Sociologist dr. Dimitrij Rupel was the first foreign minister of the democratic Republic of Slovenia. (Photo: Matic Štojs Lomovšek)

By: Dimitrij Rupel

Slovenia’s diplomatic efforts are linked to the right of nations to self-determination. Self-determination was carefully and quietly discussed already during the so-called liberal 1960s. 

When Stane Kavčič was deposed, this talk was interrupted; however, a good impression was made in 1974 by the new constitution, which contained self-determination. Nevertheless, its authors explained that it had already been implemented and overused. Former Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Edvard Kardelj (1948-1953) then continued creating a good impression in 1977. A somewhat lengthy and wordy book (Directions for the Development of the Political System of Socialist Self-Government) talks about happiness and pluralism, which testifies to the fact that the Yugoslav Communists (hoping to retain power anyway) sought to patch up the front of the system. Kardelj died in 1979 and Tito in 1980. The Slovenian story began in the hustle and bustle of the crisis of socialism, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. 

From reflection to realisation 

In the 1980s, we thought about autonomy and independence in the circle of the Nova revija journal, among friends, mostly writers, sociologists, and philosophers. We imagined a Slovenia that would be similar to other western countries which we admired and envied. We would first separate from the Balkans and Yugoslavia, and then join the European Community. An important step in that direction was the establishment of new parties in 1989, after which we began to prepare for the elections. In January 1990, I published an article in Delo entitled “To Europe via Belgrade or Ljubljana?”, in which I envisioned a direct integration of the independent state of Slovenia into the EC. Such a plan was ridiculed (in many places in Slovenia), and in Belgrade and in the western capitals they were even appalled. 

On 5 June 1991, the parliament passed a law on foreign affairs, and my ministry had to take care of the Slovenian takeover of customs, among other things. The visit of US Secretary of State, James Baker to Belgrade on 22 June contributed to Slovenia’s horror. According to some sources, he gave a green light to Marković to send the Yugoslav People’s Army over to Slovenia. 

Diplomacy in time of war 

The author of the
article, Dimitrij
Rupel, during the
war for Slovenia. (Photo: personal archive of the author)

On the early morning of the first day of the war (27 June) – after being unable to call either the Austrian or the Italian consul by telephone – I drove first to the entrance of the Austrian and then the Italian consulate. There was no response to the repeated and long pressing of the bell, so I returned to the ministry. I called the Austrian Foreign Minister, Alois Mock and Italian Foreign Minister, Gianni de Michelis, whom I knew well. They were more vigilant than their consuls and I was able to introduce them to the situation in Slovenia. Of course, they knew what was going on, and they promised to help. I first argued with the Belgrade German ambassador, then I called Hans Dietrich Genscher, who was not only the foreign minister of a united Germany, but also the chairman of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Until the end of June, the European Community (which was not yet a union) was represented by Jacques Poos, Hans van den Broek, and Gianni de Michelis; after the first of July, van den Broek became chairman. The trio that was joined by the Portuguese Pinheiro and was left by de Michelis, invited the Slovenian representatives to Zagreb twice, which was logical considering the Serbian occupation of Brnik. The first time we went on a breakneck ride on the side roads next to the Sava river with President Kučan, and the second time we were joined by Jelko Kacin. In contrast to Ljubljana, where we had blackouts, police and military controls and the main streets surrounded by Spanish rider obstacles, Zagreb was playful for summer, lights everywhere, happy people in cafes, in short, order and peace. On both occasions, the trio, who first visited Belgrade, were late, and the second time they only arrived in the early morning hours. That was the first and last time that I slept in the guest room in Banski dvori, and at night I was awakened every hour by the changing of the guards with the blows of rifle hooves against the pressure. Europeans had demanded from us that we repeal the Declaration of Independence. On 2 July, President Kučan and I met in Klagenfurt or Villach with Genscher, who we initially wanted to get on the train and bring to Ljubljana, however, the Germans judged that the security risk was too great. At the end of the meeting, Genscher – dissatisfied with the situation he had seen with his own eyes, so to speak – flew home to talk to van den Broek, who represented the EC. On 7 July, a conference followed in Brioni, ending the Slovenian war. The Europeans initially demanded the same as in Zagreb – to repeal the Declaration of Independence – then we agreed not to give up what we had already done, but to take further steps in three months. In the background, Drnovšek talked to Jović, and Bučar and I secretly travelled to Belgrade for a meeting with our old friend Dobrica Ćosić. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav presidency (to the great chagrin of the Croats and Mesić) recalled the army from Slovenia. 

International recognition 

As is commonly known, any war is interrupted or ended by a peace conference. The Yugoslav conference, chaired by the English diplomat Peter Carrington, began in The Hague in September 1991. Europeans still believed that it was possible – in some form – to preserve Yugoslavia, but the views were too different: Slovenians and Croats wanted independence, Serbs and Montenegrins wanted unity, and Bosnians and Macedonians wanted a third Yugoslavia. The conference instructed an arbitration commission led by the French constitutional lawyer, Robert Badinter to prepare “opinions” on the ability of the Yugoslav republics to become states. Badinter first stated that “Yugoslavia is in the process of disintegration”, and only Slovenia and Macedonia received positive certificates. Slovenians who had previously been in the Yugoslav diplomatic service returned to Ljubljana, but there were still only 50 or 60 of us. The first recognitions of Slovenian statehood came at the end of 1991, the European Union formally recognised us on 15 January, Russia on 14 February, and the USA on 7 April; we became a member of the UN on 22 May 1992. In 2004 we became members of the EU and NATO, and in 2008 Slovenia (for the first time) held the Presidency of the European Union.  

Sociologist dr. Dimitrij Rupel was the first foreign minister of the democratic Republic of Slovenia. 



The first recognitions of Slovenian statehood came at the end of 1991, the European Union formally recognised us on 15 January, Russia on 14 February, and the USA on 7 April; we became a member of the UN on 22 May 1992. 


In contrast to Ljubljana, where we had blackouts, police and military controls and the main streets surrounded by Spanish rider obstacles, Zagreb was playful for summer. 



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