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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 17 MAR 1995 08:11:16 GMT

    Slovenian Sets Out for the European Union

    YEARS OF THE WINDING ROAD

    AIM, Ljubljana, March 8, 1995

    Slovenia is the first state from the territory of the former Yugoslavia which in Brussels got a mandate for commencing negotiations on entering the European Union. This took place on March 6, after Italy had been preventing such a decision for months, and which had always put a veto on the debate itself, which had been on the agenda of European foreign ministers for a long time before it actually started. That is how the "Slovenian dossier" was on and off the agenda for almost a year.

    The European commissioner for international political relations, Hans van den Broek, undoubtedly played a significant role in Slovenia's rapprochement with Europe. Namely, only a day before the Italian minister of foreign affairs decided that Italy would finally lift the veto on the commencement of negotiations, van den Broek visited Ljubljana. Although never officially said in so many words, it seems that this Dutch politician played some sort of a mediator between EU and Slovenia all the time. He promised Slovenia affiliated membership already in September 1993, when it really seemed that this small, northermost republic of the former Yugoslavia, which proclaimed its independence already on June 25, 1991, would really succeed in doing that. But, the government in neighbouring Italy soon changed, to be taken over by Silvio Berlusconi who, together with the Italian fascists in his Government, prevented Slovenia's further advance on the road to Europe.

    Slovenia's hitherto relations with its western neighbours had been very correct. Both sides recognized the Osimo Accords, signed during the time of Yugoslavia, having agreed that Slovenia, together with all the other former Yugoslav republics was the legitimate successor of the former SFRY. The new, extremely right oriented authorities, partially continuing the tradition of Benito Mussolini, negated the hitherto consensus and requested new negotiations between Italy and Slovenia on all the issues the states had already regulated through the Rome and Osimo Accords. In addition, Berlusconi requested that Slovenia return all the land to the Italians who had after the final delimitation between Italy and Yugoslavia, after the Second World War, moved out from Slovenian Istria, not wishing to live in communism.

    There were other reasons, besides communism, but it was precisely this argument that led to concessions on the part of the then Slovenian foreign minister, Lojze Peterle, who at a bilateral meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of the two states (Antonio Martino on the Italian side) signed in Aquileia a document in which he more or less agreed that Slovenia should give the Italians who once lived in Slovenia, pre-emption rights for the purchase of real estate in Slovenia. Not real estate in places where they once lived, or even the real estate they once owned, but of real estate in general. This signature, affixed by Peterle of his own will, was opposed by the entire Slovenian government and public, and it cost Peterle his ministerial armchair.

    At the time, changes took place not only in the Government of Slovenia, but also of Italy. While the temporary replacement for Peterle was Prime Minister Drnovsek, and the new minister - Zoran Tahler - was appointed on January 26, Berlusconi's government fell in Italy at the end of last year and was in January replaced by the so called "technical" government, and the Farnesina, (Italian Foreign Ministry) was taken over by the moderate and experienced Minister Susana Agnelli. "Granny Agnelli" and "grandson Tahler" were quite different negotiators than the pair Martino - Peterle. More professional and more reasonable, so that Italy made some concessions and Slovenia promised to change the provisions of the Slovenian Constitution prohibiting the purchase of real estate by foreigners. That is in any case an unreasonable article of the Slovenian Constitution, and Slovenia is the only European country to have included something like that in its supreme document. And it was written during the government of Lojze Peterle...

    Thus, Slovenia will in all likelihood embark on its responsible road towards Europe. For the time being there is no need for much haste, because on April 5, 1993 in Luxembourg it signed a very favourable document on cooperation with the European Union, in the area of economic, financial and trade cooperation, giving it many privileges, and with much less obligations than it would have if it were already a member of the European Union. Perhaps this is the very reason that most of the citizens of Slovenia are still quite reserved in respect of joining the European family.

    According to the data of a European public opinion survey "Eurobarometer 5", Slovenia is the only one among 18 Central and East European countries in which public opinion regarding future connections with the European Union has deteriorated. While already in 1993 41% of the pollees believed that Slovenia had a future in close linking with the EU, in November 1994 only 31% thought the same. Only half of those covered by the survey think that linking with the European Union would be mutually beneficial, but it is interesting that the share of those with a positive opinion of the EU rose from 30% in 1993 to 37% now while 42% are neutral in respect of the EU and only 6% of the pollees had a negative opinion of the European Union.

    Such an approach to entering the Union is not bad, because possible excessive euphoria could result in disappointment. Namely, the present mandate has brought Slovenia only to the antechamber of Europe and it still has a long way to the goal. The first stage is to appoint negotiators to represent Slovenia. When the negotiators finish their job, the Agreement between Slovenia and the European Union should be initialled and then translated into all the languages of the Union's members. Then, again, comes the political stage: formal signing of the Agreement, which will require the previous consent of Italy. Its opinion will continue to be important in the future also, because every external policy act in the EU requires the consent of all member states. The present Italian government should probably not pose a major problem, but judging by everything it will not survive for long.

    Those well versed in Italian circumstances announce a rather gloomy variant of the possible victory of the extreme right, which will certainly create new problems for Slovenia.

    This could slow down the process of ratifying the Agreement in all EU Parliaments and in the European Parliament, which according to the regular procedure usually takes two years, but can, with obstacles, take much longer. Only when ratification is completed does the Agreement come into force between the EU and the new state joining it. Slovenia is the first of the former Yugoslav republics that is starting to make its way along this winding road, while all the others are still far from it.

    Janja Klasin