LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – Current European Union president Slovenia became the first former Yugoslav republic to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia on Wednesday.
Parliament voted in favor of Kosovo, which declared independence on February 17, with 57 votes to 4. The vote brought to 15 the number of the 27 EU members that have recognized Kosovo so far.
“This is not a decision against Serbia. Slovenia is not doing this for itself, we are doing this on the basis of European and international policy,” Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told parliament before the vote.
Apart from Slovenia 25 countries, including the United States and major EU powers, have recognized Kosovo to date. Russia is strongly opposed to the independence of the former Serbian province with a majority Albanian population.
The government asked parliament to recognize Kosovo two weeks ago. Analysts believe parliament took its time because of concerns about Slovenia’s strong business interests in Serbia, which has threatened unspecified measures against countries which recognize its former province.
Slovenian managers urged the government and parliament in February not to be hasty about recognizing Kosovo, saying this could endanger Slovenia’s economic relations with Serbia and Russia.
On the day Kosovo declared independence, Serbian protesters invaded the Slovenian embassy in Belgrade and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry advised Slovenians not to travel to Serbia unless necessary. The advice is still valid.
Slovenia, which like Kosovo was part of the former Yugoslavia until declaring independence in 1991, joined NATO and the EU in 2004 and last year became the first former communist state to adopt the euro.
It holds the rotating EU presidency until July.