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The Small New States in Europe after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and Their Diplomacies

Milan Jazbec

1. The Changed International Environment

An analysis of the changes taking place in the international community on the European continent after the fall of the Berlin Wall leads us to the conclusion that the form these changes took was the result of the simultaneous effects of powerful processes of integration and disintegration.(1) The end of the Cold War, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall,(2) can be compared to the Peace of Westphalia and the major turning point it represented. The extent of these changes is confirmed by: the huge territory involved (the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, the European part of the former Soviet Union and Transcaucasia), the large number of people involved, the short duration of time in which the changes took place (approximately three years), the large number of states involved, the exceptional social energy that was released and the massive political shifts that occurred. And even now, a decade later, all the consequences of these events have yet to be recognized, particularly those that relate to European stability.

The culmination of the two processes was noticeable in the first half of the 1990s, when the phase of the appearance and international recognition of the new, predominantly small states ended(3) and the stage of acceptance into the Euro-Atlantic international organizations began. In trying to establish where and when these processes culminated and converged, we need to emphasize that they are not yet complete, although it seems at the moment that their intensity is declining.

2. The Nation State and the Small New States

At the heart of these changes is the nation state. Its traditional role, particularly in the twentieth century, has changed considerably, which is why some theoreticians talk about a reduction of its significance and even about its decline. The traditional attributes of its political activities are being altered and partly reshaped by centers of international integration and by the growing significance of the various forms of regional integration.

For our purposes, three types of European-generated states need to be distinguished: pre-modern, modern, and post-modern. As an institution, the pre-modern state did not have the characteristics of the nation state: its function, in addition to that of force, did not extend beyond the administrative social frame, and the state as a notion did not yet exist in the consciousness of its population. This type of state dominated in the period leading up to the Peace of Westphalia, when the borders between states were, in some cases, unclear and unstable. The traditional or modern state was based on a well-defined territory, a unified population, and a sovereign and exclusive authority that did not allow any interference in its internal jurisdiction. The nineteenth century, when the basic characteristics and elements of the international community were established, created conditions for the appearance of the post-modern state. Its existence has been recognizable for at least the last decade. In this period, the attributes of the traditional nation state, due to the effects of the international processes of integration and disintegration, began to change. The post- modern state is based on a conspicuous and voluntary cooperation, on strong participation in the integration process, and on an openness of its internal jurisdiction, with an obvious acceptance of commonly-agreed rules of conduct.


In the contemporary international community, the nation state remains a basic and most widespread subject of international law.


The appearance of a large number of new states once more actualized the problems of the nation state(4) and its attributes. Among them, diplomacy stands out: it has the role of projecting externally, i.e., to the elaborate network of the international community, the social complexity of the nation state. Diplomacy's role is also to promote the state's readiness for and intention of cooperating with other subjects of international law. The complexity, universality and interdependence of the contemporary international community provide the basic frame of reference for the effects of changes in the traditional role of the nation state. One also notes a great number of new small states which demand international confirmation of their existence and identity, whilst at the same time expecting to be accepted into the numerous forms of European integration. The setting up of their own diplomatic structures has been one of their urgent tasks.

In the study of the new small states, one encounters the problem of definition. Many approaches have been used by various theoreticians, and diverse research methodologies have been used.(5) My definition is based on size of territory and population (10,000-100,000 sq km and 1.5-15 million inhabitants).(6) A lack of resources, including human resources in such states,(7) influences the setting up of diplomatic structures and their activities. These diplomatic structures make a decisive contribution to the choice of the security options of the new small states and to their manifold positioning in the international community.

In the twentieth century, small states have appeared in four waves following extensive social changes: after the two world wars, during the process of decolonization, and after the end of the Cold War. In addition to the already-mentioned lack of resources, these states display rhetorical sensitivity and vulnerability, as well as dependence on both the immediate and wider international environment.(8) They are also greatly adaptable, a characteristic facilitated by a smaller social system and greater transparency (in spite of a noticeable overlapping of social roles filled by the same players). Small states therefore have to start focusing on specializing in narrow areas ('niche strategy'), as well as being open to the international environment (the necessity of wide and manifold contacts, at both official and unofficial level).

