EC Recognizes Croatia, Slovenia
Europeans follow German lead on breakaway Yugoslav republics, but insist on standards
BONN — WHEN the European Community recognized Slovenia and Croatia yesterday, it meant the official end of Yugoslavia.
What is far from clear, however, is whether recognition will support the peace process in the Balkans or eventually undercut it.
Those countries which were early advocates of recognition for the breakaway republics, such as Germany and Denmark, believe the prospect of recognition was a primary reason the Jan. 3 cease-fire, the 15th so far, is holding - albeit tenuously. Even Britain, which had favored a conservative approach recognized Croatia and Slovenia yesterday.
Certainly there are still risks ahead, a Danish official says, but "the parallel development of recognition, along with the peace conference and United Nations efforts ... will help to prevent the spread of conflict."
Others disagree. Now that Slovenia and Croatia have been recognized, they say, the conflict will spread to Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose leader is trying to hold together the explosive mix of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims who make up his republic.
Speaking just before the European Community (EC) announced its decision, an official at the EC conference on Yugoslavia in Brussels said, "If Croatia is recognized, then the Croats [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] will want to belong to Croatia. The Serbs [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] already want to belong to Serbia. Where does that leave the Muslims?"
Other ethnic tensions also linger. The Serbs are not satisfied with current internal borders, which the EC says may only be changed through negotiation. Branko Kostic, vice president of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav presidency, wrote a letter to the EC arbitration commission warning of "fresh armed clashes" if present borders of Croatia and Bosnia were recognized.
And Croatia's president, Franjo Tudjman, warned Tuesday that if UN peacekeeping forces could not ensure the return of all of Croatia's lost territory, the Croatian people "will save their entire land." Germany leads drive
Germany pushed the issue of EC recognition of the republics to the fore last month, when it threatened to recognize the republics unilaterally if the rest of the EC didn't follow its lead.
A compromise was struck in which the EC laid out a list of criteria for would-be states, which included upholding democratic standards, guaranteeing minority and human rights, and settling border disputes peacefully. A special EC arbitration commission would review applications and the EC would decide on recognition by Jan. 15. EC members agreed that Germany could recognize Slovenia and Croatia earlier, but that it could not take up diplomatic relations with these two republics until yesterday, which it did.
According to Reuters news agency, the commission's report (which did not reach EC officials until late Jan. 14) said only Slovenia and Macedonia fully met the criteria. Croatia comes close, but needs to change its constitution to guarantee human and minority rights. Croatia recently reassured the EC that minority and human rights would be respected, and it shows willingness to follow the recommendations made in the commission report, the Danish official says.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the commission reportedly said, it is not clear whether the majority of the population stands behind the drive for independence. The committee favored recognition for Slovenia and Croatia but adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward Bosnia and Macedonia.
Greece, meanwhile, is holding up recognition of Macedonia, which borders Greece's northern province of the same name. Athens is demanding that the Yugoslav republic change its name, arguing that an independent state bearing the same name as Greek territory implies territorial ambitions over northern Greece. Greece has reportedly appealed to Germany and Italy for support in this matter. Arms shipments
One aspect of recognition receiving little attention is the implication it has for arms shipments to the area. Francois Heisbourg, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, warns that recognition will "make it easier [for the republics] to gain access to the legitimate arms market."
Although Germany forbids the export of arms to areas of tension, Mr. Heisbourg says what Germany will do "is a question" because of its close ties to the Croats. He also mentions Austria as a country which may allow the legal shipment of arms through its territory to Slovenia and Croatia.
Much depends, he says, on how much the republics can pay for arms. Large patriotic Croat communities in Australia and Canada could help finance arms purchases, he says.
An official at the German Foreign Office, however, disputes these possibilities. The UN, he says, has an embargo on arms shipments to the republics. "This is still in force. Recognition doesn't change it."