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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

    MON, 13 JUL 1998 18:22:01 GMT

    Embargo because of Kosovo

    For the second time in the last three months, the Yugoslav Customs Authorities have imposed an embargo on the import of Slovenian goods, allegedly, because of the statements of the Slovenian diplomats concerning the Kosovo crisis.

    AIM Ljubljana, June 27, 1998

    Today, alongside with the news about the celebration of the seventh National Day, the Slovenian media have devoted special attention to the re-introduction of embargo and halting of Slovenian trucks (loaded with Slovenian goods) at the Yugoslav border crossings. The same blocking of trailers carrying goods accompanied with Slovenian invoices happened in mid March. A decree was issued discreetly from the top level, at the order of Chief of the Yugoslav Customs Authorities, Mihalj Kertes personally.

    This time also the official Ljubljana did not hesitate to describe the whole entanglement in most dramatic terms. According to alarming reports of Slovenian correspondents, the mentioned measure has caught several dozens of Slovenian truck drivers in open field, i.e. on no-man's-land at the border crossing between Croatia and Serbia and that between Hungary and FRY. Allegedly, they have been left at the mercy of hunger and thirst in this hot weather and, on top of it, were surrounded by, none else but the "Serbian special units".

    Despite repeated interventions of Drnovsek's administration, from the Foreign Ministry level to the local Chamber of Commerce, the official Belgrade ignored all protests of the Slovenian side. Same as in March, concrete reasons of the latest blockade of everything "made in Slovenia" remained a mystery. From this whole mess most of the Slovenian media concluded that this was a re-run of the Serbian pressures and blackmail so in order to force Slovenia "to soften" its stands regarding succession and Kosovo. On the other hand, one Slovenian businessman confirmed that there were rumours about something else - a fear of the Serbian side that individuals from Slovenia, full of sympathies for the Albanian cause, might use their previous experiences with the "smuggling of arms" with the Kosovo Liberating Army, as they did one time for Zagreb and Sarajevo...

    As usual, the truth is somewhere in between. Namely, this year's penal measures from Belgrade have ensued after the statement of Foreign Minister Boris Frlec that at a possible Security Council's debate on Kosovo, Slovenia will vote in favour of economic sanctions against Yugoslavia and support intervention in the province. Similar was the opinion of the Slovenian President Milan Kucan, who in his recent interview to AIM stressed that the soonest possible intervention in Kosovo would be the best solution. Admittedly, recently the Slovenian diplomacy released several statements in which it promised that it would not be too hasty in demanding measures against Belgrade, but will, nevertheless, apply all the measures supported by the European Union.

    The Slovenian opposition also had nothing against such stands of the Drnovsek's Cabinet. Peterle's Christian - Democrats, for example, refused to meet with the Yugoslav Parliamentarian delegation when Ljubisa Ristic paid a visit to Slovenia and Jansa's Social - Democrats did not spare words of loathing in describing Slovenia's foreign policy which was plotting with Belgrade at the time when the Albanians were being killed in Kosovo. On that occasion Janez Jansa said that a meeting with the Yugoslav delegation at that moment would be highly inappropriate as the Security Council, in which Slovenia has its seat, was just discussing the imposition of sanctions and a new embargo against Yugoslavia because of the Kosovo events. At the beginning of the Kosovo crisis, at demonstrations organized in the centre of Ljubljana by the Albanian Society "Migjeni", Jansa openly supported the right of the Albanians to self-determination.

    There is a practical side to the Slovenian interest in the Kosovo situation which boils down to its advisory role in the NATO. A NATO round table dedicated to Kosovo has just been concluded at Bled. Chiefs of General Staff of all NATO member countries as well as the Partnership for Peace (i.e. Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, etc.) took part in this gathering. Joseph W. Ralston, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the US Army also attended the meeting. NATO has prepared several alternatives for its intervention in Kosovo, including a combination of air strikes and operations on the ground. Recently, NATO held a similar round table in Vienna where Slovenia was represented by its Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek.

    The rumours from the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce has it that all this had a decisive influence on the latest Yugoslav decision to temporarily ban the import of Slovenian goods to Yugoslavia. Roman Veras, adviser in the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, reached a similar conclusion when quoting his talk with a colleague from the Yugoslav Chamber of Commerce on national television. Asked: "What is happening there?" his Belgrade colleague laconically answered: "It is happening again".

