European Political Cooperation in 1991
As indicated in the first issue of this Journal, the purpose of
this survey is not to give an exhaustive account of the positions assumed by
the Member States of the European Communities in the framework of European
Political Cooperation (EPC). More modestly, it reports the opinions expressed
by the Twelve on matters of international law, or on the legal aspects of
current international issues.
1991 was rich in important events. Commencing with the Gulf war, the
year saw the outbreak of hostilities in Yugoslavia and ended with the collapse
of the Soviet Union. As the views of the Twelve on several of these problems
have been analysed in detail in this and earlier issues,2 I will limit myself to elements which have thus far
attracted less attention.
In the Spring of 1990, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia declared their
independence. By the end of the year, all the Republics of the Soviet Union had
followed their example. Although the Member States of the Community, along with
the majority of Western states, have always refused to recognize the annexation
of the Baltic states, they reacted with great caution to the heightening of
tension with the central authorities.
In the first phase, the Twelve limited themselves to inviting the Soviet
authorities to refrain from any act of intimidation, in conformity with Soviet
commitments under the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris. They were
also urged to open negotiations with elected representatives of the Baltic
Republics `in order to meet, through a peaceful solution, the legitimate
aspirations of the Baltic peoples'.3 A
similar invitation was made in a letter from the President of the Council,
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Poos, to Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to
condemn the use of force by Soviet troops in Vilnius.4 The importance attached by the Twelve to this
issue was such that an extraordinary ministerial meeting was convened on 14
January, i.e. on the eve of the outbreak of hostilities in the Gulf, to discuss
the situation in the Baltic states.5
Despite the above initiatives, it was only after the failure of the coup
against President Gorbachev that the Community went so far as to recognize the
independence of those states:
The Community and its Member States warmly welcome the restoration of the sovereignty and independence of the Baltic States which they lost in 1940. They have consistently regarded the democratically elected parliaments and governments of these states as the legitimate representatives of the Baltic peoples. They call for open and constructive negotiations between the Baltic States and the Soviet Union to settle outstanding issues between them.
On 16 December 1991, when it had become clear that there remained little
hope for a peaceful settlement of the conflict among Yugoslav Republics, the
Twelve agreed on a series of guidelines establishing the conditions which had
to be met before new states could be recognized. The attitude of the Twelve
vis-à-vis Yugoslav Republics is reviewed elsewhere in this
A similar scenario was followed for Soviet Republics. In a statement
dated 23 December 1991, the Twelve underlined that their recognition of the
members of the Commonwealth of independent states was conditional upon the
latter conforming to all conditions set in the above-mentioned guidelines:
The European Community and its Member States have taken note with satisfaction of the decision of the participants at the meeting in Alma Ata on 21 December 1991 to form a Commonwealth of independent states.
Having received the required assurances from a number of CIS members,
the Member States of the Community moved on to recognize them on 31 December
The Community and its Member States welcome the assurances received from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan that they are prepared to fulfil the requirements contained in the `Guide-lines on the recognition of new States in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union'. Consequently, they are ready to proceed with the recognition of these Republics.
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