THE US Embassy to Slovakia is failing to adhere to the terms and conditions agreed to in an extension to its rental contract on city land outside the embassy’s building on Hviezdoslavo Square in downtown Bratislava, Old Town councillor Martin Borguľa (Smer) told the press on August 12.

According to the councillor, three months after the rental was extended by 18 months, the embassy still has not adopted measures that it had committed to. He added that the embassy was required to remove the parking spaces and storage areas from the building’s immediate vicinity.

“In addition, the US vowed to add some greenery in the area between the building and the security fence and to erect a not-so unsightly fence,” Borguľa said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

He explained that the embassy’s cars are still parked on the square and no green area has been added. The unpleasant character of the fence remains, the councillor stressed.

“I’m afraid those were empty promises ahead of the vote on the rental extension, and the US embassy is leading us down the garden path,” Borguľa said, as quoted by TASR. He promised to remain engaged with the issue and cited a revocation of the city council’s respective resolution as a possible course of action unless the embassy makes good on its promises.

The embassy responded that it is aware of the agreed-upon conditions and is vowing to do its utmost to comply with them.

“The US embassy announced this spring that it would undertake several new measures regarding its facilities, and we expect that we will have made visible progress on all of them by this fall,” Janelle Luna of the embassy said, as quoted by TASR.

She added that the process of building a new embassy in Bratislava could take five to six years.

“In the coming months, a team will come to Bratislava to evaluate potential locations for a new embassy building,” Luna continued. “In the meantime, we continue to upgrade and improve the building we have now. We recently invested more than €250,000 in repairing the facade and updating the windows of the embassy, after which we removed the storage container that was in front of the embassy. Now that this project has been completed, we will add new greenery and other elements to improve the appearance of the fence and surrounding area.”

Luna also said the embassy is finalising an agreement for a parking solution that will allow them to remove the vehicles that are in front of the embassy.

“All of these activities have been discussed in advance and in partnership with the city authorities as part of our ongoing cooperation with the city of Bratislava,” she added, as quoted by TASR. “As Ambassador [Theodore] Sedgwick told members of the city parliament on April 29, we would welcome the opportunity to host any of them here to explain our plans in more detail.”

Bratislava rented the land around the embassy in 2005 for 10 years. The contract was due to expire in February 2015, hence the embassy requested an extension to the contract up until 2045. This was rejected by Old Town Mayor Tatiana Rosová and a few councillors, who claimed that the security fence detracts from the promenade and makes Paulínyho Street impassable.

The embassy then requested an extension of only 18 months in April and announced a month later that it would vacate the place altogether due to security reasons.

The city council agreed on May 22 to extend the rental contract by 18 months, i.e. by August 15, 2016, providing that the embassy would remove the parking spaces and storage areas. The city still can extend the rental period as long as the embassy demonstrates that it is working on moving to a different location or constructing a new building, TASR wrote.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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