Internationally Recognised Croatian Independence Turns 21!

The Daily Telegraph Mirror - Australia - 17 January 1992

The Daily Telegraph Mirror – Australia – 17 January 1992

Following an overwhelming vote in favour of independence following a referendum on May 19, 1991 (93.24% in favour with a 83.56% turnout), Croatia declared independence on June 25, 1991, an act which did not initially bring much international recognition, as the European Community established the Badinter Arbitration Committee to investigate legal and compliance issues surrounding diplomatic recognition.

Slovenia was the first country to recognise Croatia as an independent nation, followed by a handful of other countries later in 1991 (including Ukraine, the Baltic states and Iceland), but the first major block of countries to recognise the newly independent state happened on January 15, 1992, when the 12 countries which then comprised the European Community (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal), as well as Austria, Canada, Bulgaria, Holy See, Hungary, Poland, Malta, Norway and Switzerland formally recognised an independent Croatia.

Nine more countries followed suit the following day (16 January 1992) – including Australia as the first non-European country to recognise Croatia’s independence – with the United States adding their endorsement three months later, and the United Nations in May 1992.

In summary the path to full international recognition of Croatia’s independence went like this:

Germany advocated quick recognition of Croatia, in order to stop ongoing violence in Serb-inhabited areas; Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, asked on 4 September 1991 in the Bundestag that independence of Croatia be recognised.

Kohl’s position was opposed by France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands; but the countries agreed to pursue a common approach on the matter of Croatian independence.

After Croatian Parliament October 1991 confirmed its declaration of independence (25 June 1991) the European Economic Community (EEC) decided to postpone any decision to recognize Croatia for two months.

The two months EEC deadline for making decisions regarding recognising Croatian independence arrived and the war of Serb-aggression was still on in Croatia; the EEC showed no sings on making any moves or decisions regarding Croatia’s independence.

German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher decided that it was, therefore, Germany’s policy and duty to recognise Croatian independence.

Italy and Denmark supported Germany’s position.

France and the United Kingdom set out to prevent German recognition of Croatian independence asking that no country make any unilateral moves on this as that, according to them, could worsen the situation (war) in “Yugoslavia”.

The EEC Arbitration Commission of the Conference on Yugoslavia, headed by Robert Badinter and set up in late August 1991, published its opinions. These opinions included:  that Yugoslavia was in the process of dissolution, and that the internal boundaries of Yugoslav republics could not be altered unless freely agreed upon.  Factors in the preservation of Croatia’s pre-war borders were the Yugoslav federal constitutional amendments of 1971 and 1974, granting that sovereign rights were exercised by the federal units, and that the federation had only the authority specifically transferred to it by the constitution.

Ultimately, France and the UK backed down during the UN Security Council debate on the matter on 14 December, when Germany appeared determined to defy the UN resolution. On 17 December, the EEC formally agreed to grant Croatia diplomatic recognition on 15 January 1992, on the basis of its request and a positive opinion of the Badinter Arbitration Commission.

In its Opinion No. 5 on the specific matter of Croatian independence, the Commission ruled that Croatia’s independence should not yet be recognized, because the new Croatian Constitution, in their opinion, lacked adequate protections for minorities required by European Community. In response to this decision, the President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman wrote to Robert Badinter, giving assurances that this deficit would be remedied.

Ukraine and Latvia were the first to react by recognizing Croatian independence in the second week of December. The following week, Iceland and Germany recognised it, on 19 December 1991, as the first western European countries to do so.

On 26 December 1991 Yugoslavia (by now comprising only of Serbia and Montenegro) formally declared the separation of the self-proclaimed Serb Republic of Krajina (RSK) within Croatia, which Serbs had by then ethnically cleansed of Croats and non-Serbs almost entirely. Yugoslavia announced its plans for a smaller state that would include RSK territory captured through aggression from Croatia. The UN General Assembly rejected this plan on 9 February 1995.

Franjo Tudjman

Franjo Tudjman

On the evening of 15th January 1992 President Franjo Tudjman, in his televised address to the nation, said: “Today’s day – 15th January 1992 – shall be engraved with gold letters into the entire fourteen centuries of the history of the Croatian people in this area, for us the holy ground between the rivers Mura, Drava and Danube and the Adriatic Sea. After it had proclaimed its independence and sovereignty, and severed its state-legal ties with the former Yugoslav state community, the Republic of Croatia also achieved the international recognition of its independence”.
On this 21st birthday of the internationally recognised Croatian independence I would like to add that, thankfully, many of Franjo Tudjman’s visions for democracy and freedom in Croatia have been realised, but also, some have not and others have been twisted and changed, particularly since his death in late 1999.  It’s time to take an analytical inventory of Tudjman’s visions, which in 1990 saw Croatia as member of the European Union and its laws modeled on the Western civilizations, particularly European and Northern American. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Michael Silovic says:

    za Dom Spemni! nothing more that can make me happy. Love for my mother land supersedes any other. za Dom!

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