5,5 billion dollar question – EU and Yugoslavia in 1990, interview with Kiro Gligorov

Kiro Gligorov was one of the most famous and active communist politicians in ex-Yugoslavia. Gligorov was involved in the Macedonian branch of the Yugoslav Communist League (party)  and served as the first president of Macedonia’s Socialist Republic. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Gligorov served as the president of sovereign Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia now called Northern Macedonia. 

After the wars in the 1990s, Gligorov gave several interviews as in Bosnian media, usually speaking about the situation in Balkans and ex-Yugoslav countries concerning contemporary developments and older developments during the period of the Yugoslav federation. 

In this video, a part of an interview with Gligorov is presented. The part is focusing on what happened during the end of 1990 when the European Community under the commission of Jacque Delores was negotiating with Yugoslav federal presidency, including heads of states of Yugoslav republics where Gligorov represented Macedonia. 

I am not exactly sure from which interview with Gligorov the video clip originate. In this text, I am presenting segments relevant to EC-Yugoslavia interactions with the following aspects mentioned by Gligorov: 

  • In 1990 Gligorov and other representatives from Yugoslav republics met with “the troika” consisting of Jacques Poss, minister of foreign affairs of Luxembourg, and Hans van der Broek, minister of foreign affairs of the Netherlands, and Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission. 
  • According to Gligorov, Poss said to him and others: (my translation) 

“There is no need for me to explain to you what Delores has made into a plan. The best is to give him the word so he can say what the European Union is ready to do if you can make an agreement to continue existing in some way, as Yugoslavia.”

  • Delores

“The union is ready, by a political decision, to immediately recognise Yugoslavia’s association membership in the EU. You know what that means and which privileges you have. I have received an order to prepare a  program for 5,5 billion dollars as an injection for Markovic’s program (federal prime-minister) continues successfully…. All right gentleman, what do you think about this plan?”

  • After several minutes of small talk and silence, Franjo Tudjman, president of Croatia, said: 

“Gentleman, you know what. I have to tell you honestly that there are no billions for which I could give up on the idea which now is feeding all the Croat people so that in one year we can rebuild the Croat state.”

  • After Tudjman, Slobodan Milosevic as Serbia’s president spoke:

“I have already repeated several times and want to tell this in front of you that I am in favour of a strong federation or a modern federation, or nothing. Otherwise, everyone can go in their directions.”

  • After Milosevic, Alija Izetbegovic as president of Bosnia and Herzegovina said: 

“You know what, I have to tell you that it is already hard for us even without  Zagreb and Belgrade. We are three peoples in Bosnia, and it cannot be like this. We have always been a special enitty, and we want to remain that but also to find some solution on how to cooperate with Zagreb and Belgrade.”

  • The troika

“Let us make a one-hour break so we can agree on how we will continue to work.” 

  • Gliogrov says that after the break, Poss, van der Broek and Delores started to have conversations with each of the Yugoslav presidents individually by talking with each of them for around one hour. The result of those discussions was “that there was no agreement” and that the Poss, van der Broek and Delores were “sorry” about being forced to inform the union about that outcome. 

One very interesting thing I find in this video-clip is that Gligorov’s memories and experience are reflecting on several aspects when it comes to scientific and popular understandings on interactions between the European Community and Socialist Yugoslavia. Including the case of nationalist presidents of Croatia and Serbia who were basically “sabotaging” and intentionally preventing the reform plan of Yugoslavia’s last prime minister, and former president of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, Ante Markovic. One part of Markovic’s plan was “Europeanisation” of Yugoslavia via economic reforms, institutional changes and future membership in what later became the European Union. 

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