3. The Security Question

The small European states that have appeared since the fall of the Berlin Wall are finding a solution to the problem of their security in membership in the Euro-Atlantic security organizations. The European security conditions after the end of the Cold War display many different characteristics. Among them is the fact that there exists a considerable number of international organizations providing security in Europe: the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the WEU and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. For the small European states, participation at different levels in a number of these structures is of great significance. Membership in many such organizations may ensure a greater degree of security. In the European security environment there exist, from the viewpoint of small states, certain negative factors. Among these are threats originating in the internal development of the small states (particularly post-socialist states), local threats, anxiety in some states because of what is regarded as threats to their national sovereignty as a consequence of integration processes, the formation of the competing areas of interest of the superpowers (e.g., South East Europe and the Mediterranean), and modernization and professionalization of the military. For these reasons, in spite of the numerosity of these organizations, the United States remains one of the main guarantors of European security.(9)

The security of small countries is dependent on their inclusion in the activities of various international integration processes. In this environment, small states can participate and act as co-decision makers. Positive effects are even greater and more long-term in the case of participation in the highest executive bodies of the most important international organizations--e.g., Slovenia's non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council (1998-1999). A small state thus becomes recognizable; it participates and becomes part of the decision-making process, and it can influence bodies that are involved in the preparation of global decisions on world peace and security. The effects on the diplomatic structures of the small countries are also significant, and they can be seen in a higher foreign policy profile, as well as in the increased diplomatic burden these countries have to carry. The international position of the new small states thus becomes more solid and recognized, and they begin to enjoy a greater level of acceptability and security. This further affects their local stability. Owing to their involvement in international processes, these states are probably less likely to become targets of the potential foreign policy ambitions of other states.


The United States remains a major guarantor of European security.... Diplomacy remains a necessary and irreplaceable instrument of the nation state and its politics with regard to the international community.


4. The Diplomacies of the New Small States

In establishing their diplomatic structures, the new small states have to contend--as we have already stressed--with both the changing role of the nation state and with the limitations resulting from their own characteristics. However, having in mind the origins and the development of diplomacy(10), we must conclude that diplomacy remains a necessary and irreplaceable instrument of their politics with regard to the international community. The function of initiating and maintaining a dialogue among the subjects of international law is gaining in importance, whilst new forms of diplomacy, new subject matter and methods of activity, are changing diplomacy's traditional nature.

The basic sociological characteristic and limitation of the new small states is the lack of human resources. Because of their late and often sudden attainment of statehood, there is a noticeable pressure for a rapid and urgent establishment of diplomatic services in these states, enforced by their ambitions to be included in the international community. The limited availability of personnel and other resources is detrimental to these ambitions.

The short-term consequences are the following: an influx of unqualified personnel; an influx of politicians of diverse views to the permanent staff in the diplomatic service; diverse and sometimes unsuitable educational backgrounds of the personnel in the new diplomatic organizations; scarcity of people working in individual organizational units; continuous and intensive fluctuation between the foreign ministry and diplomatic missions, particularly in the initial stage, as a result of the simultaneous setting up of both the foreign ministry and the diplomatic missions network--this often leads to the outflow of the best personnel to the missions. The long-term consequences include the influence of 'political recruits' who hinder the setting up of a professional diplomatic organization and interfere in vertical promotion of career diplomats; reduced competitiveness of the new diplomatic structures in comparison with the already established ones; customary acceptance of extensive external recruitment, a practice that permanently lowers the professional level of these diplomatic structures.


No state is strong enough or weak enough to live in splendid isolation.


Slovenia's experience (and to some extent the experience of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) indicates that the composition and size of the diplomatic structures at their inception are of key importance. I consider 'the zero hour' to be the end of the calendar year in which the former multinational state broke up and the new small state emerged. In the case of all the above-mentioned four states, 'the zero hour' was December 1991.

