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President announces recall of ambassador to the US

New York, 21 September - President Borut Pahor will recall Tone Kajzer, Slovenia's ambassador to the US, after being urged to do so by the government due to an internal cable that Kajzer leaked to opposition SDS leader Janez Janša. The ambassador is expected to return to Ljubljana by the end of the month but will remain with the Foreign Ministry.

Brdo pri Kranju
President Borut Pahor.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

The decision was reached after Pahor had a phone conversation yesterday with Prime Minister Robert Golob during which Pahor also "highlighted the issue of proportionality of the proposed measure and consistency of such action in all similar cases", the president's office said on Tuesday evening.

"President Borut Pahor believes that deciding to recall Ambassador Kajzer was a disproportionate measure because his violation ... did not have a direct harmful impact on Slovenia's foreign policy interests," his office now explained for the STA on Wednesday.

What bothered the president most is not having been involved in the process. He therefore proposed that in future, the recall of ambassadors should "be formally arranged the same way as the appointment of ambassadors, where consultation with the president is a constituent part of the decision-making."

Pahor's office now also said that even though there had be no such document this far, appropriate consultations had been held as specified in the foreign affairs act "until the very last - the recall of ambassador Kajzer".

The office made a point of underscoring that the government or the foreign minister had this far always consulted with the president before it took the decision on a recall.

Pahor's office said it would be appropriate for the president to sign a declaration of notification that the foreign minister has presented to him a recall proposal before sending it to the government, the same as is the case before ambassadorial appointments.

Pahor believes this would not be a mere formality. Such an arrangement would "enable the president to inform the ministry and the government about his stance before the government decides on such a case".

"The point of such consultations is adjusting decisions before the final decision by the government. Once the government takes a decision to recall, the president's declining to sign it would put the government and the country in an awkward situation as the government's decision already represents a foreign policy act that the president cannot simply ignore," the office said.

"The government's decision on appointment affects the authority of the foreign ministry and the government as a whole, at home and in the international community," the office wrote.

Until Kajzer's recall and despite an arrangement of declaration of notification for recalls, "appropriate consultations were held on the matter, as provided for in Article 17 of the foreign affairs act", Pahor office told the STA.

Pahor also proposed yesterday "additional deliberations about measures and actions to strengthen the professionalism of diplomacy so that it is loyal to the state, not to partisan or other special interests".

Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon, who is accompanying Pahor in New York for the UN General Assembly, said yesterday that she had provided all the details of the case to Pahor as she had insisted that Kajzer violated the law and a recall was urgent.

"There were several violations, including of the rules on the protection of confidential information. A recall is urgent if we are to protect Slovenia's foreign policy interests and foreign service," she told reporters in New York.

The Foreign Ministry today said that some other ambassadors have been recalled based on the same provision governing violations of obligations of the foreign policy act, including the ambassadors to Turkey (last spring), Australia (in 2014) and Egypt (2010).

The inquiry into Kajzer's conduct concerned the photo of a cable that Janša posted on Twitter at the beginning of September containing internal instructions to embassies to publish the address where voters can send signatures in support of presidential candidate Nataša Pirc Musar.

Whereas this is a standard procedure that even the SDS had used in the past, Janša framed the cable as an attempt by the government to help Pirc Musar.

The content of the cable is not secret since it is an official notice, but all diplomatic communication exchanged over the Foreign Ministry's cable system is by default considered confidential according to the act on foreign affairs and internal Foreign Ministry rules.

Asked whether Kajzer had admitted to the deed, Fajon said he had not talked about that during questioning. And even if he did not take the snapshot of the cable himself, he allowed someone to use his computer.

Fajon said Kajzer will remain in diplomatic ranks. "I have personally informed him thereof and expressed regret at us having met in such a position. I thanked him for his cooperation. He is returning to Ljubljana at the end of the month. I'm sure we'll find an opportunity for good cooperation going forward."

In a post on Facebook, Kajzer did not express remorse about his actions and said he had always worked in line with democratic values and would always "strive for the benefit and strengthening of our diplomacy."

"This is how I plan to continue working, wherever beloved God shows me the path forward."

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© STA, 2022