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The International Practice of the European Communities: Current Survey

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A. Baltic States

B. Yugoslavia

C. Former Soviet Republics

European Political Cooperation in 1991

Renaud Dehousse1

Full text available: PDF format *

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.

I. Recognition

A. Baltic States

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.
It is now time, after more than fifty years, that these States resume their rightful place among the nations of Europe. Therefore, the Community and its Member States confirm their decision to establish diplomatic relations with the Baltic States without delay. Implementing measures will be taken by Member States individually.
The Community and its Member States look forward to the early membership and participation of the Baltic States in all relevant international organizations, such as the United Nations, CSCE and the Council of Europe.
The Community and its Member States underline their commitment to support the Baltic States in their economic and political development. The Commission will explore all avenues for economic cooperation between the Community and the Baltic States and will put forward early proposals to that effect.
The Community and its Member States extend a cordial invitation to the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States to attend their next meeting early September.6

B. Yugoslavia

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 issue.7

C. Former Soviet Republics

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.
They note that the international rights and obligations of the former USSR, including those under the UN Charter, will continue to be exercised by Russia. They welcome the Russian Government's acceptance of these commitments and responsibilities and in this capacity will continue their dealings with Russia, taking account of the modification of her constitutional status.
They are prepared to recognize the other republics constituting the Commonwealth as soon as they receive assurances from those republics that they are ready to fulfil the requirements contained in the `guidelines on the recognition of new states in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union', adopted by Ministers on 16 December 1991.
In particular, they expect to receive assurances that these republics will fulfil the international obligations ensuing for them from treaties and agreements concluded by the Soviet Union, including the ratification and full implementation of the CFE Treaty by the republics to which that Treaty applies, and that they will ensure single control over nuclear weapons and their non-proliferation.
The Presidency will approach the Republics concerned in order to obtain from them the required assurances in good time for recognition to be effective as from the moment the dissolution of the Soviet Union enters into force.8

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 1991:

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.
They reiterate their readiness also to recognize Ryrghyzstan and Tadzhikistan once similar assurances will have been received.
Recognition shall not be taken to imply acceptance by the European Community and its Member States of the position of any of the Republics concerning territory which is the subject of a dispute between two or more Republics.
Recognition will furthermore be extended on the understanding that all Republics participating with Russia in the Commonwealth of independent states on whose territory nuclear weapons are stationed, will adhere shortly to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear weapon States.9

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Top Of Page1 Department of Law, European University Institute, Florence.

Top Of Page2 See, e.g., the contributions by Dominicé and Malanczuk on the Gulf war in 2 EJIL (1991) No. 2 at 85-109 and 114-132, and the contributions by Rich and Türk in this issue at 36-65 and 66-71.

Top Of Page3 Declaration 8/91, 11 January 1991.

Top Of Page4 Press Release 9/91, 13 January 1991.

Top Of Page5 See Press Release 12/91.

Top Of Page6 Press Release 81/91, 27 August 1991. See also the Joint Declaration adopted at the Meeting with Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States on 6 September 1991, Press Release 85/91.

Top Of Page7 See the contribution by Rich at 36 and the Guidelines on Recognition of New States in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union adopted on 16 December 1991 at 72.

Top Of Page8 Press Statement 133/91.

Top Of Page9 Press Statement 137/91.

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