Established after the end of the Cold War, the Republic of Slovenia is a small state with a multicultural identity of Central, Southeastern, Mediterranean and Western European influences. It proclaimed independence in June 1991 and received international recognition in January 1992. The first democratic elections took place in spring 1990, and the opposition coalition Demos was sworn in that May. It is very important to note that the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution granted its republics certain statehood prerogatives as constituent parts of the federation. As a result, the first formal structure for the conduct of international cooperation was established. The Republic Committee for International Cooperation was a formal structure and served as a structural and organisational foundation for the formation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the independent Slovenia. This primarily means that the administrative/governmental approach of cooperation and coordination – or a so-called whole-of-government approach (WGA) – has a tradition stretching back almost half a century in Slovenia.
During the first decade and a half of its independence, Slovenia was engaged in a unique series of multilateral projects. It was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (1998–1999); it became a member of NATO and the EU (2004); it has held the chairmanship of the OSCE (2005), of the Human Security Network (May 2005–May 2006), and of the IAEA Board of Governors (Autumn 2006–Autumn 2007); and it has held the presidency of the Council of the EU (first half of 2008) and the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May–November 2009). Two challenges that it faced during its presidency of the Council of the EU were Kosovo’s proclamation of independence and the conclusion of the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Russian Federation.
From this, one can draw three basic conclusions that can help one gain a better understanding of the behaviours and structures of Slovenia’s foreign policy. First, from the beginning, Slovenia has been an active member of the international community, and by successfully combining bi- and multi-lateral diplomatic approaches, it has had unique ‘soft power’ policy output. Second, the most important products of this approach are the Bled Strategic Forum, the International Trust Fund for Demining, the Centre for European Perspective, the Centre for Excellence in Finance, and the Centre for International Cooperation and Development, all of which are important tools for conceptualising international development cooperation as one of the priorities of Slovene foreign policy. Third, from the organisational point of view, these activities were managed by intra- and interministerial task forces that were formed on an ad hoc basis and pursued a relatively loose network approach. In other words, they were formalised bodies with targeted purpose that only existed for the duration of a single project.
These policy characteristics are the basic premises for understanding how Slovenia conducts its international relations as well as how it conceptualises and manages related projects and processes. This was most clearly illustrated by Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU. This extremely important – and complex – project is also the background for understanding and analysing Slovenia’s stance towards and experience with a WGA. Indeed, these experiences enhanced the country’s institutional/organisational mindset and conceptualisation, although they were not explicitly formalised within structures as a WGA. However, a WGA can be implicitly detected in Slovenia’s strategy related to international operations and missions (Government of the Republic of Slovenia 2009). At the same time, there are some structures (e.g. intra-governmental bodies, working groups and permanent commissions) that use the goals of a WGA – namely, to be comprehensive, coordinated, goal-oriented and integrated – as a policy guideline.