Mayor Stevcik Orders Fence around US Embassy to Be Removed

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A security fence around the US Embassy in Bratislava. The banner was placed there during a protest organised against the fence several years ago, with the slogan reading: "I'll swap a steel Art Nouveau wire for Fernet". (Stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, July 3 (TASR) – The fence around the US Embassy on Hviezdoslav Square in Bratislava will have to be removed, said Bratislava Old Town mayor Radoslav Stevcik, who issued an order to that effect on Tuesday.

The US Embassy has declared that it doesn’t intend to comply, however.

“Today, I signed the decision with which the Old Town borough of Bratislava as the relevant construction authority orders the removal of the fence around the embassy,” stated Stevcik at a press briefing, adding that the US Embassy failed to provide proof of its ownership or any other right to the land on which the fence stands. This right has expired in the meantime, with Bratislava City Council repeatedly turning down proposals for the embassy to rent the city land on which the fence stands since 2016.

There is the option of appealing against the order within 15 days. If this option isn’t used, the decision will become valid, and the US Embassy will have to remove the controversial fence within three months at its own cost. “If the embassy fails to comply, the Construction Office has the power to order its removal via distraint proceedings,” added Stevcik. If the embassy exercises its right to appeal, the case will go before Bratislava District Office.

In its response, the US Embassy to Slovakia stated that it doesn’t plan to remove the fence, citing security agreements signed with the City of Bratislava and the respective borough as well as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Embassy representatives expressed regret that the security of US and Slovak employees as well as the inhabitants of Bratislava and embassy visitors has turned into a political issue.

As for the Vienna Convention, the mayor concedes that the embassy’s security zone is delineated by iron posts and not only the fence. “That is the security zone of the US Embassy, which is in accordance with the construction permit. However, there’s also the Construction Act to consider. If this fence is supposed to be part of the structure, of this security zone, it needs to have a construction permit. And this cannot be obtained, as it has no legal ties to the land,” added Stevcik.

With respect to the possibility of relocating to other premises, the US Embassy declared that it’s attempting to acquire a plot of land abutting the new Slovak National Theatre and that it’s informed the City of Bratislava about this. No agreement has been clinched yet, however. Once the process is concluded, it will lead to the construction of a new building for the US Embassy that should fit in with surrounding buildings.