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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 18:59 GMT
Croatia and Slovenia mark anniversary
Croatian soldiers during the war for independence
Croats believe independence was the only right course
Croatia and Slovenia have been marking the 10th anniversary of their international recognition, which put into oblivion the old Yugoslav Federation and triggered one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Balkans.

Postponing the recognition made it possible for Milosevic to use the former federal army against non-Serbs

Lojze Peterle, former Slovenian PM
In Croatia, President Stipe Mesic told a special session of parliament that the recognition only meant that the West had acknowledged that the break-up of the former Yugoslavia was inevitable.

"Yugoslavia's shelf life had simply expired and nothing held it together," he said.

The decision by the then European Community came half a year later after Croatia and Slovenia both had declared their independence in June 1991.

It was heavily promoted by Germany, despite reservations in the United States, which wanted the federation to survive.

High price

Historians are still debating the timing and consequences of the international acceptance of Croatian and Slovenian independence.

Bosnian Muslim women mourn their dead
The Bosnian war claimed the lives of around 250,000 people

Some are arguing it contributed significantly to the start of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which claimed the lives of around 250,000 people.

"Postponing the recognition made it possible for Milosevic to use the former federal army against non-Serbs," former Slovenian Prime Minister Lojze Peterle said.

Many Croatians have also seen living standards plunge since 1991, but majority still believed independence was the right decision to make.

"I have just left half of my salary in the bank to cover households bills. But everything has a price and I would settle for even lower standards just to have a state," Ivan Smolic, a metal worker, told the Reuters news agency.

"It was definitely worth sacrificing for [this], although we might have had a more elegant and patient policy that would have resulted in fewer casualties," said Slavomir Madjor.

Analysts say that among the former Yugoslav republics only Slovenia has managed to emerge virtually unscathed from the decade of wars in the Balkans.

It has avoided the bloodshed, and currently is one of the leading candidates for the membership in the European Union.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Croatia
28 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Slovenia
24 Apr 01 | Europe
EU calls for new Yugoslavia
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