The Slovenia Times

20 Years of International Recognition


The move by the European Community, the precursor to today's European Union, was followed by many other countries, first those in Europe and then by countries in the rest of the world. Slovenia was fully recognised as a member of the international community on 22 May 1992 when it became the 176th member of the United Nations.

Some countries had recognised Slovenia's independence earlier. Neighbouring Croatia, which declared independence on the same day as Slovenia, did so on 26 June 1991. Following suit in the second half of that year were the new countries emerging on the territory of the former Soviet Union, including the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Shortly before being recognised by the European Community, Slovenia was recognised by the Vatican and San Marino, on 13 and 14 January 1992, respectively. The first overseas countries to follow suit were Canada and Australia, on 15 and 16 January. Russia recognised Slovenia on 14 February, but only on 7 April 1992 was that step taken by the United States, which initially had serious reservations about Slovenia's independence.

At the time the international community was not in the least inclined to agree to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, but Slovenia was working hard to obtain recognition, which is the only way for a country to be fully involved in international relations, Petra Roter from the department of international relations at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences says.

"The political weight of recognition by individual countries or groups of countries differs. Every newly founded state will try to win recognition from the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the neighbouring countries, the countries with major economic flows and countries that are politically powerful.

"These can encourage other countries to follow suit, while at the same time they play a key role in the implementation of individual foreign policy goals of the new state, such as the establishment of diplomatic relations and accession to international governmental organisations," Roter has told the STA.

It was from the aspect of Slovenia's foreign policy goals that the recognition by the then European Community was so exceptionally important. It paved the way, also symbolically, for the recognition by other countries, while the move was also important for the European Community in that it demonstrated its unity.

An additional communicative value of that recognition was that Slovenia is a responsible member of the international community. The European Community adopted in December 1991 criteria for the recognition of states which included respect for human rights, the rule of law, and respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, so the recognition was an indirect acknowledgement of the fulfilment of these criteria.

Historian Bozo Repe highlighted the Brijuni declaration ending hostilities between Slovenia and the former Yugoslav army as an important stage in the recognition of Slovenia. "It was with the adoption of the Brijuni declaration in the Slovenian Assembly on 10 July 1991 that Slovenia first acted as an international subject.

"In the end [the declaration] was adopted with an overwhelming majority, but many of the then politicians did not realise its importance as an international act. The rejection would have meant that the European Community and the US left Slovenia at the mercy of war in the disintegrating Yugoslavia".

The moratorium on Slovenia's implementation of independence acts that was set down in the declaration ended on 8 October 1991, and the last of the Yugoslav army left the country on 26 October 1991.

These developments coincided with the Hague conference on the future of Yugoslavia in September 1991 as the last ditch attempt to keep Yugoslavia together. However, by then war had been raging in Croatia and there had been troubles Bosnia-Herzegovina, while the negotiations were being blocked by the then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

It had become clear by November 1991 that something would have to be done about the recognition of the republics that wanted to be recognised. To deal with the complicated situation, the then European Commission appointed an arbitration commission headed by Robert Badinter, but at the same time a fierce diplomatic battle had been fought for the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia.

Noting that Germany was at the forefront of that diplomatic efforts, Repe remembers how during the key talks on the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union, the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had managed to persuade the then French President Francois Miterrand to consent to the recognition. Germany's pressure had put their alliance at risk.

It has not been fully cleared to this day what was offered in the negotiations then (and later also with the UK, the Netherlands and other countries). But Repe says that the others had strongly begrudged Germany for the pressure.

The historian also believes that without the European Commission's recognition, Slovenia's agony to obtain international recognition would have dragged on for a long time yet, and that its fate would not have been much unlike that of Kosovo.


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