From the Brioni Declaration to the Badinter Arbitration Committee
Yugoslavia and the world
In the spring of 1991, the developments in Yugoslavia, including Slovenia's steps towards independence, did not attract much worldwide interest in political circles and with the public. Hot topics were developing elsewhere and ranged from the Soviet Union, the collapsing nuclear global superpower, to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait where the First Gulf War for its liberation had just begun. In addition to the lack of interest, the attitude of world powers towards the Yugoslav issue was characterised by the lack of understanding of the developments and the lack of logic in the process of the dissolution of the western-most country in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the Yugoslav crisis coincided with the preparations for the signing of the Treaty on European Union, which was subsequently signed at the end of 1991 in Maastricht. In the post-Cold War period, at the time of European integration, a serious conflict was developing in Yugoslavia which, looking from the outside, seemed to be a result of separatism with nationalistic tendencies. Of course, the fear of the culmination of the self-determination principle posed a serious threat to the internal stability of Europe and its integration programme. Thus, at the beginning, the view of Europe and the US seemed to be self-contradictory, as it welcomed democratisation processes and economic reforms, yet at the same time advocated the conservation of the state.
The Hour of Europe
However, the beginning of the War for Independence on the evening of 26 June 1991 caused a sudden shift in the interest of world countries and all eyes were fixed on the northern-most Yugoslav republic. Europe responded quite quickly – Jacques Poos, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg at the time, immediately labelled the Yugoslav crisis as the "Hour of Europe" – and it sent a group of mediators to Yugoslavia, popularly known as the "trojka." This three-member committee met with all parties involved multiple times, including in Tito's former summer residence in the Brioni Archipelago.
Europeans left the parties involved very little room to manoeuvre, as they offered them – in reality, they demanded – the option of signing a special declaration, titled the Brioni Declaration, named after the location where the signing took place. It included numerous compromises and, as a result, failed to satisfy either party. For the Slovenian side, the biggest points of dispute were items that foresaw a three-month moratorium regarding independence decisions, the removal of blockades at the army bases of the Yugoslav People's Army (JLA), and the return of seized military equipment. Many thought at the time that the acceptance of these two items would have meant giving up the fundamental rights it had obtained, independence itself and its successful protection by the police and the military.
However, the Brioni Declaration also showed that entrenched positions of Western countries had also undoubtedly changed, since the Yugoslav federal government led by Ante Marković lost the status of the party who had, up to that point, been the only serious partner in dialogue with foreign diplomats. The Republic of Slovenia that, with other republics, had already been the de facto holder of political power was finally seen as such by foreign partners in dialogue as well. By adopting the Brioni Declaration, it also became a responsible, understanding, and credible factor.
The retreat of the JLA (Yugoslav People's Army)
The response of the majority of the public as well as of the political community was rather reserved due to the impression left by the barely ended military conflict. Some even had an adverse opinion and considered the Brioni Declaration as capitulation, even though it was adopted by the majority of the Slovenian National Assembly on 10 July 1991 despite reservations. However, the outward disappointment did not have any basis on the developments from behind political scenes. It was evident from the strategic political orientation of the Serbian leadership, which slowly gained the support of the majority of the JLA that the Yugoslav issue would continue to be resolved without Slovenia. Finally, the JLA retreated from Slovenia within a period of three months.
The dissolution of the country
Meanwhile, political talks sponsored by the international community continued. In September, a conference on Yugoslavia was held in the Hague and the UN became increasingly more involved. However, the Hague Conference, presided over by Lord Peter Carrington, failed to find a solution that would to any extent satisfy the feuding sides. Therefore, the final decision was then entrusted to an arbitration committee of esteemed foreign lawyers, named the Badinter Arbitration Committee after its presiding member. By 8 December 1991, the Committee had finished its work and decided that "SFRY is in the process of dissolution," so it should therefore be left to break up. However, by that time, Slovenia was no longer the problematic part of the Yugoslav Gordian knot. Quite the contrary, it was its only part that could be disentangled.
Jure Gašparič, Institute of Contemporary History