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Lilliputian in a Goliath world: the preventive diplomacy of Slovenia in solving the question of Kosovo's independence.


According to the theory of small states in international relations, small states do not have as many means to achieve their foreign policy goals as larger states have (Morgenthau, 1948/2004: 97; Keohane, 1969; Benwell, 2011). However, there are certain niches that can be filled up by small states, since they have certain comparative advantages to larger states (see for example Vital, 1967; Keohane, 1969; Ingebritsen, 2006; Cooper and Shaw, 2009; Steinmetz and Wivel, 2010). Due to certain rules and procedures in modern international relations, an important foreign policy task can be assigned to a small state. On one side, an important role can arise from the state's own ambitions to 'become' an important and credible actor in the international community (e.g. with candidature for a presidency of certain international organization), or on the other hand, such a role may arise from unexpected events in the international community (e. g. when an armed conflict breaks out in vicinity of the state, certain actors in the international community may ask the state to take certain measures regarding the conflict).

Slovenia, a country which by most of the definitions falls in the category of small states (Grizold and Vegic, 2001; Bucar and Sterbenc, 2002; Sabic, 2002; Brglez, 2005; Udovic and Svetlicic, 2007), took over the presidency of the EU Council on the 1st January 2008, as the first new member state of the EU. Within this period it has been assigned an important role of chairing the work of all the configurations of the EU Council and representing the institution in the international community.

Slovenia, which has in its brief history as an independent nation already performed some demanding foreign policy tasks (UN Security Council presidency in 1998/99; OSCE chairmanship in 2005), faced not only the challenge of the EU presidency per se, but also one of the major (geo)political challenges of that time--when Slovenia took over the presidency, Kosovo was in final preparations to declare independence from Serbia. Planned proclamation of independence triggered harsh responses in Serbia and according to some analysts (Krstic, 2007; Janjic, 2007; Matic, 2007;

Sesternina, 2007) and media reports (B92, 2007; HINA, 2007), there was a substantial chance that the declaration of independence may renew armed conflict between Kosovars and Serbs. The worst case scenario was that a renewal of armed conflict in Kosovo would eventually cause a spill-over effect, which could lead into violence in the wider region (Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania). Acknowledging that the EU perceives countries of the Western Balkans as natural parts of the EU, and consequently sees them as potential members of the EU in the near future (see for example EurActiv, 2009; Barroso, 2011), avoiding possible instabilities was necessary and it was clear that Slovenia, as the presiding member of the EU Council, was entitled to take appropriate measures to mitigate the tense situation in the neighbourhood.

Regardless of later developments, we argue that Slovenia, as a small state, was in the most crucial period, a coherent and honest broker between both sides in the Kosovo conflict. Slovenia was, because of its past ties with the region and its knowledge of national character particularities (Raskovic and Svetlicic 2011; Udovic 2011), able to conduct a stable and unbiased policy towards both nations involved in the Kosovo conflict. Its power of 'balance' sprang from its (positive) reputation in the region; firstly it was the first state from the region to join the EU, secondly it was the presiding member state of the EU, and thirdly, its role and behaviour during the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the wars that followed was relatively untarnished (Prebilic and Gustin, 2011). Both facts gave it a higher manoeuvre place, because on the one hand it was able to cope with particularities of national character of negotiators from Kosovo and Serbia, while on the other hand it remained calm and was not a priori in favour of anyone, retaining good relations with both countries. (4)

In the article we are trying to answer three questions. The first focuses on how Slovenia had, as a small country, by using the preventive diplomacy approach in the time of its presidency of the EU Council, tried to keep political and security status quo in the Western Balkans (in the crucial period of the preparations of Kosovo to declare its independence). The second clarifies the activities of the Slovenian EU Council presidency for preventing Kosovar authorities to declare independence in a way that would be uncoordinated with other relevant international actors in Kosovo (esp. the EU member states and the USA), since uncoordinated actions by Kosovar authorities could have led to a renewal of violence in Kosovo and the wider region and on the other hand, how had Slovenia, in coordination with the EU, tried to appease Serbia to an extent that Serbian authorities did not resort to certain activities that could have triggered violence? And third, deriving from the analysis and using the method of induction, we are trying to clarify what the role of a small state can be--holding an important foreign policy position--in preventive diplomacy activities, if the interests of large states are high.

The methodological framework of the article is based on two mutually intertwined research methods: first, on the analysis of activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia vis-a-vis Kosovo through press releases, interviews and official speeches; (5) and second, on the interviews conducted by the authors of this paper with high ranking diplomats of the Republic of Slovenia, who have been engaged in preventive diplomacy vis-a-vis Kosovo and/or the EU at that time. (6) At this point we have to explain that the selection of interviewees can be seen as 'biased', because we have selected only Slovene government officials, but we argue that if we would like to analyse the preventive diplomacy of Slovenia in the Kosovo conflict, we have to focus on Slovene activities, which is best known precisely by Slovene government officials.

This analysis is relevant for at least three reasons. Firstly, preventive diplomacy has become one of the most important raisons d'etre of various international organizations (with the EU as one of the main promoters of preventive diplomacy see for example Kronenberger and Wouters, 2004; Mason and Meernik, 2006; Zupancic, 2010), as well as of certain countries (e. g. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada); small states, becoming aware of their comparative advantages in that respect, are joining this multilateral efforts to avert bloodshed, so it is crucial to analyse experiences and learn from good practices/missed opportunities. Secondly, the lack of scientific and expert literature analysing how a small state can act as an important player in conflict prevention, is evident. Namely, the experts on conflict prevention/preventive diplomacy (e. g. Smith, 1995; Lund, 1996; Cahill, 2000; Carment and Schnabel, 2004; Kronenberger and Wouters, 2004; Steiner, 2004; Mason and Meernik, 2006; Ramcharan, 2008) emphasize the role of large states and/or international organizations with regard to conflict prevention, and at the same time omit a possible role of small countries in that respect--the findings of this research can, with a help of the inductive method, bring certain conclusions for a general theory of small states in international relations. And finally, a thorough analysis of the activities of the international community in the case of Kosovo and the processes that are taking place in the region is needed, because Kosovo (and the whole region of the Western Balkans) is likely to remain a trouble spot from a security viewpoint for at least the next few years.

