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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

    SUN, 19 OCT 1997 22:53:47 GMT

    Slovenia and Division or Property of Former Yugoslavia

    RIGHTFULLY OR WRONGFULLY PERSISTENT?

    AIM Ljubljana, 8 October, 1997

    Sir Arthur Watts, international mediator in the negotiations on succession of former SFRY, will begin the second round of talks in the end of October in Slovenia, and after a visit to the other five capitals of republics of former Yugoslavia, his second final report will be published on development of possibilities for resolving the problem which greatly conditions normalization of relations among the former federal republics.

    The story about Yugoslav succession six years after dissolution of the once joint state seems even more complex and not with very high prospects for Slovenia. Due to completely opposite stands of Croatia, Macedonia, B&H and Slovenia, on the one, and FR Yugoslavia on the other side, international mediation has been in a blind alley for quite some time. Negotiations have started under the guidance of chairmen of working groups nominated by the conference on former Yugoslavia, and after this conference had been dissolved, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) nominated English diplomat, Sir Arthur Watts, to be the international mediator. Slovenia blames FRY for the interruption in negotiations, and interprets the hesitation of Belgrade concerning resolution of this issue as satisfaction that it holds most of what should be divided - foreign currency reserves, embassy buildings, archives, and arms. Ljubljana is closely following strong Yugoslav lobbying campaigns, but it is also aware of vulnerability of FRY, which is unable to get any new loans without which the regime in Belgrade will hardly be able to resist increasing social tensions.

    In order to join the international financial community again, FRY must regulate relations with the Paris and the London Club, and apply for membership in world financial organizations again. The main nightmare of the Slovenian government (and some of the others) is that Belgrade might succeed in it, which would then make all negotiations about succession quite senseless. FRY still counts on the possibility of becoming a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the only successor of the SFRY and not just as one among equal successors. The assessment of Ljubljana is that stubbornness of Belgrade is the result of such calculations.

    According to the last balance sheet (dated 30 December, 1990) which is the foundation for resolving the problem of succession, the value of joint property amounts to about 100 billion dollars - out of which 90 billion is army property, and the rest consists of real estate (only embassies are about 350 million dollars worth), infrastructure and other property of former SFRY. Joint foreign currency reserves are evaluated to amount to about six billion dollars, and subject to succession is also 42 tons of "frozen" monetary gold and financial deposits which are about half a billion dollar worth in the bank for international reconciliation (BIS) in Basel.

    Even division of 600 million dollars' worth of gold (in the Besel Bank), one of the rare tangible items on the list of inheritance seems to be questionable. A proposal appeared according to which the war-devastated Bosnia (the London Club has already written off nine tenths of its credit) could get the "frozen" gold from Basel. In this way the international community would again slightly ease its conscience, and at the same time charge a part of the cost for its lukewarm and indecisive intervention in Bosnia calmly to the account of all the states-successors of the SFRY.

    Pursuant the Dayton accords, the Slovenian Government hurried to recognize the FRY primarily because it was convinced that it would make negotiations with Belgrade about the succession easier. But, it was badly mistaken. High representatives of FRY started to meet with their Croatian colleagues while in Slovenia there still prevails the feeling that FRY looks upon it as a rebellious republic which has defected from the joint state, which obviously prevails over the sober economic pragmatism.

    The experienced English aristocrat, Sir Arthur Watts, chose the strategy which does not promise fast solutions, and it is doubtful to what extent his effort has any sense at all. His last Balkan tour was aimed at coordination of about 150 amendments on the General Memorandum, and since there was absolutely no progress towards any results, the international mediator is hoping that he would have better luck in this, autumn tour. It is known that the Slovenian delegation headed by Dr Miran Mejak, demanded in August, almost panic-stricken, from Sir Watts to interrupt preparations for adoption of draft law on privatization in FRY, which would include Slovenian enterprises and their property there. In response to this Slovenian move, Serbian government expert, Dr Danijel Cveticanin, stated for Ljubljana daily Delo that Slovenian property in FRY had the same status as Serbian in Slovenia. But, in the Slovenian ministry of economic relations and development they claim that those who possess property and real estate in Slovenia are still legal subjects from former republics of SFRY and that they will remain to be that until legal property relations among the states are regulated. It is not clear what Slovenian diplomats actually offered Belgrade when they suggested direct bilateral negotiations on several occasions, primarily because the stance of FRY is known that it will agree to cooperation if Slovenia stops with its anti-Yugoslav campaign and renounce its thesis that the SFRY was dissolved. In this way the problem of succession would de facto be resolved, but this is exactly what Slovenia does not wish to do.

    Obviously this is a tough nut for cracking of which exceptionally long time and great patience will be needed. Based on declarations of Slovenian diplomats and writing of the media, it is, however, possible to make out that Ljubljana is in a hurry to solve this Gordian knot, primarily because it is aware that stands of the international community easily change and that it has a short memory of the latest history, which is illustrated by numerous recent statements of high world diplomats that there was a war in Bosnia and not Serb aggression.

    The main axis of the problem is indeed the political question of continuity of SFRY. Until the international community refuses to state firmly whether there are five equal successors or just one - and it is obvious that international mediators and their political godfathers are still awaiting this verdict - negotiations about this issue could remain in the blind alley.

    It should be mentioned in the end that the latest efforts of Slovenian negotiators for the biggest possible share of the inheritance in the dispute with Serbia (primarily at the Cyprus court, which is only indirectly in connection with succession) on the one, and a sudden increase of the probability that Slovenia could become a temporary member of the UN Security Council on the other, illustrate the biggest flaw of Slovenian diplomacy. It is obviously investing all its forces into resolution of problems which are out of its reach - joining NATO and the European Union, as well as temporary membership in the Security Council - and almost completely neglects its basic task - internal preparations of the country in order to make it mature and well-organized and therefrom interesting for the mentioned elite international society, and once it became that, it would certainly be easier for it to resolve the sensitive and complicated problems such as the question of succession of the former joint state. Perhaps the new head of Slovenian diplomacy, Dr Boris Frlec, will find the right combination of foresight and wisdom to turn the steering wheel of Slovenian diplomacy in the mentioned direction.

    Matilda Kojic

    AIM