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Slovenes View Recognition Just Another Step With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

January 16, 1992

LJUBLJANA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ For President Milan Kucan, who turned 51 Wednesday, it was ″the best birthday present ever.″

But in general, Slovenes took European Community recognition of their nationhood in stride. Even the opening of German and Austrian embassies in the capital failed to elicit much elation.

In contrast to neighboring Croatia, immersed in a bloody and massively destructive war for seven months, Slovenia’s exit from the Balkan federation has been swift and smooth.

The people of the ethnically homogeneous, mountainous state, angered by growing Serb domination of the Yugoslav federation, voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 26, 1990 to leave it.

On June 25, Croatia and Slovenia declared independence. The next day, Yugoslav air force jets screeched over Ljubljana and federal tanks rolled to seize disputed border posts.

Over the next three weeks, the 1.9 million Slovenes watched and cheered as their amateur territorial defense forces dealt the federals a humiliating defeat. But the time the army cut its losses and left, 60 people had died - including 39 federal soldiers.

Wednesday’s celebration was anti-climactic.

Daniel Hocevar, a 20-year-old kiosk owner, complained of middling sales of Slovenian flags, bumper stickers and other national souvenirs at his downtown stall.

″We’ve been waiting for this, we expected it - if not today, then next week,″ Hocevar said. ″We felt much more joy when we declared independence in June ... and even more when the army left.″

Germany and Austria opened embassies in Ljubljana Wednesday and 26 other European nations announced they would establish diplomatic relations.

″It’s the first real Slovenian state, and that’s why it means so much more to us,″ President Kucan said in an interview.

An independent Slovenia should be able to reopen its airspace, closed in June by Yugoslav authorities, and tap international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

But Kucan said he had no illusions that recognition was a magic cure for all Slovenia’s ills.

″It means we won’t have to spend as much energy chasing recognition,″ he said. ″Now we will see how capable we are of running our own country ... and we will have to deal with growing social tensions.″

Slovenia, once socialist Yugoslavia’s economic powerhouse with a captive market in the other five republics, now must battle for markets overseas. Slovenes are swallowing the bitter pill of austerity as the nation switches to free-market practices.

About 10 percent of the work force is unemployed, officials say. The monthly inflation rate is running in two-digit figures, though it has decreased since October, when Slovenia still belonged to the Yugoslav monetary system.

The republic’s fledgling currency, the tolar, is backed by what bank sources view as a minimum in foreign exchange.

″The reality is not very pleasant, but Slovenes are ready to endure many burdens if they know they have perspectives,″ Kucan said. ″That now depends on Slovenian politicians.″

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