The article consists of five sections. In the introductory section goals of the article its methodological framework and relevancy are described. The next section analyses the role of preventive diplomacy in the wider context of conflict prevention. The subsequent section discusses the (possible) role of small states in the framework of preventive diplomacy. The fourth section is the core of analysis: it focuses on the diplomatic activities of Slovenia towards Kosovo from the 1st July 2007 till the 31st March 2010. The final section presents some general conclusions and provides reflection on the opportunities for engagement of small states in preventive diplomacy.

Preventive diplomacy (within the framework of conflict prevention) Preventive diplomacy is not a new phenomenon. We are reminded of this by Broderick (1924, 74) who said that "the function of a diplomat is to keep the peace and solve conflicts that could threaten the peace". Nowadays the meaning of the concept of preventive diplomacy has broadened, which is why it is necessary to first conceptualise it for the purposes of this article.

The broadest concept linked to preventive diplomacy is (the idea and practice of) conflict prevention. It would be more accurate to use the terminus technicus 'the prevention of armed conflicts', as some (small) parts of the scientific community argue. Namely, not all conflicts should be prevented, since some of them could trigger positive (transformative) changes. What should be prevented are the conflicts with violent characteristics, which could turn into armed conflicts. However, the majority of English-speaking experts (see for example Lund, 1996; Kronenberger and Wouters, 2004; Mason and Meernik, 2006) and Russian-speaking experts (see for example Yurgens, Dynkin and Baranovsky, 2009; Antonenko, 2011) in the field, whose 'scientific voice' is much stronger due to the wider use of these two languages, mostly use the term 'conflict prevention'. (7)

Thus, in accordance with the wide-ranging definition, conflict prevention is defined as any political, military or economic activity intended to prevent the outbreak of (armed) conflict. Some authors complement this basic definition with activities that de-escalate tension or mitigate the conflict so as to prevent it from reaching the violent phase. One of the first post-Cold War scientists and the author of one of the most widely accepted comprehensive definition of conflict prevention, Michael Lund (1999) derives his argumentation on that basis. He argues that

Conflict prevention entails any structural or interactive means to keep intrastate and interstate tensions and disputes from escalating into significant violence and to strengthen the capabilities to resolve such disputes peacefully as well as alleviating underlying problems that produce them, including forestalling the spread of hostilities into new places. It comes into play both in places where conflicts have not occurred recently and where recent largely terminated conflicts could recur. Depending on how they are applied, it can include the particular methods and means of any policy sector, whether labelled prevention or not (e. g. sanctions, conditional aid, mediation, structural adjustment, democratic institution building etc.), and they might be carried out by global, regional, national or local levels by any governmental or nongovernmental actor.

The debates on more efficient preventive diplomacy (and the general theory of conflict prevention) began in the 1960s. This however does not mean that preventive diplomacy is only a century old. There are many historic examples of limiting the right to wage war (ius ad bellum), which are part of this field (for more see Karoubi, 2004; Grizold, 2001). This kind of preventive diplomacy is, according to Bedjaoui (2000: 30) traditional preventive diplomacy (e.g. exchanging territory for other concessions, dynastic marriages amongst monarchs etc.). Countries that wished to fulfil their own ambitions turned to traditional preventive diplomacy; not necessarily to ensure peace per se, but to further their own standing in relation to their surroundings. Preventive diplomacy as we understand it today has replaced the 'national interest' with finding a consensus to 'secure world peace or a global approach to solving global problems' (Lund, 1999; Mason and Meernik, 2006).

The post-Cold War era of preventive diplomacy has mostly been determined by the activities of the UN. Soon after the end of the Cold War, Secretary General Boutros B. Ghali (1992) published the groundbreaking report Agenda for peace, in which a whole chapter is dedicated to preventive diplomacy. Preventive diplomacy, as defined in the Agenda for peace, has many components: confidence-building measures, fact-finding, early warning, preventive deployment (of armed forces) and demilitarised zones (Ghali 1992). This definition, and definitions derived from it, that were created in the early 1990s were very state-centric, which is why there was a new definition proposed at the scientific summit on preventive diplomacy in Skopje in 1996. It dictates that preventive diplomacy encompasses: .../s/pecial actions, policies procedures and institutions that are called for in situations where existing means seem unlikely to peacefully manage the destabilizing effects of economic, social, political and international change and thus they are applied by governmental and non-governmental bodies or protagonists themselves in order to keep states or groups within them from threatening or using violence, armed force or related forms of coercion, as the way of settle interstate or national political disputes (Ginifer and Eide in Bjb'rkdahl 1999: 56).

On the basis of the aforementioned, we can conclude that the interpretation of conflict prevention has been partly de-etatised (8) and broadened over time, and now includes a wide set of elements and actors (also civil society, non-governmental organizations etc.). However, despite the broadening of actors in conflict prevention, hard-core preventive diplomacy still remains on the states' shoulders, meaning that states try to mitigate hostile behaviour of other states and the development of possible instabilities, especially in regions where they have interests or strong political and economic ties.

Therefore, preventive diplomacy remains a key component of conflict prevention, but not the only one. The position of preventive diplomacy within the wider concept of conflict prevention is depicted in Figure 1.


Preventive diplomacy also impacts other components of conflict prevention (the military approach, good governance and the development approach) and vice versa. It is also important to note that the link between preventive diplomacy and the other components of conflict prevention is rather blurry as some activities can incorporate more than one component. The system of preventive diplomacy is circular, but the effect depends on the stability and security of the supporting components of preventive diplomacy and how they affect it.

