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    Copyright: All those wishing to use or publish the following text are welcome to do so, provided that they indicate the source and inform the AIM office in Paris which is interested to receive comments and reactions on the information it provides. AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    THU, 28 DEC 2000 00:18:10 GMT

    Slovenia - Yugoslavia

    Diplomatic Relations

    Until now Ljubljana and Belgrade maintained different kinds of relations, although they were never just diplomatic. It seems that as of December 9, this year (and further on) they will be just diplomatic.

    AIM Ljubljana, December 18, 2000

    After almost a decade of mutually bad relations and open ignoring, signatures of Dimitrij Rupel and Goran Svilanovic of December 9, this year, should guarantee a new era in the relations between Slovenia and FR Yugoslavia. On that day, the Yugoslav Foreign Minister together with his colleague Rupel signed in Ljubljana a statement on the establishment of diplomatic relations.

    Most of local commentators did not resist calling this signing "historic". Consequently, reporters of the daily papers concluded that only now, "for the first time in history, relations between Belgrade and Ljubljana are regulated on fully equitable basis". In support of this conclusion they mentioned that all hitherto agreements - signed in the last hundred years - were "burdened either by Serbian military supremacy, world political relations or ideological orientations". The signing of the agreement in Ljubljana, with the consent of official Belgrade to Ljubljana's key demand - for an equitable treatment of all successors of former SFRY - served as a proof to many that Slovenia came out of practically ten years long political dispute as a "moral winner". If we leave aside for a moment the thesis on some kind of Slovenian "moral superiority" in the field of international politics (?!), it should be said that the normalisation of relations between Slovenia and FRY is a step closer towards more solid relations between once close republics. This primarily applies to relations between Slovenia and Serbia, because links between Slovenia and Montenegro have been "normal" for three years now.

    The estrangement in the relations between Slovenia and Serbia dates far back; in the past period their mutual relations were essentially worse than those between Yugoslavia and Croatia, which were actually at a state of war. Reasons for this paradox are many; the public in Slovenia, and later on its local political leadership, were the first in former Yugoslavia to oppose the politics of Slobodan Milosevic. After criticising the way the crisis in the Serbian party (the Eighth Session) was being resolved and the situation in Kosovo, Slovenia became problem number one for the political leadership of Serbia. Moreover, Milosevic's stream thought that by its bad example Slovenia was inciting separatism in Kosovo and encouraging the disintegration of the state.

    Thus, an embargo on the sale of "Slovenian products", "truth rallies" and media persecution were launched against Slovenia. At the same time, nationalism grew stronger in Slovenia, according to which the only solution was the creation of an independent state. In one word - Slovenia too, saw Serbia as an endless bundle of problems - Milosevic's politics was threatening to drag Slovenia into the whirlwind of conflicts, which could have prevented its faster development, and joining modern Europe. The conflict was resolved by a war, independence, secession or "cutting off" (depending on the point of view) of Slovenia from the joint state. The breaking up and the period after it will be remembered as the period of the absence of any honour of the media (and every other)in which both sides wrote hundreds of lascivious comments, which followed two stereotypes. One was on primitive and lying Balkanites, and the other on perfidious, treasonous Janez (as Slovenes are usually called).

    The signing of the statement on the establishment of diplomatic relations should also mean the end of the mentioned political and media practice. By a twist of fate, on the Slovenian side, the new Foreign Minister, Dimitrij Rupel had the honour of initialling the mutual agreement. He was personally the author of several wisecracks at the expense of Serbs (For example: "You cannot talk to the Serbs. They need supervision and upbringing - UNPROFOR."). The latest were the ones with which two months ago during pre-election campaign, he reminded the plebs who and what the Serbs were and that therefore Kostunica should not be trusted.

    From the point of view of new relations, t he burden and one of major problems facing Slovenia (vs. FRY) are precisely the old cadres, hardened by constant conflicts, who after decades of using platitudes find it hard to correct their stands overnight. It is interesting that today in FRY, and even in Croatia, problems regarding succession are entrusted to new men, while Slovenia has left that issue to the tandem Dimitrij Rupel Miran Mejak (Government elected leader of the succession group). And, according to some commentators, Miran Mejak is an equivalent of Kosta Mihajlovic, against whom many objections have been raised by all sides.

