Slovenia and Belarus clash over UN Security Council seat
Slovenia's and Belarusian permanent representatives to the UN faced off in a lively exchange in New York on 16 May as they presented their countries' rival bids for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2024-25. Both faced accusations about their countries running at the behest of other powers.
Valentin Rybakov said in his opening address that Belarus launched its candidacy in the Eastern European group in 2007, whereas Slovenia decided to join the race only in December 2021, even though it initially intended to run for the 2042-43 period.
Rybakov argued that this was unfair on his country, because of the late entry and the fact that Slovenia had already sat on the Security Council in 1998-99. Moreover, Slovenia's decision to run for the position was not its own, he claimed.
Boštjan Malovrh rejected the allegations as a offensive, underlining that Slovenia's decision to run for the seat was that of a sovereign country.
Following his presentation of Slovenia's candidacy, Malovrh and Rybakov faced off in a debate, also answering questions put to them by other representatives to the UN and the civil society.
Russia's representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said Malovrh was not convincing in his explanation about Slovenia's decision to run. Moscow sees the move as an attempt to take the seat from Belarus, which Russia sees as injustice.
The Russian representative expressed doubt in the independence of Slovenia's foreign policy and said the country would represent the positions in the EU if elected to the Security Council, which he believes does not bring any added value.
Malovrh said Slovenia would not engage in a dirty campaign and mud-slinging. He nevertheless responded to the accusations, saying he was there on behalf of Slovenia's government and not on behalf of Brussels. He expressed hope that Rybakov was there on behalf of Minsk and not someone else.
Slovenia brings to the table its own Eastern European experience, connected to the former Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement, its experience of war and peace-making. Slovenia understands the West and the South and can act as a bridge, said Malovrh.
Most of the questions put to the ambassadors were about climate change, human rights and women's rights, but also the war in Ukraine.
Rybakov admitted that his country was biased on this issue, but said that Slovenia was biased as well. He pointed out that Slovenia had sent weapons to Ukraine and said that Belarus was much more aware than Slovenia of what was going on in Ukraine.
Malovrh agreed, saying there was no doubt that Belarus knew much better what is going on, because the country was participating in the aggression against Ukraine. He added Slovenia was also sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and was helping refugees.
In his closing remarks, Rybakov once again raised the issue of alleged injustice against his country stemming from Slovenia's decision to run for the seat. In response Malovrh said: "With all due respect, Valentin, nobody owes anything to you."
To be elected a non-permanent member of the Security Council the country has to win at least 129 votes in the 193-strong UN General Assembly. The first round of voting will be held on 6 June.