This 'mushrooming effect' of conflict prevention actors in recent years has led to 'de-etatisation' of conflict prevention, meaning that the state is not the only actor in that respect. That kind of development should be especially well understood by small states, because they, according to the theory (see for example Morgenthau, 1948/2004: 97; Grizold and Vegic, 2001; Benwell, 2011), do not possess a set of (traditional hard-power) means to influence international relations, and consequently have to put a relatively stronger emphasis on coordination of its conflict prevention (and especially preventive diplomacy) actions with other (more influential) actors involved in the conflict.

On the basis of the literature review and taking into consideration new 'conflict prevention environment' (encompassing more actors than in the past), we define preventive diplomacy as: the central component of a broader concept of conflict prevention that concerns diplomatic activities of the state which, with the intent to mitigate/solve the conflict, incorporate other relevant (state and non-state) actors (e.g. economic actors, civil society etc.), with the final aim of preventing the armed conflict. Preventive diplomacy seeks a consensus of all parties in the conflict on a certain decision. If armed conflict is unavoidable, then the state's activities are directed towards ending the armed conflict as soon as possible with as little material damage and as little loss of civilian life as possible.

This definition of preventive diplomacy will be used in this article for analysing how Slovenia performed its preventive diplomacy activities as the Chair of the European Council in the case of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

The (possible) role of small states in preventive diplomacy

The review of literature (see for example Vital, 1967; Lund, 1996; Steiner, 2004; Steinmetz and Wivel, 2010 etc.) shows that scientists either analyse small states theory or preventive diplomacy. In other words, the analyses usually deal with two separate bodies of literature and only rarely try to bring them together. (9) Since the bridge between the two (separate) corpuses has been understudied so far, it is before further exploring the case study of Slovenia's role in collective preventive diplomacy efforts in Kosovo--necessary to link the theory of small states (in international relations) and preventive diplomacy. Furthermore, this section also briefly explains the role of the EU Council Presidency in Foreign and Security Policy, because it is questionable which actions lie 'in the domain' of the EU as an institution and which in the (small) state's domain.

The belief that small countries have relatively limited opportunities to be important actors in international relations is relatively deeply integrated in the realist theory of international relations (see for example Vital, 1967; Strange, 1995; Brglez, 2008; Steinmetz and Wivel, 2010), and especially characteristic of the area of high politics which includes preventive diplomacy. This comes from the aforementioned internal and external capacities of a small country which it has to take into account in its foreign policy and diplomacy (Petric, 1996: 879). But despite this, it can--precisely because it is a small country--make the most of the advantages this gives it in the world of big interests (Benko, 1997: 252--254). This article highlights four possibilities that a small country can avail of in the field of preventive diplomacy.

Firstly, if a state enjoys a high level of credibility in a region, it can act as an unbiased broker in conflicts (see more on this in Kleiboer, 1996). (10) This is of course hard to achieve alone, especially for a small state. The chances of success are higher if it is backed by other (influential) actors in the international community. In this context, a small country can act as a coordinator of actions in the international community if it has cultural, linguistic, historic etc. ties to the region or conflicting parties. Another possibility would be to achieve this within the framework of regional networks and initiatives.

Secondly, on the basis of linking peacekeeping and the theory of small states--see for example Keohane (1969), Diggines (1985), Bray (1987), Vuga (2010) -, a small state with the appropriate legitimation from the international community (e.g. UN Security Council) can contribute peacekeeping forces as many small countries are per definitionem less encumbered by ideology than many major forces which often come under attack for their uncompromising pursuit of their national interests. A good example of this is the work of the Nordic battalion NORDBATT in the peacekeeping operation UNPROFOR/UNPREDEP in Macedonia (Bjorkdahl, 1999). (11)

Thirdly, a small country that does not possess relational power (Strange, 1995), can achieve its goals on the basis of its normative power in the region, provided of course it has such power. This primarily concerns the reputation of a country and could be done in an 'internationalistic' (multilateral) manner within the framework of international organizations (see for example Thorhallsson, 2004 or Hyde-Price, 2008): setting an example with the consistent implementation and promotion of policies for which the country claims that it stands for. An example of this is that a country could credibly encourage the rule of law in a third country only if it itself had an exemplary record in that area. Thus a small country can enable another country to position itself in the network of institutions and interdependence. This way also indirectly strengthens the power of international law, which is de facto one of the rare advantages of small countries in international relations.

The EU, especially when a country is holding the presidency of the EU Council, provides an excellent opportunity to put forward the normative power agenda of that country. However, this was easier before the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty, when the Trio's priorities were accorded between the Trio's member states. Nevertheless the key Trio foreign policy priorities were accorded and settled down, the presiding country had the possibility to act on its own behalf in ad hoc situations. In such situations the presiding member state put the peril issue on the agenda of GAERC (General Affairs and External Relations Council), which it presided, and tried to achieve a common decision. Within this framework the presiding member state was able to put forward issues that were in its interests and to promulgate its own position, covering them by the "community umbrella". However, after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009, the community foreign policy was transferred from the presiding state to the new institution, the High Representative, which is now the central actor of the EU foreign policy.

Fourthly, deriving from the argumentation of Krugman and Venables (1990, 59) that small countries can have close and easy access to various markets (regions), it can be said that in case a small country had such an access, it could (in terms of preventive diplomacy) serve as a 'world informer' about escalating tensions in that particular region. Having done so, it could simultaneously influence public opinion at home and abroad about the tensions. This is especially relevant in the contemporary society as the possibility of fast and efficient mobilisation of necessary resources is greater than it used to be. Northern European states and their non-governmental organisations are pioneers in this area too, as they consistently raise awareness about tensions that could evolve into armed conflict (more on this in Bjorkdahl, 1999). Assuming these countries are not ideologically encumbered, a small country can also generate new initiatives on how to deescalate tensions and begin the long term solving of a conflict.

