By Ambassador Matjaž Šinkovec, Head of Mission of Slovenia to the Kingdom of Belgium, Permanent Representative to the EU Political and Security Committee, to the African Union, non-resident ambassador to Luxembourg, Cabo Verde and Ethiopia.
In order to take care of its international ambitions every country would ideally have at least one diplomatic-consular post in every other country of the world. However, not even the largest, wealthiest and most populous countries can afford that. Two phenomena occurred at more or less the same time. The economic and financial crises that hit in 2007/2008 resulted in austerity measures by a great number of countries; they included cuts in and closures of diplomatic and consular representation abroad, in many cases quite radical.
However, the international community realized simultaneously more than ever before how interconnected the world was and that their political and economic ambitions and actions should move from predominantly regional to more global. The dilemma was how to act more globally faced with great cuts in the funds earmarked for foreign representation.
One of the answers was the one already widely used by small countries: the so called cross-accreditation or non-resident coverage where an ambassador in a foreign country is accredited also to other countries. Another one was an increase of accreditation to major regional international organizations, such as e. g. the African Union, ASEAN or CARICOM.
Slovenia’s global outreach used both of these methods when it was affected by the financial crisis at the time when it was embarking ambitiously upon its campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. That resulted in accrediting ambassadors to the African Union from Brussels, ASEAN from Canberra and CARICOM from Washington.
Probably Brussels is one of the most natural places for smaller European Union member states such as Slovenia to exercise cross-accreditation. There is plenty of ground for this orientation. Firstly, Slovenia has the most sizeable diplomatic representation in Brussels of all world capitals, with its diplomatic missions to Belgium, the EU and NATO. Secondly, Brussels is home to embassies of most countries of the world. And last but not least, there is evident interest of various countries from the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific regions to develop closer relations with Slovenia because of its membership in the European Union.
Slovenia has until now no embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa. The power house that fuels Slovenia’s 2 plus % GDP growth are the exports, currently at 23 billion Euro per annum, and our businesses are looking for new, non-traditional markets.To deal more closely with the continent of 1 billion people and important economic growth, the “Continent of the 21st Century,” one of our first steps were non-resident accreditations to the African Union, Cabo Verde and Ethiopia.
While the AU accreditation especially opens a number of doors to venues where African statesmen meet, accreditations to the two above mentioned countries have both developmental and trade grounds. They also represent a good basis for the future decision where to open our first resident embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Matjaž Šinkovec is a senior Slovenian diplomat who has served as Ambassador to the Court of St James’s (1992-1997) and NATO (1995-2006), State Secretary and Political Director during Slovenia’s EU Presidency in 2008, Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Slovenia’s Security Council bid (2008-2011) and was an actor of Slovenia’s Democracy and Independence movement (1988-1992).
Currently serving as ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the African Union, the Republic of Cabo Verde, and Representative to EU’s Political and Security Committee, he presented his credentials as ambassador to Ethiopia on 21 October 2015.