GOING against the strong current of the European Community, the United Nations, and the United States, the Germans have asserted themselves on the controversial issue of recognition for the breakaway Yugoslav republics - and won.From what was a fairly isolated position just days ago, Germany has convinced its partners in the EC to recognize individual Yugoslav republics as states by Jan. 15. It was able to do this by once again teaming up with its usual EC partner, France. The final agreement "would not have been possible without the entente between Germany and France," said a senior government official in Bonn Dec. 17. Germany had repeatedly said that it planned to recognize Slovenia and Croatia by Christmas, though a majority of EC states were against this. Such a move would have been a blow to the newly proclaimed European unity laid out at the EC summit in Maastricht Dec. 10. But when push came to shove, the Community chose to to present a unified voice, rather than let the Germans and a few other countries pursue their own course. In the early morning hours Dec. 17, the EC foreign ministers in Brussels approved a list of conditions, based on a French-German proposal, which hopeful republics must commit themselves to if they want to receive EC recognition. The criteria, which can be used as a guideline for other republics in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, include commitment to democratic rule, guarantee of human and minority rights, and peaceful settlement of border and regional disputes. According to the foreign ministers' agreement, any Yugoslav republic which applies for EC recognition by Dec. 23, and says it intends to fulfill these criteria as well as support the peace process being forwarded by the UN and the EC - and whose statements are then judged by a special EC committee to be credible - will be recognized by Jan. 15. Several other countries are likely to join the EC in recognizing the republics, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said Dec. 17. The German Cabinet will decide Dec. 19 to recognize those republics that have applied by the Dec. 23 deadline, Mr. Genscher said, though it will implement the decision along with the rest of the EC in January. The issue of recognition has been highly divisive since Slovenia and Croatia declared independence last June and civil war broke out. The majority of EC members, including France and Great Britain, were against early recognition because they have separatist ethnic populations of their own and because they feared such a move would only encourage the fighting. The Germans have tried several times since the summer to push the EC to recognize the breakaway republics, but did not go all out until last week, when a two-month extension of the EC-Yugoslavia peace process ran out. After announcing its intention to grant recognition, it received a storm of criticism, especially from the UN secretary-general, who said the move would fan the flames of the war. The Slovenian and Croatian position has overwhelming support in Germany. "The Germans are under enormous domestic pressure" to recognize these states, says a European diplomat in Bonn. He also cited Genscher's "desperate need to find an issue on which to be assertive." Since reunification, he said, German foreign policy has had nothing but setbacks. Since they declared their independence last June, Chancellor Helmut Kohl has often cited the breakaway republics' right to self-determination, stating that without this right, the Germans themselves would never have achieved reunification. Germany's relations with this area go back at least to the beginning of this century, and its cultural influence reaches back even further. During World War II, Croatia allied itself with Nazi Germany, though the Balkan alliances at that time seem to have been forgotten by many Germans. But the Serbs haven't forgotten. In posters and slogans, they have portrayed Genscher and Chancellor Kohl as equal with Hitler. German politicians, as well as the media, lay the blame for the civil war and its persistence completely at the feet of Serbia and the Yugoslav federal Army. This is why Bonn believes the only chance of stopping the fighting is to pressure Serbia with political isolation (achieved by recognition of the breakaway republics) and economic sanctions, says a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Bonn recently suspended its transportation treaties with Serbia and Montenegro and has been pressing the UN for an oil embargo, but has seen no response.