Friday, 11 July 2014

Legacy of recalled ambassador Dr Milan Balažic

Dr Balažic left Australia about a week ago. On arrival in Slovenia, he held a press conference in Nebotičnik which is owned by the newly appointed Honorary Consul for NSW Mr Anthony Tomažin.  In his long speech for Slovenian journalists, Dr Balažic finally explained his dealings with Nicholas Oman who appeared at the opening of the new Slovenian Consulate in Victoria on 7 March this year and upset with his presence the Slovenian community in Australia.

In his presentation, Dr Balažic gave journalists access to a large number of documents to support his claims that his meetings with Mr Oman were initiated by Igor Lukšič, at the time the leader of Social Democrats, who allegedly acted as a coordinator between the Cabinet of Slovenian Prime Minister Mrs Alenka Bratušek and Mr Oman. According to Dr Balažic, Mr Oman offered to the Slovenian government his oil-rich land in Republika Srpska - for which Italian oil company Agip was allegedly willing to pay 2.2 billion EUR  - in return, according to Dr Balažic, for a Slovenian passport for himself, his daughter and his son. (Mr Oman who is a Slovenian citizen by birth has the right to a Slovenian passport anyway; until recently the cost of a new passport was $136.)

Dr Balažic claims that Milan Kučan personally approved of  negotiations with Nicholas Oman and was willing to help, and that the President of the Republic of Slovenia Mr Borut Pahor was also kept informed of their progress. The only person that seems to be left in the dark until recently was his immediate superior, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Karl Erjavec.

The whole scandal, in which Dr Balažic openly admits to be involved in an offer of an award (i.e., bribe) of alleged 2.2 billion from Nicholas Oman in return for a service which is yet to be looked into but nevertheless apparently represents some kind of personal gain for Mr Oman, is calling to be investigated by the Slovenian police and judiciary. Regardless of its outcome, it seems that Oman does not own any such land and that the whole deal was a scam. 

As if these allegations are not enough, Dr Balažic felt compelled to also take another swipe at the Slovenian community in Australia in his speech. While he still insists that Mr Oman was not invited to the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne and that he never sat together with Mr Oman at the table for more than one minute, despite a number of witnesses who say otherwise, he added new accusations to the list of his complaints about the Slovenian community in Australia.

This is what he said: " After this event some individuals from the Australian-Slovenian community started a pogrom on me. Allegedly I invited (...) Oman to the opening of the Consulate which turned out to be a complete taradiddle. There was no invitation. These individuals have close political and business connections with an informal structure of SDS Party which operates in Australia. They panicked as I was allegedly in possession of  dangerous knowledge - about arms dealings, a clinic, financial transactions, financing SDS from Australia, secret Janša's visits etc. - therefore I had to be attacked and removed."

"By the way: this structure is led by former Honorary Consul General Alfred Brežnik. It is not beneath him to abuse his consular position and publicly attack his own (Slovenian) government. The Government did not respond to this which teaches us a lesson that if you attack your government as a consul, you are praised, but when you follow your government's instructions as an ambassador, you get punished."

"The head diplomatic supervisor at the Foreign Ministry Miha Vrhunec intercepted communications between some of these people and Jožef Jerovšek, an SDS Member of the Assembly. In it, he coordinates the action of attack on the ambassador."

It is sad that an individual of Dr Balažic's abilities and talents, great charisma and stature has to resort to lies and hate talk of this kind. He still does not understand that the community reacted spontaneously to the news that Mr Oman was among invited guests at the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne. Mr Oman was unknown in the community and as such he stood out in a group of forty people who all knew each other well. Once his identity and his past became known, outrage came quite naturally to many. But the situation was easy to resolve: all Dr Balažic had to do was to go on the SBS Radio and apologise. Unfortunately, he was unable to apologise. Instead, he is building conspiracy theories, making unfair and dishonest comments for which he has no evidence whatsoever and slinging mud at people who only until recently liked him and helped him in whatever way they could.

Life of course goes on, but Dr Balažic left behind quite a lot of devastation. People no longer trust the Embassy in Canberra and the new and the existing staff will have to work hard to rebuild the respect and cooperation that existed before.

His legacy also includes appointment of four new Honorary Consuls in Australia. Two have already been confirmed by the Australian Government.  

Mr Derry Maddison in Melbourne is one of them: he  is unavailable for speeches or even attendance on the Statehood Day in Slovenian clubs in Victoria and in his interview with Lenti Lenko on SBS Radio on 23 May 2014 he criticised Dr Balažic and Mr Erjavec in relation to the Oman affair.  But he seems to be particularly unhappy  with the financial side of his position:  "Lenti, I can tell you that this Slovenian Government is so stingy!"  He complains "that my work is absolutely totally unpaid. Every expense that occurs goes from my pocket. Even when, say, a member comes from Canberra, I pick them up at my expense. (...) That's why this position is called 'honorary'. I hope they will change this - not because I am doing it but because in the future there will be consuls in all Australian states and then these very people will do much more work than Canberra and they would really deserve some payment..." Apparently he is unaware that the position of Honorary Consul is unpaid by definition.

Mr Anthony Tomažin is the new Honorary Consul for New South Wales.  Until September he is unavailable while attending to his business interests in Slovenia. His absence was felt at Slovenia Statehood Day celebrations in the two Slovenian clubs in Sydney where Mr Brežnik was invited to give a speech in his place. The community needs a Consul and is used to having one in their midst. Let's hope Mr Tomažin will find more time for the community in his busy schedule in the future.

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