The very quick rise of Miroslav Lajčák on a scale of candidates for the new Secretary General of the UN was surprising just for those who were non-attentive. In fact, it was not sudden or accidental, but very carefully planned. Of course, not as a candidature for this prestigious political position, but as a possibility of success of relatively small European diplomacy in the competition for the most influential European and world places of decision-making.
I begin my memory of Lajčák with a time of almost fifteen years ago. Information and analysis of the then crucial events were on the top of the agenda of the most confident meetings in both Brussels and Moscow and Washington.
The president of Serbia, who refused to accept that he had lost the elections, was barricaded in his residence, along with his family. After an assessment of strength between two well-armed units, one of which protected him, and the other asked for his arrest, he was taken to the state prison. Of course, it could have also been quite different. To again take power through coup d’etat.
In those years, immediately after 2000 and the end of the bloody wars in the Balkans, knowledge of the region, the manner of assessing of the political changes, as well as knowledge of what was going to follow in the coming days and months was one of the most desirable political and financial information.
In the first days of May 2001, the then Canadian ambassador in Belgrade called, as she stated, a highly confidential meeting at her premises. Primarily because her office was, apparently, protected from bugging and reliable in one way or another from the security point of view. A few of us ambassadors were invited. The subject of conversation was only one, and that was whether the new Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić would have enough strength to hand over Milošević to the International Tribunal for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, despite disagreements and differences of the then President, Dr Vojislav Koštunica.
And exactly there, at that conversation, lies the beginning of my present assessment on who can become the new Secretary-General of the world organization, the winner of the presentations and evaluations which we are now witnessing. Specifically, certain things, even in foreign policy, have their own principles and they start, although not planned, with a trip when the destination has not yet been precisely determined.
At the aforementioned conversation in the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade, the Slovakian Ambassador Miroslav Mojžita, who had just finished his mandate, had the most of the answers to the question of what would happen. He had direct contacts with all the participants in old Milošević’s and new democratic politics. He literally overwhelmed us with excellent information and assessments. Somewhere at the end of the conversation, and I don’t think I will ever forget the thrill of the host while looking at him, he said he was leaving and that a new ambassador was appointed instead of him, he turned towards me, he is about your age, Miroslav Lajčák. And that was all.
However, it was also immediately clear that Mojžita’s successor was not appointed by accident. To be more specific, Lajčák was an advisor of also a Slovak politician, Eduard Kukan, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Balkans.
His appointment was part of the plan of foreign policy of the country that wanted to keep the positions set by Mojžita.
I met Miroslav Lajčák personally soon afterwards. He was groomed with great care, with glasses too serious for his age, with carefully assorted means for writing “Montblanc” and completely resolute performance.
He knew a lot about the country firstly called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later Serbia and Montenegro, and even later Serbia.
He was a good ambassador, one of the most important ones during those years when it felt, in Serbia, that if you touched the ground, you would feel the Earth turning.
Precisely, at the time of Zoran Đinđić’s government, it was easier to meet the world’s most influential politicians in Belgrade than in Brussels or Washington, and for a simple reason – everyone was coming to the region and asked for estimates of what may follow after the end of wars. Lajčák was invited to most of the meetings, also due to good relations with the US Ambassador Bill Montgomery. We started to cooperate more closely at that time. I was surprised, again and again, not with his good knowledge of certain topics that we discussed, but with his assessment that he would stay in the countries of the region after the end of his term, because that was his government’s policy. That Slovakia is too small to start getting familiar with individual countries again every four years. That Mojžita remained as ambassador in the region because of that, and that their foreign ministry supports their key diplomats, in a planned and long-term way, in the nomination for the specific European positions.
At the end of 2005, that is, at the time of a sort of interregnum before the independence of Montenegro and political preparation for the referendum on independence, he was called for a dialogue by a charismatic and above all influential Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. He proposed Lajčák to accept the position of Brussels special envoy for Montenegro. That was not only Lajčák’s success, but also a success of planned policy of Slovakia, which knew what it wanted. We maintained contacts and had regular meetings in Podgorica, Dubrovnik or Neum with the new envoy who has moved to Podgorica. Last time right after the solemn act, when President Milo Đukanović declared a new independent state. Lajčák already knew then that he would most likely move to a neighbouring country, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And again, that was not a coincidence. He was appointed, and it was a great success for a relatively young country, the UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of course, it was not a simple and easy task in such a complicated and non-operational country. I often visited him. Therefore, I know that it was not really easy for him, and I know how delighted he was when I picked a good place where we could eat well during evenings.
Just two years later, he was elected the Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs and in December 2010 sent to Brussels as the Managing Director of the Department for Russia, Eastern Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans in the European Foreign Ministry.
Shortly after the new 2012, he helped me to organize the necessary meetings for owners of large agro-industry in the European institutions. After completing all the meetings, we walked through the Belgian capital, discussing daily issues and deciding at which place we were going to have a glass of wine. He surprised me again, with the news that he was called by the expected winner of the Slovakian parliamentary elections, Robert Fico, and offered the position of deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.
When we had a conversation in his government’s cabinet a little more than a year ago, he told me that he would run for the post of UN Secretary General. The prime minister provided him all the necessary government support, because their assessment was that a candidate from Central Europe, the so-called Eastern European region, could be elected for the key position of the world organization on these elections.
Today, it looks like it could come true. That a candidate who knows the region could be elected now when, due to the new interstate disputes and accusations, the Balkan returns as the hot point of political agendas.
Therefore, the sudden rise of Miroslav Lajčák on a scale of election candidates is not surprising. Only planned. Lajčák has all chances to become the new Secretary General of the world’s most influential organization.