TUE, 05 SEP 1995 20:12:04 GMT
Agreement between Slovenian and Croat Army
AIM, LJUBLJANA, September 2, 1995 Summertime lethargy on the political scene of Slovenia where Slovenes on vacation were disturbed, although just for a short while, by the Croat military action called "Storm" in Krajina, was interrupted by agency news about a meeting of the Slovenian Minister of defence, Jelko Kacin, and his Croat colleague, Gojko Susak, which caused a real turmoil in the public when the two announced that their countries would begin preparations for signing an agreement on military cooperation.
It all happened quite unexpectedly. Minister Kacin left on vacation. He chose the island of Hvar as his destination, that is Croatia, like a large majority of Slovenes. But, during his vacation, he suddenly appeared in Split and met informally with Minister Susak. And while the international public (just like the Slovenian) is disturbed because of the way in which the Croat military action called "Storm" was carried out, since its consequence was one of the greatest migration or more precisely flight of a nation in this space, Jelko Kacin even found it fitting to congratulate Susak on the occasion for "the successful action". The Slovenian public reacted quite sharply. First, it is not in favour of any kind of alliance with Croatia, and second, many newspaper commentaries warned that hasty congratulations concerning the "Storm" were unacceptible, although perhaps understandable, like those of some of the ministers (for instance, Minister of the interior Ster) who jumped the gun, but late reactions of Jelko Kacin were considered to be even worse, and most of all it was assessed as highly questionable to make agreements on military cooperation with Croatia at this moment.
For the time being, Minister Kacin is silent, but some officials from the Ministry of defence commented on the event. State secretary in the Ministry of defence, Boris Zindaric, for instance, who was one of the members of the Slovenian delegation at the Split meeting, said that there was absolutely no cause for alarm. First he stressed that Croat Minister Susak was the one who had given the statement about the agreement of the two armies, and not Minister Kacin. According to him, the main objective of the agreement was exchange of military attaches of the two countries, and by no means an agreement in the sphere of security which would include mutual assistance or cooperation in military operations. The Slovenian state secretary gave an interview to the weekly Mladina on the occasion and explained that the talks in Split referred to a possible future document and that it was still uncertain whether it would be a memorandum or an actual agreement, but most probably it would be the former. Namely, Slovenia has signed similar documents with various states. There are in fact four general agreements on cooperation of ministries of defence Slovenia has signed with Hungary, Czeck Republic, Austria and Macedonia, and there are also three memoranda signed with Albania, Great Britain and the USA. Preparations are being made for signing similar agreements, or memoranda with Germany, Slovakia, Italy and France. All the representatives of the Ministry of Defence who spoke in public on the occasion of the announced agreement with Croatia stressed that it actually meant that a document was being prepared which included no specific obligations in military cooperation of the two neighbouring armies which enabled, for example, an exchange of professors and other forms of cooperation in the field of training of personnel,cooperation of research centres and similar.
Reactions to the "agreement about the Agreement" were nevertheless very loud. The first to react was Zmago Jelincic, President of the Slovenian National Party, who has for quite some time now been in favour of a cautious and much sharper policy towards Croatia. According to him, the agreement with Croatia would mean re-involvement of Slovenia in the conflict-stricken area of the Balkans and reminded him of the ideas implied by some statements of Janez Jansa and Lojze Peterle about a possible confederation of Slovenia and Croatia. Jelincic declared himself resolutely AGAINST it, while the Democratic Party assesssed that signing of any agreement with a state which is still at war was an ill-considered and rash act and warned that any such contract should be ratified by the parliament. Christian Democrats of Lojze Peterle see no threat in such an agreement and do not fear it, but he too is in favour of a regular procedure of adoption by the parliament.
And while party leaders were making statements, the authorities were silent for a while, and then a couple of days ago, it came out that Minister Kacin received a not very pleasant letter from Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek himself. Sources close to the Government tell us that Prime Minister Drnovsek assessed consequences of Kacin's meeting with Croat Minister Susak in Split unfavourably and that he informed the former that before such decisions he should consult in a "broader circles". Namely, these sources say, Drnovsek warned Kacin against the same as Jelincic - that it would not be good for Slovenia to be in any way connected with the crisis and the war on the territory of former Yugoslavia.
After all that, as a final touch, came the news that in the middle of the Slovenian Piran bay a Croat patrol boat stopped two Slovenian fishing boats and tried to escort them to Umag. The boats called for help and the latest model of a fast boat with brand new equiment belonging to the Slovenian police came to their rescue and "convinced" the Croat police to withdraw. This introduced new strain in the already not exactly idyllic relations between the two neighbouring states, so that it seems that Kacin's and Susak's plan was obviously premature.