THE US Embassy to Slovakia in Bratislava will leave Hviezdoslavovo Square and move to another location that meets American security requirements.

“The US Department of State has decided on this step on the basis that the current embassy doesn’t meet the security requirements established by the US Congress for US diplomatic missions around the world,” US Embassy media coordinator Natália Pindrochová told the TASR newswire.

The plan is to construct a new building that will provide a safe space for American and Slovak staff, as well as for the 6,500 or so Slovaks who visit the embassy every year. “The new building will replace the building on Hviezdoslavovo Square, which was originally purchased in 1948, reopened in May 1991 as the Consulate-General and which became the embassy as of 1993 when Slovakia gained independence [from the Czech Republic],” said Pindrochová. The construction of the new building is expected to take five to six years.

Bratislava City councillors discussed the potential relocation of the US Embassy staff with US Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick at the end of last month. City councillors oppose the security fence around the building that significantly encroaches on the public pedestrian promenade on the square and Paulínyho Street.

Bratislava mayor Milan Ftáčnik considers the decision of the US administration to be a very good signal for Bratislavans. “This decision will contribute towards fulfilling city hall’s efforts to remove the fence that on one hand protects the US Embassy, but on the other greatly devalues one of the most valuable public spaces in the city centre,” said head of Ftáčnik's office Ľubomír Andrassy. Bratislava Old Town borough mayor Tatiana Rosová, has jurisdiction over this part of the city, too, and both mayors have been pushing for the embassy to move.

“We will be sorry to leave Hviezdoslavovo Square,” said Ambassador Sedgwick, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “The embassy has a long history on this site, which we are proud of - especially the fact that it was a symbol of hope and freedom during the dark times of communism. However, for the US State Department, security is a top priority,” said the US ambassador.

In the upcoming months, the US Department of State will send a planning team to Bratislava that will meet with representatives of local institutions and real estate experts, according to SITA.

(Source: TASR, SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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