The US Embassy in Slovakia is ready to pay an annual rent amounting to €480,000.
“The council has repeatedly failed to obtain a quorum necessary for approving our rent of the security circuit which would legally enable us to pay the sum,” reads the statement provided to the SITA newswire.
The rent of the plots under the building expired last year, which now makes the fence, raised after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, an illegal construction. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, however, stipulates that the security zone is part of the embassy and the adjacent plots, regardless of ownership, SITA wrote.
Some call for removal
The area has been used by the embassy as a security zone since 2005 and is enclosed by a security fence, steel posts, barrier flower containers and a retractable car barrier. Some critics have been calling for the fence removal for years, claiming it makes Hviezdoslavovo Square in downtown Bratislava look ugly.
The city council has discussed the fence’s removal several times, most recently at their late September session. They have repeatedly failed to approve the lease of the plots on which the fence is standing. The original agreement expired last August.
Under the new proposal, the embassy would pay €481,000 annually for renting the plots. The lease was to be signed for a definite period, i.e. until August 15, 2019, with the option to prolong it to August 2021.
Meanwhile, a local survey was carried out in front of the embassy building in mid-November. City councillor Martin Borguľa, who is one of the fence’s critics, said there is no need for additional legalisation on the construction.
The US Embassy considers it unfortunate that the safety of US and Slovak employees as well as Bratislava’s citizens and embassy visitors has become a political question.
“The Vienna Convention requires the host countries to secure the safety of diplomatic missions,” the embassy wrote in the statement, as quoted by SITA, adding that US laws require keeping the fence to protect its employees and visitors.
Back in 2002, the embassy signed an agreement with the city of Bratislava and its Old Town borough that permitted the construction and maintenance of the security fence, as reported by SITA.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy is looking for new premises. It plans to rent a 4.6 hectare plot situated close to the Slovak National Theatre. It has not made an agreement with the local authorities and other parties yet.