Trip to Budapest harmed Slovakia’s diplomatic service

Current and former diplomats comment on visit of Finance Minister Igor Matovič to Budapest concerning Sputnik V.

Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó (r) and Slovak Finance Minister Igor Matovič (l) talk during their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, April 9.Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó (r) and Slovak Finance Minister Igor Matovič (l) talk during their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, April 9. (Source: AP/TASR)

Both former and current ambassadors of Slovakia criticised the recent trip of Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) to Moscow and Budapest, where he travelled to discuss the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, and the effects it had on the Slovak diplomatic service since a representative of the Slovak embassy was absent.

“It is unprecedented to cast doubt on the independent and professional institutions of own country, attack our own diplomatic service, doubt the authority of our own foreign affairs minister, and ignore the written and unwritten rules of a constitutional function in such a short time and at such an intensity,” reads the statement signed by current ambassadors Iveta Hricová,

Radovan Javorčík, Rastislav Káčer, Andrea Elscheková Matisová, Peter Mišík, Michal Mlynár, Igor Slobodník and Miroslav Wlachovský, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

At the same time, they were quite critical of Matovič’s statements towards the Slovak scientific institutions that did not recommend the vaccination with Sputnik due to the lack of information from its producer.

Meanwhile, President Zuzana Čaputová also commented on the situation, claiming that this foreign trip “raises more questions than it answers.”

A violation of international standards

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Matovič travelled to Moscow on April 9 and a day later he went to Budapest to meet with Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó. Instead of a representative of the Slovak embassy, OĽaNO MP György Gyimesi was present in Budapest. He said after the meeting that one of the prerequisites for the successful talks with the Hungarians was the absence of a representative of the Slovak embassy.

The claim has already been criticised by Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee), who called it “a rude accusation of the Slovak diplomatic service.”

A group of former Slovak diplomats commented that the visit has unprecedentedly humiliated the Slovak diplomatic service, violated several rules and diplomatic customs, and harmed the reputation and image of Slovakia abroad, TASR reported. The statement was signed by Pavol Demeš, Igor Furdík, Peter Holásek, Mária Krásnohorská, Eduard Kukan, Stanislav Vallo, Magdaléna Vášáryová, Ján Voderadský, and Peter Weiss.

“Undoubtedly, the image and reputation of Slovakia as a country and its executive power have been harmed abroad,” the group wrote in a statement, as quoted by TASR.

The active ambassadors commented that such attacks on the diplomatic service harm the creation of a modern statesmanship.

Humiliation for the country

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Although it is not common for active ambassadors to comment on domestic affairs this way, there are situations when diplomatic restraint and discretion must be put aside, the current ambassadors wrote in their statement.

“The foreign service is a strategic tool of the state to enforce and protect its interests and to strengthen its position,” they added, as quoted by TASR.

Both former and active diplomats have called on political representatives to act in a way that does not weaken the country’s position and does not humiliate Slovakia and its institutions.

“Especially in the city and in the presence of a leader of the country that has been criticised for a serious rule of law deficit, which offends not only Slovak diplomacy, but also humiliates Slovakia, and threatens the country's state interest in the worst way possible,” the active ambassadors said.

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