UNLIKE an ordinary driver, an honorary consul is not likely to be stopped by the police when driving a car. Honorary consuls, often VIPs in Slovakia’s business or cultural sphere, can opt to mark their car with a so-called blue license plate, and most of them do so.
The blue plates, which start with the letters ZZ, were banned by former foreign minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, but reintroduced shortly after current minister Miroslav Lajčák took up the post in April 2012.
“It is an usual international diplomatic practice for honorary consuls to use special car plates,” the Foreign Ministry told the Sme daily when asked why the car plates were reintroduced, adding that Minister Lajčák brought them back shortly after he took up his post in April 2012, arguing that withdrawing them was unnecessary.
There are 55 consuls active in Slovakia at the moment, and 49 cars have been marked with a special car plate, granting them diplomatic immunity.
“An honorary consul, according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, is a person who is exempt from the jurisdiction of judicial and administrative bodies of the receiving state,” the Interior Ministry told Sme.
The Foreign Ministry under Dzurinda abolished the usage of special car licence plates, following the example of other EU countries, according to former ministry state secretary Milan Ježovica.
“We were trying to set the conditions of the functioning of an honorary consul in Slovakia, such as to respond to the contemporary diplomatic standards in the world,” Ježovica told Sme. “Since most EU states don’t issue special car license plates for honorary consuls, we introduced the same practice in Slovakia too.”
Immunity of diplomats
Honorary consuls enjoy the same misdemeanour and criminal immunity as other diplomats.
The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations however states that despite immunity and privileges that consuls enjoy, “it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State”.
Many countries therefore grant immunity only in situations related to the work of an honorary consul, and they do not overlook a consul’s misdemeanours, like traffic violations, Sme wrote.
Honorary consuls in Slovakia
Similar to other European countries, VIPs in business and cultural life often take up the posts of honorary consuls of foreign countries. There are currently 55 honorary consuls active in Slovakia. For example, architect Karol Kállay is an honorary consul of Finland to Slovakia, and the general director of the public-service broadcaster Václav Mika is an honorary consul of Mexico.
Some noted businesspeople serve as honorary consuls of more exotic countries: Alexander Rozin is the honorary consul of Thailand, former economy minister Ľudovít Černák is an honorary consul of Uzbekistan, while Štefan Rosina, the board director of Matador, provides consular services for both Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.
16. Sep 2013 at 0:00 | By Michaela Terenzani with press reports