The presented theoretical framework, in which we modelled the concept of preventive diplomacy, linking it with the basic lines of the small states' position, was the basis of our research of the preventive diplomacy of Slovenia in the case of the Kosovar declaration of independence. This happened in February 2008, in the second month of the Slovene chairing of the EU Council. Our analysis links together three particularities, which were seen in the Kosovar case. The first is the importance of a common cultural past, which helped Slovenia in conducting its relations with Kosovar and Serbian authorities. The second is that the position of Slovenia as a first new EU member state chairing the EU Council, gave it a position of an honest broker, establishing a large panel of possibilities to negotiate and mitigate between Pristina and Belgrade and among all EU member states. The third particularity is that because of long historical and cultural heritage with ex-Yugoslav countries, Slovenia realised that the preventive diplomacy towards Kosovo should not be finished with the recognition of Kosovo, but should go further. The result of such thinking was the idea of the Brdo process, in which Slovenia tried to couple together all countries from the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. Because of the reluctance of EU officials, the importance (and possible advantages) of the Brdo process vanished, the results were poor and it faded into history. The EU faux pas disempowered all efforts of Slovenian preventive diplomacy and brought the Kosovo-Serbia agenda on the margins of EU interests.

Analysis of the diplomatic activities of Slovenia towards Kosovo (1st July 2007--31st March 2010) We have divided the diplomatic activities of Slovenia towards Kosovo into three periods: 1) half a year before the proclamation of independence (from 1st July 2007 to 31st December 2007), when Slovenia was working within the framework of the EU Troika; 2) the key period of Slovenia's presidency of the EU, when Kosovo declared independence (1st January to 30th June 2008); 3) from the end of the Slovenian presidency of the EU to the Conference on Kosovo at Brdo, Slovenia (1st July 2008 to 31st March 2010).

Before getting into deeper analysis, a short historical and political introduction of the Slovenia-Serbia-Kosovo relationship should be presented. In the geographic and political structure of Yugoslavia, Slovenia shared the same destiny with Kosovo, which was that both entities (Slovenia as a republic, and Kosovo as an autonomous province) were at the country's verge. For Slovenia it meant that it has been more than other Yugoslav republics connected to the West (economically, politically, as well as culturally--see for example Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, 2000), while Kosovars felt more sympathies towards their ethnic kin in Albania than for other 'Yugoslav nations' (Woodward, 1995; Caplan, 1998; Repe, 2008). After the death of Tito, Serbian nationalism started to find a way out of Kardelj's Constitution of 1974, which defined Yugoslavia as a federation, in which nations have the possibility to gain their independence. The first step was the intervention of the Yugoslav Popular Army in Kosovo in 1981, claiming that riots in Kosovo were supported by secessionist forces. This intervention did not solve the problem, but merely postponed it. Slovenia faced the Serbian nationalism in 1983 after the proposal of a common "education nucleus", which called for the unification of teaching materials in all six republics and two autonomous provinces. Slovenia was the key factor the measures did not pass. However, Slovenia realised that different forces in Yugoslavia were strongly opposed to the pure concept of federalisation and therefore the advantages of the federative system would be soon jeopardised. Nevertheless on the federal level some actions were taken, Serbia promulgated the nationalistic policy as the core of its policy towards other federal republics. Within this, Slovenia strengthened its relations with Croatia and Kosovo, which was the most politically suppressed part of Yugoslavia at that time. The first step of Slovene understanding of the 'Kosovo problem' occurred in 1984, when a book with the title Albanci (Albanians) was issued in Slovenia. Its authors were some ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, who (probably for the first time in the modern era) had an opportunity to present their 'truth' about Serbian repression in 20th century to a wider audience (Repe, 2008). The reaction in the Slovene public was quite positive, but Serbia started a strong pressure towards Slovene authorities, which (indirectly) supported Kosovo's 'secessionist' activities. But what finally ruined the relations of Slovenia with Serbia was 'the miners' affair' in 1989, when Slovenia unequivocally supported striking Kosovar miners, who protested against the reduction of Kosovo's autonomy in the revised Serbian constitution (Woodward, 1995: 97-98).

These are just few reasons, which briefly explain the solidarity and sympathies of Slovenians towards Kosovars. When Slovenia was given the 'conductor's baton' in the EU preventive diplomacy action in 2008, it had to take these aspects into consideration.

The period of maturing (decisions): 1st July 2007--31st December 2007

In the second half of 2007 there was increasing talk of Kosovo gaining independence. Slovenian diplomats were at first hopeful that this question would be resolved before the 1st January 2008 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007a), but it soon became clear that the declaration of independence would almost certainly happen during the Slovenian presidency. This is showed by some facts that occurred during the Portuguese presidency. On the 2nd July the Slovene Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that an ideal scenario would be if the "issue" would be resolved during the Portuguese presidency of the EU, but that there was a possibility that all the process would start at the end of the Portuguese presidency and in that case Slovenia would have the deal with the "question" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007a). A week later there a new information was granted by Slovene MFA, explaining that the Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku guaranteed to the Slovene colleague that Kosovo would not declare independence in 2007 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007j). However, in September it became clear that the declaration of Kosovo's independence would not occur under the Portuguese presidency, but it will be a special topic within the Slovene presidency of the EU Council (STA, 2007).

Realising that the "issue" would not have sprung in the time of the Portuguese presidency, enhanced the involvement of Slovenia in the developments on Kosovo question, especially in EU diplomatic activities of the Trio. Together with the other two Trio members (Portugal and Germany) Slovenia promoted the policy of a balanced approach, leveraging among both parties, similarly to Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy. (12) The idea of shuttling among both state-parties was on one hand in balancing the possible Serbian reaction on the declaration of Kosovo's independence, while on the other hand the idea was on preserving as much as possible stable political and economic ties and stability with Serbia. That is why Slovene political representatives stressed, on numerous occasions, that they wished to cooperate with European countries in solving this problem (especially with France that took over the EU presidency after Slovenia) and that the EU countries should remain unanimous on that issue. At the same time, they stressed that a division of Kosovo was not an option (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007j; 2007k; 2007l).