At the zero hour, the Slovene diplomatic organization consisted of two homogenous groups: the diplomats who had worked in the former Yugoslav diplomatic service (and who joined Slovenia's diplomacy or had been accepted into it), and people who had participated in the international activities of the administration of the Republic of Slovenia within the former federal state. These two groups were strongly supplemented by a third one whose significance was growing fast: the heterogeneous population of novices (recruits from politics, economy, universities, etc.). In Slovenia's case, this last group amounted to nearly 100 people. In contrast, in the three Baltic states the first two groups practically did not exist, so novices of all kinds were of key significance, even though this group was quantitatively very weak. It was supplemented with recruits from the émigré population, particularly from North America, and to a small extent also with a recall of diplomats who had been active in the diplomatic services of the Baltic states during the first period of their statehood between the two World Wars.(11) In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this amounted to 10-20 people in each diplomacy at their beginning.(12)

To summarize, the following five groups have emerged in the new diplomacies: employees of the diplomatic service of the former state divided into the political and clerical subgroups; employees of the former administration who had dealt with international bodies; complete novices in the diplomatic service recruited from political parties, universities, the economy, as well as culture, the media and education; recruits from émigré communities; former diplomats brought in from retirement.

Thus in conditions of a general lack of resources, Slovenia started off with a significantly larger personnel reserve, both in size and in the amount of diplomatic knowledge and experience, than the Baltic states. The reasons were political, cultural, historical and ideological , and the appropriate consequences followed. However, it would be beyond the purposes of this article to explore them in more detail.


In the twentieth century, the role of the nation state has changed considerably. One of the reasons has been the appearance of the post-modern state based on a conspicuous and voluntary cooperation.


Future development and professionalization of the new diplomatic structures will partly depend on how the relations among the diverse groups of recruits develop. The competition between the groups, as well as between individuals in each group, is obvious. We can also observe alliances between individual subgroups, depending on their characteristics, as well as between smaller and narrower circles within groups and subgroups. Perhaps the most promising and important is the subgroup of complete novices (highly educated, with a knowledge of languages, rapidly gaining experience). These individuals often became assistants to the experienced diplomats. The latter constitute the medium-term nucleus of the new diplomacies.

5. The Main Sociological Aspects of the New Diplomacies

Because of the lack of personnel and financial resources, we can observe a lack of diplomatic knowledge and experience in all the compared diplomacies. At the same time, these diplomacies face an increasing number of foreign policy tasks. The need for permanent recruitment of complete novices is therefore obvious even though it temporarily increases the lack of diplomatic knowledge and experience.

At the same time, two other characteristics of the new diplomacies are strengthened by this: youthfulness and feminization. It is estimated that the average age of the four compared diplomacies at the time of their inception was 25-35 years, and that half of the recruits were women. This trend has continued, especially with regard to feminization. New diplomacies are thus, on the one hand, very young (i.e. young and inexperienced), which is relatively detrimental to their effectiveness.(13) On the other hand, they are recruited from a wide social spectrum and very noticeably from the female part of the population. This is important as a new phenomenon in the sociological development of diplomatic services that traditionally depended on elitist recruitment from narrow social circles and from the male part of the population.

These two characteristics point to the likelihood of an important social evolution of diplomacy, whilst posing a number of interesting questions. What will be the age structure of the new diplomacies in 20 or more years, and where will the different generations fit in? What influence will the various age groups have? What will be the effects of the already prevalent feminization and what will be the gender distribution in the highest positions? Will the lack of diplomatic knowledge and experience turn into an accumulation of both of these? On the other hand, these characteristics indicate a need for planned recruitment and professional training (not only internal, but also in various international settings) in the new diplomacies.(14)


The role of diplomacy is to project to the international community the social complexity of the nation state.


As indicated before, these sociological characteristics of the new diplomatic structures imply limitations as well as advantages. Youthfulness acts as a limitation because of the already mentioned lack of diplomatic knowledge and experience, and as an advantage because of vitality, ambition and solid theoretical knowledge it brings. Feminization acts as an advantage, because it widens the diplomatic reserve of diplomacy and balances its gender representation. It could have a negative effect if becomes so strong that is pushes out and fully replaces the male population. The joint results of these two characteristics will influence effectiveness of diplomatic service. Yet effectiveness can be measured only indirectly and long-term, and this in turn hinders quick and ongoing correction of the situation.

But it is also a fact that these new characteristics account for a greater mobility of diplomatic personnel. It has been possible to advance faster in the new diplomatic structures, at least in the first decade of their existence. This has additional effects on the horizontal and vertical mobility of diplomats, motivating them in their work. They are additionally motivated in their vertical mobility by searching for and forming pacts with influential individuals and groups outside the new diplomacies. This kind of conduct is rare in the complete novices, and widespread among the political recruits.

