Pahor declines call to prevent “political” appointments of diplomats

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor has declined the call by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) not to sign a decree appointing new ambassadors ahead of the general election. He said that postponement of the appointments as part of regular rotation would be unjustified and harm the country’s foreign policy interests in the international community.

The opposition party issued the call on Monday when seven candidates for ambassadors were presented at the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, saying the candidates had ties to the coalition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi).

The party urged Borut Pahor to prevent “political appointments just before the election”, as the candidates were problematic from two aspects – they are “clearly close to the SDS and NSi” and coming from the narrow circle of aides of FM Anže Logar.

In a letter to LMŠ president Marjan Šarec sent on Thursday, Pahor said that the appointments of new ambassadors was part of the regular rotation and were necessary as the terms of the current ambassadors were expiring.

The president added that the appointment procedure for new ambassadors was “not tied to the electoral cycle, which is good”, so it would be inappropriate to wait for the parliamentary election.

Pahor noted that the changes of government in 2018 and 2020 had not affected the appointment procedure, as there was no good reason for that.

The procedure usually takes half a year, and changes at the posts of the external service of the Foreign Ministry are usually carried out in the summer.

He added that the current procedure had started in accordance with the established practice last November, and that it was conducted in line the relevant rules, standard practice and within the usual deadlines.

After the ministry receives an agrément from the host country, “the government, this or next, will send to me a proposal to install the ambassador. I will install them with an ordinance … and then I will issue the letters of credence.”

The ambassador selection procedure is conducted in secrecy until the host country endorses the candidate, so the names of the candidates have not been revealed.

In line with the foreign affairs act, candidates, put forward by the government, appear before the Foreign Policy Committee and after they are endorsed by the host country, the president signs an order on their appointment.

According to web portal N1, the candidates for ambassadors in Zagreb, Bratislava, Copenhagen, Seoul, Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Rome were presented to MPs this week.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gregor Dovžan is reportedly to be appointed ambassador to Croatia, State Secretary Stanislav Raščan is to go to Bratislava and the head of Logar’s office, Mihael Zupančič, to Copenhagen.

Jernej Müller, the head of the Foreign Ministry directorate for common foreign and security policy, is tipped to go to Seoul and Sašo Podlesnik, the head of the human resources department at the ministry, to Cairo.

The Embassy in Abu Dhabi is to be led by the head of the sector for Africa and Middle East, Natalia Al Mansour. Current ambassador to Greece Matjaž Longar is to be deployed to Rome, according to N1.

The Foreign Ministry told the STA in January that the terms of ambassadors in Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Bratislava, Brussels, Canberra, the Hague, Cairo, Copenhagen, Moscow, Riga, Rome, Sofia, Seoul, Tehran, Warsaw and Zagreb would expire this year as well as the terms of consuls general in Milan and Trieste.