    It's another question why diplomatic relations between Slovenia and FRY have not been established earlier. There was ample opportunity for something like that and the reason is most probably the so-called "bedouin" method of negotiating. This diplomatic name hides the practice according to which both sides (like traders on the market place) make too high demands in order to get something in the end. The result of such negotiating is that none of the sides got anything. When, for example, Slovenia supported the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Belgrade diplomats avoided concretisation of the agreement by presenting a new pile of unacceptable conditions to partners from Ljubljana. Or Ljubljana would ignore Belgrade's initiative. It was so until November 20, this year when at its Government's session Yugoslavia adopted a conclusion on the establishment of diplomatic relations after which Dimitrij Rupel sent a word that there would be no signing unless Belgrade agreed to sign a percentage key on the division of the former state's property. Independent commentators assessed such pressure as blackmail and a day later Rupel's demand was already forgotten.

    Yugoslavia and Slovenia signed a statement on the establishment of diplomatic relations and intention to open diplomatic representation offices. For the time being it has been only specified that a consular office will be opened in Podgorica, while discussions on the key for the division of former SFRY's property were concluded with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Svilanovic's statement.

    This was the end of the "negotiating" stage - from the times of the former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic who back in 1992 wanted to regulate these relations by adopting an act on the recognition of Slovenia; the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia did not respond to this for three years, except for a statement of the Slovenian President Milan Kucan on rejecting Panic's recognition. Three years later the roles have changed - just before the signing of the Dayton Accords, the official Ljubljana pulled out Panic's recognition and responded to it - by recognising FRY. In the following five years no reply came from Belgrade. The first official contacts between representatives of FRY and the Republic of Slovenia in 1998 ended without tangible results.

    The Slovenian representative Stefan Cigoj and Deputy Foreign Minister Radisav Bulajic discussed the possibilities for the establishment of diplomatic-consular relations. This short news appeared on the front page of the Ljubljana daily "Delo" day after the return of the Slovenian Undersecretary for South-East Europe, Stefan Cigoj, from Belgrade. That this was not "the only possible success" of the first official meeting of Yugoslav and Slovenian representatives could be deduced from the fact that even before his departure for Belgrade, Stefan Cigoj proposed to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry to organise a large press conference on his return to Ljubljana. Be that as it may, post festum, there was no conference. Because, despite the expectations of the Slovenian representatives that the Belgrade meeting would deal with the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Yugoslav side opened quite another problem - the painful topic of succession.

    There is where the talks ended. After that, back home, instead of boasting of success, the Slovenian diplomats explained to the domestic press in detail what was Slovenian diplomacy doing in Belgrade, in the first place, and on top of it, on its own initiative. "If you want success in diplomacy, if you want to open a market, if you want to help your citizens, you have to launch initiatives. We have done that. However, at this moment we must understand that we are not on top of Belgrade's list of priorities", said State Secretary of the Slovenian Foreign Ministry and once Yugoslav Ambassador to UN, Ignac Golob resignedly to the TV reporters of the Slovenian first TV channel.

    The unfortunate envoy Stefan Cigoj also carefully picked his words when speaking about the talks in Belgrade calling them "fair" and "successful" and promising that they would be continued "soon" in Ljubljana. This was the first time that a Slovenian official so carefully chose his words when speaking about Belgrade. Until then the use of conciliatory vocabulary (which the "patriots understood as giving in to the enemy") meant the sure end of a political or any other career.

    Although with a slight delay, Slovenia was among the first states created on the territory of former Yugoslavia which on November 30, 1995 recognised FRY. Sometime later, Slovenia suspended the ban on the entry of vehicles with FRY registration plates to Slovenia and annulled all measures connected with UN sanctions, while on the basis of a special decision of the Information Ministry, papers from FRY were freely sold in Ljubljana even during the sanctions. And not only that - at occasional Belgrade demands that Slovenia "will have to apologise first" (as former Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Vladislav Jovanovic, poetically said), the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek persistently replied with diplomatic phrases on the need of establishing good relations with FRY, while Slovenia's Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler used the same persistence in sending positive vibrations to Belgrade through the Slovenian Embassy in Belgrade.

    This is all history now. It is hoped that the commitment to maintain "diplomatic" relations is mutual and will last for ever. The end of a political conflict should also put an end to worries of citizens of both states who are vitally linked to both FRY, as well as Slovenia; in the long run this should help improve (and perhaps abolish) the regime of visas, taxes, road-tolls, additional insurance, border investigations on dual citizenship and other administrative problems.

    Without all this, the initialling of the "paper on the establishment of diplomatic relations" will bring no improvement to citizens of two countries.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)