is pointless is incorrect. On several occasions over the last couple of weeks, the Embassy of Ukraine in Slovenia has publicly expressed its gratitude to the Government for Slovenia’s firm and unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. In an interview for the newspaper Delo, the RTV Slovenia special reporter Karmen Švegl stated that “Ukraine holds a very positive view of Slovenia because of the Slovenian politics” and that last week’s visit by the Slovenian, Polish and Czech prime ministers to Kyiv has shown that “in comparison with other conflicts, Slovenia has a much more important status here than anywhere else” she has been reporting from so far.

9. The reproach that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia should put in more efforts in the humanitarian field to help Ukraine is also ill-founded. In recent weeks, Slovenian diplomats have focused their efforts on bringing an end to the military aggression and alleviating human tragedy in Ukraine as soon as possible. Slovenia has immediately and to the fullest extent possible responded to humanitarian needs in Ukraine by providing assistance in a total amount of EUR 1.64 million since the start of the aggression. The first accommodation centre for Ukrainian refugees was opened at Debeli rtič and Slovenia is also receiving refugees at Logatec. Additional projects addressing the needs of refugees in neighbouring countries are also in the process of preparation. To help Ukrainian refugees, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia has donated EUR 1.1 million through international organisations, which represents the largest lump-sum humanitarian aid donation in the history of Slovenia.