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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

    SAT, 10 JAN 1998 16:01:47 GMT

    RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN BELGRADE AND LJUBLJANA

    The committee for international relations of the Assembly of Slovenia supported the initiative of the deputy and leader of SNS Zmago Jelincic for establishment and regulation of relations with FRY

    AIM Ljubljana, 29 December, 1997

    The story about mutual recognition of Yugoslavia and Slovenia has its beginning in August 1992, when the then prime minister of FRY Milan Panic recognized Slovenia by sending a special note. To respond to this move, the Slovenian government waited until 30 November 1995, when the official Ljubljana recognized FRY. The then foreign minister of Slovenia Zoran Thaler was very cautious at the time and said that this was just the first step, and that if there would be mutual interest of the two countries, embassies would be opened and other problems would also be resolved.

    Ever since, there has been no specific progress in the process of normalization to this day, except for informal meetings. Causes of this interruption should be sought in different stands concerning the process of succession. During this year's election campaign for president of the Republic of Serbia, Yugoslav foreign minister Milutinovic (now already the president of the Republic) said among other that FRY was interested in developing relations with Slovenia and that this interest was mutual. Milan Milutinovic also warned that Slovenia wished to have developed economic relations and to regain the former Yugoslav market, noting that official Ljubljana did not restrain from "backbiting" FRY in international organization whenever it had the chance, especially concerning succession. Belgrade obviously is not inclined towards partial solutions and practically demands that priority not be given to economic cooperation without diplomatic and other agreements of interest for both countries. On the other hand, in the final document of the committee for international relations of the Assembly of Slovenia, its members appeal on Drnovsek's government to contribute by active foreign policy to inclusion of FRY into international organizations and institutions after establishment of diplomatic relations. Whether this will help eliminate reservations of Belgrade, remains to be seen.

    Slovenian foreign minister Boris Frlec stressed that there was no logic in it and that it was not in compliance with Slovenian interests for Slovenia to remain the only state among successors of former SFR Yugoslavia which had not normalized relations with FRY. He said that he believed that it was not in the interest of Slovenia to be the state which was the most repulsive towards FRY after the official Belgrade had normalized relations with its neighbours, members of the EU and other significant countries of the world, noting that the USA were partly the only exception. Frlec also emphasized that Slovenia could not agree with the stand according to which FRY was in a special position in respect to state continuity and succession of the former state. Any agreement between the two countries on establishment of relations had to consist of formulations which would make it quite clear that both countries were in every respect equal successors of former SFRY and its continuity.

    A few days before the session of the Slovenian Assembly committee for international relations, a letter of the chairman of the committee for foreign relations of the Assembly of FRY, Ljubisa Ristic, arrived in Ljubljana in which, among other, he called for a meeting of delegations of these two committees as soon as possible and consideration of the Yugoslav initiative for formation of the constitutional assembly of the parliament of south-eastern Europe. Chairman of Slovenian Assembly committee Jelko Kacin expressed his opinion that this would be an opportunity for talks on bilateral relations. Minister Frlec warned that Ristic's initiative pleaded for establishment of an interparliamentary assembly for south-eastern Europe, and Slovenia would have to carefully consider membership in such an assembly. Therefore, the committee supported the initiative of Jelko Kacin and Ljubisa Ristic for a meeting at which bilateral relations would be discussed. As it was possible to learn, Jelko Kacin has already sent the answer to Ljubisa Ristic inviting him to come to talk in Ljubljana, noting that it was difficult to talk about the question of creation of a south-eastern Balkan conglomeration before establishment of bilateral relations.

    The initiator of the discussion about normalization of relations with FRY Zmago Jelincic commented for AIM on the motives which are at this moment pushing Slovenia towards a more active approach. He mentioned that Slovenia had been invited for full membership in the European Union, and that it was at the same time a serious candidate for NATO, as well as that it was elected non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. According to his opinion, Slovenia can profit from a more active role in south-eastern Europe which would be its capital in satisfying its interests in the international community. He reminded that the international community persistently demanded from Slovenia greater involvement in resolution of the crisis in states formed on the territory of former Yugoslavia.

    The economic aspect of cooperation between the two countries was explained in the discussion by the representative of the Chamber of the Economy of Slovenia Roman Veras. He underlined that re-establishment of economic relations with FRY was not so much the question of the present as that of the future. More than one thousand Slovenian enterprises are already dealing on the market of FRY, and some of them have mixed emterprises over there. Due to the lack of diplomatic relations the state has much less benefit from this trade than it is entitled to. He said that he knew that cash money was carried in suitcases and that transfer went via foreign banks which just made the commodities more expensive and left Slovenian banks without a profit.

    It should be mentioned at this point that in 1989 trade between former republics of Serbia and Montenegro on one and Slovenia on the other side reached the amount of 5.9 billion dollars, and that nowadays it amounts to hardly 130 million dollars. According to the data of the Slovenian Chamber of the Economy, just in 1997 trade increased by 50 per cent. In the end of January 1998, presidents of the chambers of the economy of FRY and Slovenia are expected to meet in Belgrade.

    One thing is certain. After the talks between Kacin and Ristic in Ljubljana, things will be much clearer. More precisely, it will be known whether warm winds which have started to blow from both sides will move the accumulated ice between Belgrade and Ljubljana.

    Dragoslav Kosaric

    AIM