Monday, 21 April 2014

What's the weather like in Melbourne?

On 16 April 2014, the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia held its 51st Meeting  where one of the items on the agenda was again the opening of the new Consulate in Melbourne. Strangely, on 8 April 2014 the same Committee held its 52nd Meeting, making it somewhat unclear which set of conclusions comes first.

At this Meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Karl Erjavec notified the Committee that the supervisory inspection at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra in regards to the controversial invitation to Nicholas Oman was concluded and he presented to the Committee the following findings:

- Mr Oman was not issued an invitation. Admittedly, he was on the draft list of invited guests, but was at (an unspecified) later time removed from the list on Ambassador's intervention;
- Mr Oman was present at the opening of the Consulate. However, according to Mr Erjavec, the event was open to general public and thus anyone could attend;
- At the end of the opening ceremony, the new Honorary Consul Mr Maddison invited all guests to attend the reception at the Jadran Club and this resulted in Mr Oman also appearing there;
- The photo showing Mr Oman and the Ambassador sitting at the same main table is, according to the Minister, deceiving as the Ambassador did not really sit at that table. The Ambassador was actually sitting somewhere else but when the time for speeches came Mr Maddison took the microphone and the Ambassador followed him to the front table where he was waiting for his turn to make his speech. Accidentally, this was the table where Mr Oman and Mr Peter Mandelj, President of the Council of Slovenian Organisations in Victoria and Member of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad, were also seated;
- On the basis of such findings the Ambassador was cleared of any wrongdoing in regards to the Consulate guest list. 

Ambassador Balažic who was present at the Meeting had the following to say:

"... you should know that I am the first Ambassador of Slovenia in Australia" and "Slovenians in Australia have no experience what diplomatic protocol means"... "And then after the opening we went to this reception where there was no protocol and this is why this unusual situation occurred that people sat down, I would say, in quite a relaxed way"... "and at this table were sitting beside me the Honorary Consul Derry Maddison, former Honorary Consul General Alfred Breznik, Father Ciril, Father David, both Starihas, and thus the main guests were sitting at this table the furthest away from the speaker which is unusual, I admit, it is not according to the protocol, but this is how it is when you are dealing with people who haven't got it yet. Nicholas Oman sat at this table, up here, diagonally at the opposite end of the hall, and at the beginning when the greeting was due the Consul General Derry Maddison went to this side of the hall where he took the microphone and greeted everyone present, and I went with him; as I had to wait for a minute while he made his greetings I sat down on  this chair and if you take a detailed look I don't sit turned toward the table but look, I am turned with my chair directly toward the speaker as a minute later I went up to greet people myself and then I returned to this main table."
"I did not know Mr Oman personally, I remember him from the 90s as he was an infamous person and he is the kind of man you remember." ..."...he then came to the Embassy to get this paper, a passport for himself, his daughter Patricia and his son Aleksander."..."In short, I received Mr Oman at the Embassy, he did his consular things and then I found out, I recognised him and so on, and I also asked him what the weather was like in Melbourne,  but as to other issues, as I say, as far as this information goes I wouldn't want to go any further."

Full transcript of the Meeting (in Slovenian) is available here.

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