Parallel with Slovene effort within the Trio in mitigating the possible declaration of Kosovo independence, Slovenia tried to direct actions of Serbian and Kosovar authorities. (13) Concerning Serbia, it supported the EU policy, which promised Serbia an expedited accession to the EU via the ratification of an accession agreement (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007h), helped with economic investment in the Serbian economy and promised development and visa concessions if Serbia did not oppose to the independence of Kosovo. With regards to the Kosovar authorities, Slovenia was convincing them not to undertake any independent unforeseeable action (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007f). At the same time Slovenian diplomacy was stressing that both, Kosovo and Serbia, had a joint future within the EU.

On the 7th December 2007 the last negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo fell through. It became clear that it wouldn't be possible to achieve an agreement and that the declaration of independence was only a matter of time (BBC, 2007). The Slovene Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitrij Rupel implied that the declaration of independence would almost certainly occur during the Slovene Presidency of the EU. On the 18th December Rupel reconfirmed that it was expected that the declaration would be announced during Slovenia's Presidency. He also said that the EU representatives were attempting to avoid a unilateral proclamation of independence and that they constantly had to talk to the representatives from Kosovo about that. He added that the EU had not yet had serious discussions about recognition (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007b). Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (from the 20th December 2007) confirm that there were many unknowns regarding the date of the proclamation. He also said that he thought that the declaration would be towards the end of the Slovene Presidency (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007i).

The act (of proclamation) and its consequences: 1st January 2008--30th June 2008 On assuming the Presidency of the EU, Slovenia continued the policy of balancing. (14) All the activities of the EU and Slovenia as its presiding member state, made it clear that there would soon be changes in Kosovo. When and how the proclamation would happen was, at the time when Slovenia assumed the Presidency, still a mystery. Towards the end of January when Slovenia was still coming to grips with the Presidency, the contents of a diplomatic dispatch known as the Washington dispatch was leaked, which encumbered the work of Slovene diplomats at a key time of Kosovo's route to independence (Interview with X, 2010).

The key problem of the dispatch was that it was not marked as "secret", and therefore was available to everyone employed in the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even though the content of the dispatch was "nothing unexpected" (it was a short note on the conversation between the political director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mitja Drobnic and Daniel Fried, the assistant of the American Secretary of State, in which Fried supposedly urged to the Slovene presidency of the EU Council to be the first member state to recognise Kosovo), the publication of the dispatch in Slovene media caused serious internal and external political problems. The issue was further complicated as two daily newspapers--Slovene Dnevnik and Serbian Politika--published the dispatch on the same day. This would not cause any problem, if the two journalists in charge (Igor Mekina and Svetlana Vasovic Mekina) have not been married. Five days after the publication of the dispatch in the media, the political director of the Slovene MFA resigned.

The Slovene diplomats were notified about the exact date of the proclamation of Kosovo's independence approximately two to three weeks before the fact. Rupel stated on the 3rd February (around the time that Slovenia got the exact date of the proclamation) that he was not sure that things concerning independence would move that quickly (this came after a journalist had said that Kosovo could be declaring independence in the next few days). A week later (the 11th February 2008) Rupel hinted heavily that independence would come soon (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008e), but he declined to share the exact date with the public despite it already being known in diplomatic circles. According to information from an interlocutor, the date of Kosovo's independence was decided on by the USA in consensus with the Quint (15) (Interview with X, 2010). This means that the entire process of gaining independence was managed from the top down and that the Kosovar authorities were 'merely' informed of it. From the interviews it is clear that despite Slovenia has been presiding over the EU Council, it had no real influence in determining the date of the declaration of independence (Interview with X, 2010; Interview with Y, 2010; Interview with Z, 2010). This questions the actual influence of a small country in international organizations, when the stakes are high.

However, the independence of Kosovo was not only a bilateral (EU-US) project. The Quint was informing the diplomatic representative of the Russian Federation in Kosovo of all important events and dates. Despite the attempts of the Russian Federation to be perceived as the (natural) ally and protector of Serbia, the Russian Federation did not seriously attempt to resist the proclamation of independence; namely, the Russian Federation understood de facto that the proclamation was inevitable and would happen sooner or later (Interview with X, 2010; Interview with Z, 2010). Further evidence that most things had been co-ordinated with the Russian Federation was the visit of the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Rupel in Goriska Brda only five days before Kosovo's proclamation of independence.

Though they did not answer the journalists' questions related to Kosovo after the meeting, the upcoming proclamation of its independence was most probably high on their agenda. A day later, Slovenia also hosted the EU Trio--Russia meeting (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008b; 2008k). If the Russian Federation actually had a serious interest to prevent the declaration of independence, Lavrov would rather take no part at these two events or would at least fervently oppose against declaring the independence in public.

On the 17th February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence, which was met with strong opposition within Serbia. The EU member states were primarily fearful of the potential outbreak of armed conflict in Kosovo although its eruption was much less likely than it was represented to be in the media. There were several reasons for this such as the presence of military peacekeepers, the economic interests of both nations, diplomatic pressure on both, Serbia and Kosovo. These all made the outbreak of conflict much less likely than it was reported to be. On the other hand, the dramatic media reports on the situation in Kosovo and Serbia caused also a sort of panic attack in the Brussels institutions. The ministers in the EU Council feared possible Serbian aggression on Kosovo, but this was only because they relied on media and asymmetric information given by their correspondents. (16) On the other hand Slovene liaison officers in the region reported that "nothing special was going on and that the panic was unjustified" (Interview with X, 2010; Interview with Y, 2010).

