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December 11, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 219
Interview: Zoran Thaler, Slovenian Foreign Minister

Recognition Before Ceremony

by Svetlana Vasovic-Mekina

The interview with Slovenia's foreign minister was scheduled for 3.00 p.m. on Thursday, November 30. When I arrived, there was a crowd in the cabinet and around it. The phones kept ringing. In their answers, the minister and secretaries nervously used the word "Belgrade" over and over. - Slovenia had just decided to recognize F.R.Y.

VREME: How come Slovenia so suddenly decided to recognize Yugoslavia?

It is true that the Government today, on November 30, adopted the decision to recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and proposed that both states open diplomatic and consular offices in Ljubljana and Belgrade... Nothing that happens in the government happens just like that or for no reason; in the past days and weeks the situation has been carefully assessed, particularly since the moment the U.N. Security Council resolution was prepared and adopted. According to the government, the resolution changed the circumstances due to which Slovenia had not recognized F.R.Y. before and due to which diplomatic relations did not exist. When I say changed circumstances, I mean the signing of the peace agreement and the beginning of a peace process which is now rising.

Another reason which lead to the recognition was the suspension of sanctions on F.R.Y. This significantly affected our stand. Besides, we were urged also by the hinted mutual recognition of the states involved in the war. Technically, this was the reply of Slovenia's government to a note which F.R.Y. sent Slovenia on August 21, 1992, in which we were informed that the F.R.Y. government had recognized Slovenia and proposed diplomatic relations. I would like to point out that the F.R.Y. government, apart from Slovenia, recognized none of the newly formed states in the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ). This enables Slovenia to cooperate in the forthcoming Paris conference without any pressures.

Will Slovenia take part in the Paris conference when the Dayton agreement is to be officially signed? Why didn't you wait until then to make public the recognition of F.R.Y.?

If we are invited, we shall probably take part in the conference. The idea was to first sign the peace agreement and then discuss its implementation, but the order has obviously been reversed. Slovenia will take part in the London conference as a European state, like Hungary or Austria, as a state which is interested in the developments to the south-east of its borders, a state which is interested in the stabilization of the situation, in the recovery and successful conclusion of the peace process... As for the Paris conference, the content of which is less known, we still have time to decide what to do; if we go there, we shall go like all the other invited countries which are not part of the conflict. This is why today's recognition of F.R.Y. is a logical step which indicates that Slovenia will not attend the group mutual recognition of all, especially since we know that the recognition which will occur there will be a result of the peace agreement between the warring factions.

Does this mean that Slovenia will no longer require visas and that all other obstacles which the two states have introduced against each other will soon be removed?

I think that in our case, things will go slowly... It was important to make the first step, the recognition and diplomatic relations, and possible opening of embassies will facilitate communication which has been very difficult lately. This will further increase the possibilities for the two states to start talking and negotiating the problems both of them are interested in. I do not believe things will happen overnight.

President Tudjman has said that Croatia recognizes the continuity of F.R.Y. with the former SFRJ. What is Slovenia's attitude toward the continuity of F.R.Y. with the former Yugoslavia and does it (like Croatia) consider F.R.Y. the successor of SFRJ in international organizations?

The attitude of Badinter committee and U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions are the international community's relevant documents on that issue - SFRJ disintegrated, there was no secession and all five republics are equal successors in the political and material sense. Or, as a foreign diplomat put it, Serbia was the first to secede with its anti-constitutional actions and after that, everything fell apart.

What has the suspension of sanctions brought to Slovenia - on the one hand it is good (opening of trade) and on the other bad (hunt of foreign currency reserves)?

The suspension of sanctions, apart from the economic consequences, is a political signal by the international community. According to the majority, or according to the most influential states whose representatives were members of the contact-group, the reasons why the sanctions were imposed have temporarily ceased to exist. However, when it comes to the issues of the property of the former federation, the fact is that the lifting of sanctions indirectly affects the interests of other successor states. It would be in the interest of the stability in the region to accelerate the talks on succession.

Do you believe that the government's latest decision will affect the emotional reaction in the media to the mention of Belgrade which has in the past few years been the symbol of all that is wrong and related to the former state and current events in the Balkans? Belgrade should now represent something affirmative, shouldn't it?

Your question is a rhetoric one and I could answer it with a counter-question: And what is the situation in Belgrade, where Slovenia and the Slovenes have been offended a lot more? There have been many things on both sides, which made the stereotypes so firm. I do not expect the public opinion to change overnight. The attitudes here are no longer unified, although most people who live in Slovenia are convinced that the causes of many bad things that have been done in the region in the past few years should be sought in Belgrade, i.e. in the Serbian policy. We are eagerly following the discussion on those issues in Serbia, the discussion which is gradually opening up and whose outcome will be interesting for us.

Shall we go to Belgrade soon and can you imagine sitting at the same table with Milosevic?

Things must go gradually. Since I have become minister, and even before that, I have been asked many times when the relations with Yugoslavia, that is with Belgrade, would be back to normal. I wondered about it myself, too. I used to say that it is difficult to predict; perhaps in a year, in five or fifty years, but that it would happen once. It is difficult to answer your question now. I am sure we are closer to it now than we were, but I don't know whether the same ministers and presidents will be in office when it happens.

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