Days numbered for undiplomatic ambassador to Bulgaria
The dictionary defines the word 'ambassador' as 'an official envoy of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign'. The word is of Germanic origin: 'ambaht' being the Old High German word for 'service'. Well Prague's ambassador to Bulgaria, Mr Ondrej Havlin, seems to have done both the Czech government and their Bulgarian counterparts something of a disservice of late, at least if reports in the media are to believed. Mr Havlin arrived at Prague's imposing Cernin Palace on Friday for a chat with his boss. Rob Cameron reports:
Bulgaria has been scandalised by Mr Havlin's highly undiplomatic choice of words in the last few months. During a recent speech to the Czech Club in Sofia, Ambassador Havlin left Bulgarian officials smarting with comments belittling the country's efforts to join the EU. Mr Havlin was reported as describing the situation in Bulgaria as 'catastrophic' and said the country shouldn't be let in to the Union. The ambassador denies the allegations. But he doesn't deny comments which emerged this week, warning Czech tourists not to travel to Bulgaria because of rampant crime. This seemed to have been the last straw for his boss in Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan.
It's not the first time Mr Havlin's rather unorthodox diplomatic style has raised eyebrows in Sofia. Last year the Bulgarian Interior Ministry accused him of driving over the foot of a Bulgarian border guard: according to reports in the media he raised the barrier himself after getting tired of waiting. Even Mr Havlin's stint in Zagreb as the Czech Ambassador to Croatia wasn't free from controversy: Czech Television claimed he spent some of his time in the post lobbying for a private travel agency.
Czech officials have made it plain this week that Mr Havlin's days in Sofia are numbered. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan was cornered by the Czech News Agency (CTK) on Friday and asked if he'd decided what to do with his man in Sofia. "I decided on Wednesday morning actually. I've informed the prime minister and the president and now the finishing touches are being put to a proposal which will be submitted to the cabinet." And the contents of that proposal, asked CTK? "I think you can work that one out by yourselves," was Mr Kavan's very diplomatic reply.