From a long-term perspective, professionalization of personnel is of utmost importance. A large proportion of the young recruits act as a foundation for this process. They realize that professionalization is advantageous to them as well. Well-planned recruitment and permanent professional training increase the level of professionalization. At the same time, empirical data indicate that attempts at political recruitment have continued.

6. Conclusions and Dilemmas

In the contemporary change-prone international community, the nation state remains the basic and most widespread subject of international law. Even in the process of its transformation, its attempts to adapt and persist in a central position are clearly observable. However, its position is different from the one it occupied in the seventeenth century when it first appeared. The post-modern state is a flexible, open and dynamic institution. Its contacts with the international community have greatly increased.. All this indicates that diplomacy will retain its role as an attribute of such a state. It can even be conjectured that the significance of diplomacy in the modern world is growing, just as its functions are changing. Diplomacy remains an irreplaceable state instrument for the implementation of the foreign policies of the new small states and for their establishment in the international community. For the diplomacies of the new small states, tendencies and characteristics of global society represent a challenge and a point of orientation. The challenge consists of the necessity to adapt to these conditions. On the other hand, it is necessary to face up to the question which even the diplomacies of the well established states have to face: how to embrace and understand the complex situation which has arisen, so that it will be possible to act suitably.

As an answer to the first challenge, diplomatic structures of the new small states are obliged to set up a rational diplomatic-consular network in order to ensure a permanent activity and presence in the international community. As to the second challenge (understanding the complex situation), it has to be tackled in order to make a rational use of the small resources, recruit suitably qualified complete novices and with constant training and carefully planned mobility, achieve a future high degree of professionalism of personnel and working methods; and ensure a high level of technical preparedness. The second challenge also requires active participation in the contemporary currents of integration.

If they are able to meet these challenges, the new small states will be able to function appropriately in the period of an intensive "territorial de-hierarchization," as well as succeed in working themselves into the networks of international integration. Failing to do so ultimately means separation and isolation, the accompanying vulnerability and reduced security, and a smaller influence in the management of common affairs: "By joining the global community, they [the small states] have, ironically, strengthened their independence. In the process, many small states managed to recover their national identity and dignity, things that could have been seriously threatened had they not joined the United Nations. They have also shown that a small state can exercise sovereignty in a meaningful way within a global framework, and that they contribute to global well-being."(15) The globalization process is all-encompassing and irreversible, and it is impossible to remain outside its currents, isolated and independent: "No state is strong enough or weak enough to live in splendid isolation."(16)

The new small states, which have managed in just over a decade to free themselves from the grip of the large, multinational and hegemonic state systems, will thus have to undertake a variety of internal social efforts to accept the inevitable inclusion into global currents.


1. In a geopolitical sense, Europe encompasses those states that are geographically only partially or not at all located on the old continent but have an influence on what happens on it. According to Grizold (1998:96), two groups of states belong here: a) Russia, Turkey and the USA. and b) the successor states of the former Soviet Union in the area of Transcaucasia.

2. "The social changes are deep, all-encompassing and ongoing (Dimitrov, Hofkirchner, 1995:76) .""We are witnessing a social transformation which is, in my judgement, historically comparable only with the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age, with the discovery of America in 1492, and with the change of the means of production that came with capitalism (Bütcher, 1995:150)." Cooper (1996:7) states that "1989 marked a break in European history. What happened in 1989 went beyond the events in 1789, 1815 or 1919. These days, like 1989, stand for revolutions, break-up of empires and the re-ordering of spheres of influence. . . Historically, the right point of comparison is 1648, the end of the Thirty Years' War when the modern European state system emerged at the Peace of Westphalia." Feltham (1994:2) evaluates the effect of these changes similarly: "We are living through an avalanche of history, and it is no exaggeration to say that the world is entering a phase of change and uncertainty in its international relations unparalleled in recorded history."

3. The former Czechoslovakia disintegrated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia; the following states succeeded the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan; the former Yugoslavia disintegrated into the following new states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Macedonia and Slovenia.

