SLOVAKIA’S cabinet has withdrawn its offer to host the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in Bratislava. The decision was made at a cabinet session on June 24 due to the high costs for the office, estimated at more than €200,000 per year.
Slovakia was supposed to offer up to 650 square metres of furnished office space, meeting UN standards, free of charge and to also pay operational costs. The Foreign Affairs Ministry had counted on the office’s positive impact on employment, given the previous experience with the regional office of the UN Development Programme which is currently located in Bratislava.
The government approved the agreement on establishing the UNFPA office in Bratislava on January 14, 2009. But in a letter dated June 11, Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák informed the UN that circumstances related to the financial and economic crisis no longer allowed the government to guarantee the office’s establishment and operation.
“I believe that UNFPA, in cooperation with relevant countries, will be able to find an appropriate seat for its regional office,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of UNFPA.
Former foreign affairs minister and Czechoslovak ambassador to the UN Eduard Kukan said the cabinet’s decision was “absolutely unusual” and may harm Slovakia in the future.
“We may expect that in the future, when we aspire to a similar post, the decision will be more difficult to make and it will have been our own fault,” Kukan said, as quoted by SITA.