Vienna exceeded my expectations and then some!
Statement by Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of Slovenia, at the join Slovenian-Swiss farewell reception, Vienna, 19 July 2019
Dear colleagues, dear guests,
Let me welcome you all to this joint farewell reception. For me this is a special location, since it was the first place where I stayed in Vienna when I visited it almost twenty years ago with the late Prime Minister of Slovenia. In other words, I have nice memories of Hotel Imperial. I then returned to Vienna in 2004 and joined our Mission to the OSCE just before the start of our OSCE Chairmanship. It was also because of this that I decided to return to this special city when it became possible four years ago.
This time around, however, I experienced Vienna in a completely new way. Even though I thought I would be dealing mostly with the OSCE Permanent Council, I could not have been more wrong. In the diplomatic version of planetary alignments I was faced with a succession of totally different engagements. First among them was the Chairmanship of the General Working Group of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which happens every 40 years. This was followed by the Chairmanship of the Open Skies Consultative Commission, which takes place every 15 years, followed by the Chairmanship of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, which occurs every 20 years.
All the while I was also attending to my duties as the Governor from Slovenia on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which represented only third such involvement for my country with this decision-making body of the IAEA. Last year, as Vice-Chair of the Board, I also stepped in as the acting Chair for its March meeting and then spent half a year working as Co-Facilitator for the IAEA Due Account Mechanism. In that sense you could say that Vienna exceeded my expectations and then some!
I have therefore tried not only to cope with these challenges, but also attempted to make the best of them, by promoting synergies among the Vienna-based organizations. I am especially pleased that last year, as the Chairperson of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, I managed to organize an event on nuclear security in the OSCE area with the active participation of the IAEA Deputy Director General. I also chaired an OSCE event that featured the Head of the Wassenaar Secretariat as a guest speaker. On the other hand, when I wore a different hat, I welcomed the Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center to a meeting of the Wassenaar's General Working Group.
Let me also say that one of the things I am especially proud of is that I was actively involved in ensuring cooperation and exchange of good practices among the different Vienna-based organizations when it comes to promoting women's rights. I am therefore glad that more than fifty heads of missions and all the heads of organizations in Vienna are now members of the International Gender Champions, which was brought to this city in 2017 through the joint efforts of the missions of the United States, Costa Rica and Slovenia. By the way, I used the experience gained with this initiative over on the OSCE side in the context of the OSCE MenEngage Network, which I chaired from 2016 until yesterday.
I have also tried to find synergies with other diplomats and delegations. I therefore have to say that this joint reception is no accident. This is not only due to the fact that both Slovenia and Switzerland are Alpine countries and that we regularly meet, together with our colleagues from Austria and Liechtenstein, in the so-called Quadrilaterale format. It is also the result of the excellent relations that have developed between Claude and me and members of our two Missions. We were together in the Troika of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation. We also see eye to eye on many issues and believe in multilateral diplomacy. But, most importantly, we have become good friends.
Last, but not least, let me mention the members of my staff. The only thing I can say is: I would not have been able to do it without you. We worked like a closely knit team and that has made all the difference. So, thank you – najlepša hvala vsem! Let me therefore conclude in the Slovenian fashion by recalling the mountaineering wisdom that not only does the best view come after the hardest climb but also, as Edmund Hillary so famously pointed out, it's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.