The day that Kosovo declared independence, violence broke out in Belgrade. Protestors also damaged the Slovene embassy; Rupel personally protested to the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremic (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008c). Slovene President Danilo Turk condemned the attack on the embassy and demanded that Serbia fulfil its obligations under international law and pay for reparations (Office of the President RS, 2008).

Contrary to the contents of the Washington dispatch, Slovenia was not the first to recognise Kosovo, which was in line with Rupel's explanation from the 3rd February 2008 that "Slovenia would not be the first state to recognise Kosovo" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008f). Nevertheless, it did this relatively soon (5th March 2008), with the act of Slovene parliament (67 MPs were present, 57 voted for and 4 against). (17) As a sign of protest against the recognition, Serbia recalled its ambassador the same day and protested the parliament's decision.

In the first period after the declaration of independence, Slovenia intensively practiced preventive diplomacy towards Kosovo and Serbia. The latter was based mainly on the 'carrot policy in the form of economic and other incentives, encouraging the pro-European forces in Serbia's upcoming elections (18) and a balanced/balancing diplomacy. (19) The success of Slovenia's preventive diplomacy can be surmised from the intensity of relations between Slovenia as the presiding state of the EU and Serbia months after the majority of EU countries recognised Kosovo. The first attempt to pacify the conflicting parties was an informal meeting of foreign ministers of the EU on the 29th March 2008 at Brdo (Slovenia), to which both the Kosovar Prime Minister Thagi and the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremic were invited (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008r). Despite Slovenia's hopes that there would be a direct meeting between them, this did not come to pass. Jeremic left Brdo immediately after outlining Serbia's position on the issue of Kosovo. Regardless of this, Kosovar independence was fast becoming an unavoidable reality. To facilitate Serbia's 'recovery' the EU and Serbia signed a Stabilisation and Accession Agreement which was a large step towards Serbia's accession to the EU. Rupel took this opportunity to say that "this event is confirmation that the EU wishes Serbia to join the European family [as soon as possible]" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008s). The Serbian parliamentary elections took place the following month and ended with a victory for the pro-European political parties. This victory demonstrated that Kosovo de facto was a much lower priority for Serbian voters than the EU.

'Normalisation' of Slovene relations with Kosovo and Serbia: 1st July 2008--31st March 2010.

After France took over the EU Presidency, the number of activities of the Slovene diplomacy concerning Kosovo declined dramatically. The Slovene diplomatic core was no longer invested in getting other EU states to recognise Kosovo. Regardless of this, there were still a number of operations of preventive diplomacy towards Kosovo. (20)

Later months did not bring any noteworthy events; on the 15th of September Rupel appealed to Serbia to at least minimally co-operate with regards to the question of sending the EULEX mission to Kosovo (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008d). (21) On the 8th October Slovenia abstained from a vote on the Serbian proposal of a UN GA resolution in which Serbia was asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's proclamation of independence. Slovenia abstained arguing it could bring instability to Kosovo and EULEX (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2008c).

A good year after the proclamation of independence, on the 20th April 2009, the newly appointed Slovene foreign minister Samuel Zbogar paid a visit to Kosovo and met with the political leadership. The visit more resembled of a post-stabilization approach than of a preventive diplomacy: they signed an agreement on developmental co-operation and Slovenia pledged 150 000 [euro] for scholarships and assistance with joining international financial institutions. Furthermore, Zbogar also stated that an important task of the Slovene Presidency of the Council of Europe would be dedicated to the project "Our rights" which aims to raise awareness amongst Kosovar school children about children's rights. (22) Zbogar continued the policy of balancing as he also visited a representative of the Serbian minority (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2009c).

The following months did not bring anything significant. On the 11th September 2009 the Slovene foreign minister Zbogar met with his Serbian counterpart. According to the public information, their meeting did not include a talk about Kosovo (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2009b), which is hard to believe. On the 16th December Anton Berisha was named the first Kosovar ambassador to Slovenia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2009a). An important indicator of the effectiveness of the Slovene preventive diplomacy is also the introduction of a 'visa-free' system for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro on the 19th December 2009 (one of the most vigorous supporters of that decision was Slovene member of the European Parliament Tanja Fajon). In doing this Slovenia strengthened its reputation and standing in the countries of the Western Balkans, which after numerous years, now had the opportunity for visa-free travel into the Schengen area.

From the perspective of preventive diplomacy, March 2010 was a productive month. The 25th March 2010 marked the opening of the Slovene consular department at the Embassy in Pristina (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010b). At Brdo (Slovenia) the conference "Together with the EU" was co-hosted by the Slovene Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart, Jadranka Kosor (20th March). The idea behind the conference was an attempt to reconcile the positions of the representatives of Serbia and Kosovo. Slovenia, as the only EU member state in the region, wanted to position itself as a bridge to the European integration of Western Balkans countries. The conference did not pan out as Slovenia expected. The 'symbols' of the EU'--the Spanish foreign minister Angel Moratinos, who presided the Council of the EU at that time, and the president of the EU Council Herman van Rompuy did not attend the conference (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010a). This kind of diplomatic behaviour left Slovenia with a bitter taste in its mouth, but we must not neglect the fact that such attempts at bringing the region together are an important indicator of the necessity of promoting preventive diplomacy in the region and that Slovenia still has many opportunities to take advantage of.

On the 15th July 2010 Slovenia executed one of the final acts in the area of preventive diplomacy towards Kosovo and the Western Balkans. The parliament passed a Declaration on the Western Balkans (Official Gazette, 2010). We can see from the preamble that Slovenia prioritises "creating an area of lasting security and general co-operation in the Western Balkans and with it guaranteeing realistic opportunities to join the Euro-Atlantic networks in set time frames and on the basis of assessments of their real progress". On the basis of the preamble, the Declaration outlines some important goals that form the basis of the future preventive diplomacy of Slovenia.


