Photo: Slavica Miletic
Photo: Slavica Miletic

“Minister Selakovic recalls the Serbian ambassador to Poland” – this was the news in more or less all our media the day before yesterday.

“Serbian government recalls the ambassador to Poland” – this was the news in more or less all our media yesterday. 

“The President of Serbia has decided to recall the Serbian ambassador to Poland” – this wasn’t the news today; it is probably going to be some time before we hear it.

If this third piece of news happens, it will be the only one that’s true. Namely, article 15 of the Law on foreign affairs, which defines appointments and recalls of the heads of permanent diplomatic missions, clearly states: Based on the minister’s initiative, the Government sets the proposal to recall, and the final decision on whether or not to recall is made by the President.

So, despite bombastic, scandal-making news, the twice recalled ambassador isn’t actually recalled yet. The minister of foreign affairs can’t recall him, he can only initiate the recall process. The government can’t recall him either, it can only suggest it to the president.

And the president is known for putting his colleagues in their places, often in a demeaning manner. It would be really interesting (it’s hard to imagine without laughing) if he did it this time, while, at the same time, giving the event a literally tragicomic note, but that is unlikely. So, the ambassador will probably be recalled for a third, and final, time.

But even after the triple recall is complete, the real reason will remain unclear. The immediate reason that has been given is that the ambassador signed a letter of support to the LGBT+ community in Poland, without first informing the minister or the ministry. This could be considered a professional omission, but certainly not one that warrants such a fierce and spectacular reaction. Especially not if we know that he has signed this otherwise quite benign letter together with 40 ambassadors of other countries, as well as that the ministry knew that he has signed identical letters for the past several years.

The attempt of the pro-regime media to explain the rigidity of the government and the minister by blaming the ambassador for what they call a diplomatic scandal is particularly absurd.

What is this scandal that the ambassador allegedly caused?

Ambassador Zurovac signed the letter shortly before minister Selakovic’s planned visit to Poland, which caused a negative reaction of the Polish government, which is allegedly why the visit of the head of Serbian diplomacy was cancelled.

The public was not informed whether the visit was canceled by the Polish authorities or by minister Selakovic himself. The former option, given the circumstances, would be an expression of inappropriate, even offensive attitude of Poland towards our country, and the latter, an arbitrary, questionable act by the minister. The matter was not made any clearer by the subsequent statement of the minister that “the visit was not canceled, but only postponed” and that (already!) “our colleagues have proposed new dates for it”.

For all these reasons, it is impossible to remove the suspicion that the revocation actually has nothing to do with signing the infamous letter, that it was just an excuse the ministry was waiting for. And the real reason is the fact that the ambassador is a career diplomat, a professional who acts in the best interest of the state and whose blind loyalty the ruling party cannot count on, which is why he should be removed.

But even without this suspicion, the matter is scandalous.

The current Polish government is extremely conservative. It displays this openly, often, and consistently, which causes a lot of criticism within the EU. The criticism is not focused solely on the attitude of the ultraconservative government based on traditional catholic values towards the LGBT+ community, but also towards the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, and women’s rights. However, its attitude towards the LGBT+ community is the most rigid.

In contrast, the government of Serbia does not miss any opportunity to boast about its modern democratic understandings of human rights and its declared determination to eliminate all social prejudices on any grounds, including, of course, sexual orientation. Among other things, the government’s particularly correct attitude towards the LGBT+ community is often emphasized, above all the fact that a member of this community is currently serving as prime minister.

In such a state of affairs, in these specific circumstances and having in mind the attitude of the government towards the reputation and diplomatic credibility of the country, the recall of our ambassador to Poland (ironically on the very day the Serbian parliament adopted the Law on gender equality) can’t be understood in any way but as an act of transparent, scandalous hypocrisy.

The author is a lawyer and a former Commissioner for information of public importance and protection of personal data.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 28.05.2021.