    Also partly because of traditionally different approach to the resolution of the Kosovo problem, which dates back to the days of "Cankar's Center", relations between FRY and Slovenia have not moved from a stalemate for over a decade now. The history of misunderstandings is long. Naturally, Kosovo is not the only moot point. Succession has also been a stumbling block. At meetings with their Slovenian colleagues representatives of Yugoslavia insisted that the FRY was a successor, while the Slovenian diplomacy advocated the thesis on equal succession rights of all five states created after the disintegration of the former SFRY. After that the Yugoslav side offered Slovenia the signing of an agreement on the normalisation of relations, similar to those Belgrade had initialled with Zagreb and Skoplje.

    The Slovenian delegation refused the offer under the pretext that Belgrade interpreted such agreements as the recognition of the continuity of Yugoslavia. In return, the Yugoslav diplomats rejected several pragmatic Slovenian proposals. For example, the one according to which the two states would establish diplomatic relations on the basis of a simple treaty which would contain only several articles. The first would specify the fact about the establishment of diplomatic relations and the second that all disputes would be settled in accordance with the rules of the international law. The Yugoslav side also rejected the Slovenian proposal on the establishment of consular relations, which would have facilitated the procedures of obtaining visas. It also refused the proposal on the appointment of an authority to be in charge of the interpretation of the signed agreements. That is how the negotiations between Slovenia and Yugoslavia finally hit a snag. Will there be any progress at the next meeting in Belgrade and whether that meeting will be held at all, remains to be seen.

    Not much progress has been achieved either on the economic or political plane. When, for example, in February this year a Slovenian economic delegation paid an official visit to the Yugoslav Chamber of Commerce, after the usual introductory words of welcome, its President Mihajlo Milojevic took the liberty of offending and dressing down his guests behind the closed doors (the session was closed for the press). Among other things, Milojevic also said that the "economists have to be open and fair to each other."

    "In that sense, we have to say openly that our economic cooperation is burdened by many problems. You are well aware of it, but for the sake of openness and fairness I shall mention just some: your authorities and policy stubbornly maintain that Yugoslavia, our state, has been created when you have left it. In all world organizations, from United Nations up to the Succession Commission, your government was most persistent in its negative attitude towards the FRY. Some of your economic-advertising documents are directly insulting for us as you consider the ten-day war with former YPA as one of the most important nation-building events. In that war you have killed several dozens of our unarmed young men. Their families are still waiting for an apology. Not to mention rail cars you used for evicting the non-Slovenian population..."

    Be it as it may, secret diplomacy did not bring the desired results for the time being: the Serbian side resented the Slovenian "meddling" in the Kosovo problem, while the Slovenian opposition claimed that it was the matter of principles, and nothing else. Is that so? As far as the Slovenian President Kucan is concerned, who was the only one to publicly state his opposition to the secession of Kosovo from Yugoslavia, the thesis on "principled stand" could hold water. Until now, Slovenia has consistently supported the integrity of all the states created on the territory of former SFRY, so that Kucan's statement in that respect - although given with much reservation - is principled. It is such also, because Slovenia had accepted the conclusions of the Badinter Commission on the disintegration of SFRY. This arbitration recognized as borders of the newly created states the borders of former Yugoslav republics - in other words, borders of Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo.

    That is why the described "principled stand" sounds comical coming from some other Slovenian politicians. Exactly ten years ago, one of the leading members of the Slovenian opposition (of the right orientation) uttered the following: "One should understanding the problems of other republics in Yugoslavia, as well as the problems of Serbia. These are not only aspirations towards centralism and centralisation. In 1971 the Slovenian and Croatian politicians helped a "purge" among the Serbian leadership which advocated a truly modern and realistic development programme of Serbia, devoid of any unitarian tendencies and offering a solution to the Kosovo problem...One of the most important reasons which prevented the adoption of a logical solution to this problems is, among other things, the Serbian territorial complex caused by unjustly drawn borders of Serbia after the Second World War..." A philosopher who ten years ago, as a member of the alternative movement, gave such self-critical assessment of the policy of his own republic in "Mladina" and wrote about "unjustly drawn borders of Serbia" is the same one who today demands of Slovenia to be the first to recognize the Republic of Kosovo. His name is Janez Jansa.

    Niko Savodnik

    (AIM Ljubljana)