The Slovenia Times

Slovenia recognises independent Palestine

A Palestinian flag flying next to other flags at the Slovenian Parliament Building. Photo: Živa Ogrin/STA

Slovenia has become the 147th member of the United Nations to recognise Palestine as an independent state as the country's parliament endorsed the decision late on 4 June following a day of twists and turns in a vote boycotted by the opposition.

After weeks of heated discussions on the recognition of Palestine, it was initially thought a motion for a consultative referendum tabled by the opposition Democrats (SDS) would have deferred the vote by 30 days in line with previous parliamentary practice.

However, the ruling coalition decided to reinterpret an article of the National Assembly rules of procedure that had hitherto been deemed to mean that legislation targeted by a referendum motion cannot be put to a vote sooner than in 30 days.

They hastily called a Foreign Policy Committee session and an emergency plenary at which the SDS motion was rejected, after which the recognition session resumed and Palestine was recognised within its 1967 borders, or within the borders that would be agreed by the parties in a future peace agreement. 52 out of 53 MPs present in the 90-seat assembly voted in favour, with no one voting against.

Dispute about timing

The government and coalition parties insisted that recognition of Palestine was the right thing to do and sent a message of hope to the Palestinian people while also putting pressure on Israel to end the hostilities and facilitate the peace process.

Recognition is important because it is a precondition for a two-state solution, Prime Minister Robert Golob told MPs. Left MP Matej Tašner Vatovec added that Slovenia shared responsibility for trying to push the peace process forward, while Predrag Baković of the Social Democrats (SD) said that "waiting for the conflict to end would just draw out the conflict in Gaza".

The opposition does not object to the recognition of Palestine as such, but it insisted that the government was motivated more by potential electoral gains in the upcoming EU election than real concern for peace in the Middle East, and that the move could damage Slovenia's national interests given Israel's economic and political importance.

Democrat leader Janez Janša, speaking about the referendum motion before his party walked out, said the opposition was "buying the government time for heads to cool, for some progress to be reached in the attempts of peace efforts and for Slovenia to then join the countries that will make a step at the most appropriate moment".

He said there was a possibility that in the next 30 days a peace plan is made, negotiations between Israel and Palestinians are held and conflict is stopped, in which case even his party would back Palestine's independence.

Accusations about abuse of parliamentary procedure

Substantive arguments were however overshadowed by the procedural disputes, with both sides accusing each other of grave abuse of procedure.

National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič accused the SDS of abusing the referendum instrument and even openly admitting that. "I will not allow such abuses on my watch," she said.

Aleksander Reberšek of the opposition New Slovenia's (NSi) retorted that the coalition was abusing parliamentary procedure, in which his party wanted to play no part. Janša, meanwhile, said the coalition had engaged in violations of the rule of law "unparalleled in Slovenia or any other EU country".

"In the 30-year history of Slovenian parliamentarism we have witnessed various procedural manipulations and machinations, but never before has the president of the legislative branch admitted to that and even announced it in advance," he said.

Back-and-forth process

Slovenia initially wanted to recognise Palestine along with Ireland, Spain and Malta, but the government then spent weeks delaying the decision. Malta later stopped short of recognising Palestinian statehood, while Ireland, Spain and Norway did it.

In Slovenia, there were allegations from the junior coalition partners that the ruling Freedom Movement was dragging its feet and even Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon herself and the country's President Nataša Pirc Musar repeatedly urged the government to speed up the process.

Meanwhile, senior officials at the prime minister's office indicated that diplomats had been working to convince other countries to recognise Palestine, while also sending the message to the Arab states that they should recognise Israel's right to exist.

Welcoming the final vote in parliament on X, President Nataša Pirc Musar said she was "pleased that the Republic of Slovenia has recognised Palestine as an independent state and will thus be in a position to provide even more credible assistance to the Palestinian people on their difficult path towards genuine independence and equality in the international community".

Minister Fajon said she was "sincerely glad and proud" about the historical decision, while Golob said "the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign and independent state sends hope to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza".

Following the decision, Slovenia and Palestine established diplomatic relations on 5 June. Palestine recognised Slovenia in 1992.


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