With regard to the first research question (how had Slovenia, as a small country presiding over the EU Council, tried to keep political and security status quo in the Western Balkans with the means of preventive diplomacy, and in this way present itself as a country which is up to the role of an EU Council presiding country in the crucial period of the preparations of Kosovo to declare independence), the analysis suggests that:

Slovenia, as the presiding state of the EU, tried to send out signals both to Serbia and Kosovo that it acts in the name of the EU (and not in its own name) as an impartial actor, which understands the viewpoints and arguments of both nations, and tries to settle the dispute by a negotiated solution; it should be added that Slovenia tried to show that its voice is heard in the Western Balkans, although the analysis shows that this usually was not the case; the means of preventive diplomacy Slovenia has been relying on during the chairmanship were mostly: a) meetings with the representatives of both nations (in Belgrade, Pristina, as well as in Ljubljana and Brussels); b) sending political messages to the Serbian and Kosovar political leadership that their future is common and lays in the EU; thus, both nations have to 'behave in the European manner' and negotiate instead of resorting to violent means; Slovenia, however, took into account its own (relatively small) political weight and soon realized that it cannot keep the status quo alone; Slovene diplomats realized that potential 'unilateral actions' would soon turn out counterproductive; this is why it co-ordinated its preventive diplomacy activities with the 'Quint' (the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy); when Slovenia tried to get concessions from Serbia regarding Kosovo, it usually explained that such a position is the result of the 'will of the EU', and not its own (nevertheless, such explanation was not accepted by the majority of Serbs and their political elites);

Slovenia, taking into consideration its relatively close ties to Serbs and Kosovars, did not wish to be seen as 'the hero' that resolved the question of independence in one way or another, and that's why it hoped the declaration of independence would not happen during its presidency over the EU Council; the main reason for that is that one cannot 'sit on two chairs' at the same time, and Slovenia was not eager to endanger its political and economic ties either with Serbia or Kosovo; if the declaration of independence would have happened after the Slovene presidency, Slovenia would not lose anything, and it could claim that it did not have influence over the declaration of independence (however, nomen est omen, and Slovenia, heading the EU Council, was perceived by the Serbs as one of the main promoters of the independence of Kosovo; such perceptions aggravated Slovene position within Serbia);

With regard to the Russian Federation (a country which is an ally of Serbia regarding the question of Kosovo) and attempts to keep the situation in the Western Balkans as stable as possible, Slovenia (and the EU) tried to follow 'the policy of a balanced approach; the Russian Federation was informed about certain activities regarding the declaration of independence, and most probably also about the exact date (after it had been set by the Quint and the Kosovar authorities); the 'balanced approach' could be seen from visits of Russian foreign minister in Slovenia virtually on the eve of the declaration of independence in Kosovo; this conclusion rests contrary to the media reports--namely, the declaration of independence has been more 'internationalized' than one may conclude from the media reports, which were mostly warning about 'the Russian Federation protecting Serbian interests".

As for the second research question (what were the activities of the Slovene EU Council presidency for preventing Kosovar authorities to declare independence in a way that would be uncoordinated with other relevant international actors in Kosovo, and on the other hand, how had Slovenia, in coordination with the EU, tried to appease Serbia to an extent that Serbian authorities did not resort to certain activities that could have triggered violence), we can conclude that: the highest political echelons in Serbia knew that it was practically impossible to prevent the declaration of independence (but were unable to admit this to its people); Slovenia (and the EU) had availed of the carrot policy, which was executed adequately (the promise and later signing of the Stabilisation-accession agreement, which was the first step of Serbia towards joining the EU); furthermore, Slovene diplomats never 'forgot' to warn Serbian politicians how devastating would it be for Serbian future, if the country tried to use violent means to 'resolve' the question of Kosovo;

Slovene diplomats raised the question of necessity to coordinate the declaration of independence in a multilateral framework at most of the meetings with Kosovar politicians (on the other hand it has to be underlined that the main reason why the Kosovar political leadership has been relatively patient in that respect was the same pressure from the USA).

With regard to the third research question (what can be the role of a small state holding an important foreign policy position--in preventive diplomacy activities, if the interests of large states are high), from which we can generalize some conclusions for the theory of small states in preventive diplomacy, we can conclude that: Slovenia was de facto not a key player in the final phases of 'coordination' of the declaration of independence, and it was well-aware of the fact that it is difficult for a small state to be 'the main driver of preventive diplomacy' in such a volatile region; interviews proved that Slovene diplomats had known that some negotiations regarding the declaration of independence happened without them ('award' for being patient and not to say that publicly maybe brought some other advantages for Slovenia or them personally, but this topics should be researched further); it is important for a small state, when speaking of a preventive diplomacy, to be aware of the fact that its intelligence information is usually modest compared to bigger states; due to the lack of reliable information and partial intelligence reports, the media in Slovenia (and also wider in the EU) created a sense of panic--certain Slovene diplomats in the region knew that it is relatively unlikely that the group of armed Serbs could enter Kosovo (that was the story in the media), and meanwhile some other diplomats in Slovenia and the EU didn't have detailed information, so they 'helped' to spread the panic; it is necessary for small states to establish a good information-sharing network, when they are included in preventive diplomacy; from the perspective of preventive diplomacy, it is recommended for a small country to engage in those regions, which are geographically, historically or culturally close to it or, in other words, in the areas, where it enjoys a decent amount of credibility and reputation; it is recommended that such a country finds support not only in the region, but also that bigger countries recognize and support the country's intentions in the framework of preventive diplomacy--without wider international support such efforts of a small state, usually with limited resources at its disposal (small diplomatic and consular network, small armed forces, limited intelligence information, small number of companies willing to invest in risky areas etc.), may resemble of Don Quixote fighting windmills.

