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The Speaker Of The National Assembly Has Lied At Least Twice About Her “Vienna Trip”

At Wednesday’s press conference, where she broke her silence on her flight to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert, the Speaker of the National Assembly was caught in at least two lies. The first was that she went to a state bilateral meeting that lasted four hours. This is, as you will see below, a proven lie. The second lie concerns the very nature of her roaming around Vienna. The Speaker of the National Assembly claims that she went to a “state meeting.” But – who would have thought – a “state meeting” is a precisely defined category which does not include working visits abroad by Speakers of the National Assembly. In the words of Professor and former Minister Žiga Turk: “A state visit is not just any trip by someone who considers him or herself to be a statesman.”

On Wednesday, the news broke that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, had gone to a New Year’s concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, using the Slovenian government aircraft – the Falcon, which raised quite a few eyebrows in her homeland. The Speaker of the National Assembly had just criticised a Slovenian entrepreneur as being too capitalistic (whatever that means) the day before her trip, and then went to Vienna in a private plane, which is a symbol of capitalism. For the more environmentally inspired, it was the “carbon footprint” of the flight to the meeting, which was not so urgent as to justify the flight, that bothered them the most. At Wednesday’s press conference, the Speaker of the National Assembly seemed most bothered by the latter accusations, responding that she could only have left a minimal carbon footprint if she had taken a carriage to Vienna.

But what is more important than her jab aimed at environmentalists are the claims she made at the press conference. These are her exact words: “As is customary in the Republic of Austria, it is part of their protocol, or culture of protocol,l to invite statesmen to an event, so Mr Sobotka invited me to a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which took place in the morning of that day, just after eleven o’clock. The concert finished just after one o’clock, and then there was a bilateral meeting which lasted four hours…”

The statement is downright insulting to the “common sense” of the citizens of Slovenia. Anyone can look at the flight tracker data, which we also published yesterday. They show that the meeting between the President of the Austrian National Council and the Speaker of the Slovenian National Assembly could not have lasted anywhere near four hours, as Klakočar Zupančič claims. Here are the facts: the Falcon arrived in Vienna at 9:41, the concert started at 11:15 and finished at 13:42. Flight tracker data shows that the government Falcon left Vienna for Ljubljana at 16:59. This means that there is not even a theoretical possibility that the meeting between the two statesmen could have lasted four hours.

Not every meeting is also a state meeting

As already mentioned, the Speaker of the National Assembly ambushed herself by saying that this was a state meeting. Klakočar Zupančič said: “It was a state visit, the journey was made in the government aircraft – the Falcon, and everything is in accordance with the regulations.” This is, of course, another lie. The regulation defining state visits is the Decision laying down protocol rules. The first and third paragraphs of Article 2 clearly state that ‘state visits’ are reserved for the President of the Republic or the Prime Minister.

In the most favourable interpretation of events, the Speaker of the National Assembly went on a “working visit” or “working lunch,” as the media announcements say, but Klakočar Zupančič reclassified it as a state visit in a matter of days, in order to better justify the flight on a government plane and, yes, also the carbon footprint, which, according to some media reports, is between 5 and 6 tonnes of CO2.

For all the claims and attempts to prove the statesmanlike nature of the visit (Klakočar Zupančič claims that inter-parliamentary diplomacy is at a historically high level), the nature of the visit was, in all likelihood, much more prosaic. As the journalist Požar wrote, the Vienna trip was supposedly arranged on the level of a discussion: “We are going to go to a nice concert.” Namely, the stateswoman was accompanied by Uršula Zore Tavčar. Yes, the very one that she wanted to replace with the parliamentary gem of the previous convocation of the National Assembly, the List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) MP Robert Pavšič.

Gal Kovač

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