Politics

25 Years Ago, First Western Countries Recognized Croatia’s Independence

By 19 December 2016

Although 15 January 1992 was the day when Croatia was officially recognized by the members of European Union, first good news started arriving in December 1991.

International recognition of Croatian independence followed the declaration of independence which took place on 25 June 1991. On the same day, Slovenia also declared its independence. However, under pressure from international community, both countries temporarily suspended their declarations, which finally took effect on 8 October. These two dates are today in Croatia celebrated as national holidays, Statehood Day (25 June) and Independence Day (8 October).

The two countries immediately recognized each other but, of course, since they were not recognized by other countries, that was largely a symbolic decision.

The first internationally recognized country which recognized Croatia’s independence was Ukraine (11 December 1991), which itself was a very young country following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Another former Soviet republic, Latvia, followed soon after on 14 December.

However, the key date was 19 December 1991, when Croatia was recognized by Iceland, a member of NATO. On the same day, Germany officially announced its intention to recognize Croatia’s independence, with the decision coming into effect on 15 January, together with other EU member states. The key person in Germany’s support for Croatia was then German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich-Genscher. After the German announcement, it was clear that the threshold has been crossed and that Croatian independence was unstoppable.

Another milestone was passed on 13 January 1992, when the Vatican decided to officially recognize Croatia. Pope John Paul II was very supporting of Catholic Croats, which he demonstrated in the following years by visiting Croatia as many as three times.

After San Marino’s recognition on 14 January, the big day finally arrived. On 15 January 1992, all 12 members of the European Union officially recognized Croatia, and that day is today marked in Croatia as the Day of International Recognition. The EU member states were joined by numerous other European countries, as well as by Canada.

The process of international recognition progressed very rapidly, with almost 20 other countries recognizing Croatia before the end of January. Russia recognized Croatia on 17 February, while the United States made the decision on 7 April.

At a session of the UN General Assembly held on 22 May 1992, Croatia was admitted to membership of the United Nations, together with Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the session ended, then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali led the delegations of new member countries to the main entrance to the UN building, where Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian flags were raised.

The process of international recognition took place in the context of war and Serbian aggression against Croatia. Serbia, which was then part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, recognized Croatian independence on 23 August 1996, a year after the Homeland War ended.

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