Last, but not least: an important aspect of a small state, willing to contribute to stability and peace, is to be committed in a long-term, and not only in the period when it is "politically convenient" to help or when it is put in such a position (as Slovenia was in that case); having long-term, but smart commitment means not only that the credibility of a small country will rise (what would bring later also economic opportunities), but it also means an important contribution to the old Chinese saying that it is better to teach a man to fish than to fish instead of him.


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(4) "Good relations" as an instrument of balancing between the two conflicting parties will be explained in the following sections.

(5) For our research period (between the 1st July 2007 and the 31st March 2010), 1589 press releases of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Slovenia, 34 interviews with the Foreign Minister/the State Secretary and 40 speeches of the Foreign Minister/the State Secretary were analysed.

(6) From the 1st October 2010 till the 17th December 2010, four semi-structured interviews with high-ranking officials of the Republic of Slovenia, who were actively engaged in the EU and/or Slovenian activities towards Kosovo in the analysed period, were conducted. All interviews are quoted in this article according to methodological outlays.

(7) The use of terms 'prevention of armed conflicts' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and 'prevention of wars and armed conflicts' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is relatively rare in Russian scientific literature, comparing to the use of the term 'conflict prevention' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

(8) According to Stanchev (2004), de-etatisation is the process of transferring state and nationalized assets to private domain; generally speaking, the term could also mean that a state is losing authority over a certain sphere.

(9) One of the rare attempts, which try to bridge the two (separate) concepts, can be found in the book of Annika Bjorkdahl (1999). On the other hand, it is questionable if this is a good example, because Sweden cannot be described as a classical small state (due to its relatively big influence in international relations, compared to Slovenia, for example).

(10) It should be noted that the author does not analyse the small states in that respect in details.

(11) The peacekeeping operation in Macedonia, from February 1992 to March 1995 named UNPROFOR (United National Protection Force), and between 31st March 1995 and 28th February 1999 named UNPREDEP (United Nations Preventive Deployment), are classic examples how a potential armed conflict can be successfully prevented. However, the stability in Macedonia remains fragile even nowadays, since the tensions between the ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians have not been fully settled yet. Another problem is that people in Macedonia tend to be disproportionately highly armed as a consequence of the uncertain political situation (Prezelj, 2010: 213).

(12) An illustration of this is the visit from the Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic on the 16th July 2007 and a day later a visit from Lulzim Basha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, a country with very close ties to Kosovo (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007c). An analogous trip would also be the visit of Rupel to Belgrade (where he promised the Serbian political leadership Slovenian backing in integrating into EuroAtlantic networks) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007e) and the visit to Kosovo the next day. After the meeting with the Kosovar authorities, he also stopped in one of the Serbian monasteries and the enclave Gorazdevac (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007g).

(13) Institutions of good governance (such as the Centre of Excellence of Finance, the Foundation Together, the International Trust Fund, the Centre for European Perspective...) were said to have had important roles as mediators.

(14) Rupel was paid a visit on the 11th January 2008 by the Serbian foreign minister Jeremic. Rupel told his counterpart that the future of the whole Western Balkans lay in the EU and that the Slovenian Presidency was trying to get the Stabilisation and Accession Agreement with Serbia signed as quickly as possible (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008n). A few days after this (23rd January) Rupel met the Kosovar President Thaci in Brussels from whom he got "important information on the basis of which the policy towards Kosovo would be formed" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008g).

(15) By 'Quint' we mean the five countries that negotiated with the Kosovar authorities about the declaration of independence (USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy).

(16) A typical example of false information would be the forecast arrival of the Serbian paramilitary unit The Guard of Tsar Lazarus, which was said to have marched on Kosovo (B92, 2007). It was later ascertained that it was only a few individuals who were carrying out their threats primarily on the internet. Journalists and politicians blew this 'threat' up dramatically (Interview with X, 2010).

(17) The reaction to the recognition of Kosovo within the key Slovenian companies that operate on the markets of the former Yugoslavia was very interesting. Both the Association of managers (Interview with X, 2010) and the company Mercator (Interview with Z, 2010) were very much against recognising Kosovo, but after the fact, Serbia did not impose any kind of retaliatory sanctions against Slovenian companies as they simply couldn't afford to. Thus the reactions of the Slovene business community after the recognition of Kosovo was milder than before it. Only Mercator responded to the recognition with the statement that the "fast and rash decisions in the procedure show that economic interests are considered less important in these matters" (Zimic, 2008).

(18) On the 2nd April 2008 the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner and his Slovenian counterpart Rupel, published an open letter in which they promised to work towards visa liberalisation for Serbia and a timely signing of the Stabilisation and Accession Agreement with the EU (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008l).

(19) The policy of balancing is visible in the consistency of meetings with both sides. On the 28th April Rupel met his Serbian counterpart Jeremic in Brussels, on 9th May he met the prime Minister of Kosovo Thaci. On the 13th May he met the President of the Kosovar Assembly Krasniqi and on the 26th May again met with Jeremic (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008a; 2008h; 2008j; 2008m).

(20) On 4th July 2008 in Bled Rupel met the foreign minister of Kosovo Skender Hyseni who came to thank Slovenia for recognising Kosovo. On 11th July a Donor Conference took place in Brussels at which Slovenia gave Kosovo 500 000 [euro] (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2008i, 2008o).

(21) More on the role of EULEX in Kosovo in Malesic (2011).

(22) Slovenia was presiding the Council of Europe in 2009.

Rok Zupancic (2), Bostjan Udovic (3) *

* Rok Zupancic is a PhD candidate and research-fellow and at the Defence Research Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana; Bostjan Udovic, PhD, is a researcher at the Centre of International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences. University of Ljubljana.
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Author:Zupancic, Rok; Udovic, Bostjan
Publication:Romanian Journal of Political Science
Date:Dec 22, 2011
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