4. Also Benko (1997), Grizold (1999), Horsman and Marshall (1994), Kennedy (1993).

5. Amstrup observes that "research on small states in the international system has been hampered by the problem of a definition of its own subject matter, the 'small state', and a substantial part of the literature is concerned with this problem. Nevertheless, no satisfactory definition has been presented (1976:165)." Christmas-Möller says that nobody doubts the existence of small states, "but the problem was to identify the phenomenon as a separate category distinct from neighboring categories, because the social world is not organized in distinct groups but on a continuum, with transition from one category to the next (1983:40)." Sieber adds that "the absence of terminological clarity and theoretical coherence [is] also a characteristic of small states studies. In particular, the problem of defining a 'small state' has not yet been solved (1983:108)."

6. Vital (1967) uses the criterion of 10-15 million inhabitants for economically developed small states and 20-30 million inhabitants for the undeveloped ones; Barston (1973) suggests 10-15 million; Clarke and Payne (1987), 1 million or less; Bray and Packer (1993), 1.5 million; Senjur (1993) suggests 1-10 million and a territory of 10,000 -100,000 square kilometers; Stanic (1990) suggests up to 10 million and up to 100,000 square kilometers; Kindley (1995:143, note 2) up to 16 million; Kramer (1994), 15 million. Checchio and Clarson (1997:5) conclude that in all the literature by authors from the EU, population size is a widely used criterion for the division of the member states into large and small (Nugent, 1994; Sbragia, 1992; Westlake, 1995).

7. Bray and Packer use the term "pool" to indicate small resources ["small states have much more limited pools from which to recruit the personnel that they need."(1993:234)]. Also Papadakis and Starr ["most small states are characterized by a limited pool of human and material resources" (1987:423)] as well as Streeten ["since it can draw only a smaller pool." (1993:197)]. Eisenstadt uses the term "reservoir" (das Reservoir) and also "resources" (Ressourcen) (1977), whilst Geser uses "recruitment field" [das Rekrutierungsfeld (1992:632)], as well as "resources" (Ressourcen, p. 647); Keber talks about "human potential (1996:136)," and Rupel, about "the problem of insufficient reserves (1994:276)" and about an incomplete personnel structure (p.151).

8. Small states are characterized by vulnerability; an international image of 'no problem'; chronic dependency on the metropolitan economies; permanent status of being spectators with regard to most major world developments; a tendency towards insularity (Julien, 1992:46). Among advantages, Kropivnik and Jelovnik list the following: small countries have greater ability to adapt quickly owing to a relatively simple process of decision-making; they are quicker to develop a niche strategy; they focus primarily on exports; they can change direction of production more easily; their elementary and secondary education is generally well developed (Kropivnik and Jelovnik, 1995:67-70). Among disadvantages, Kropivnik and Jelovnik list the following: small countries have neither a large territory nor a large market, and therefore their economic structure is less differentiated; the small size of their internal market prevents local companies from achieving real competitiveness; they are excessively dependent on exports; they have difficulties providing guarantees for international loans (which results in limited access to financial markets); their research and development suffers because of inadequate means; the language barrier becomes a disadvantage; they are more prone to natural disasters (67-70). Among economic disadvantages, Briguglio lists the following: small countries have limited natural resources endowments and high import content; they suffer from limitation on import substitution possibilities, from small domestic markets and dependence of export markets; from a limited ability to influence domestic prices and to exploit economies of scale; from limited possibility for domestic competition, marginalization in international trade, high costs of public administration and infrastructural development due to indivisibility of overhead costs (Briguglio, 1995:113).

9. On the basis of membership in Euro-Atlantic security institutions, would it be possible to conclude that more memberships means more influence and more security? What is the motivation of the new (but also the old) small European states as they become members of these security institutions and does the membership in one or two institutions guarantee security but not enough influence? A further important question is whether the USA, as the strongest military force in the world, is still the foundation stone of European security? Is the USA satisfied with this role, are there signs of either a gradual withdrawal or a strengthening of American role on the European continent? What are the relations in the area of security between the various international institutions? Do these institutions follow a precondition that "no organization is able to totally cover all the security and defense needs of the European continent (Grizold, 1999:136)," and if so, are they able to guarantee European security?

10. Additionally, we could also list diplomatic functions and the tasks which the diplomatic service (or diplomats) must perform, usually under instruction from the state. These functions are defined in detail in The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and Feltham (1994:3) summarizes them as follows: representing the sending state and the receiving state; protecting in the receiving state the interests of the sending state and its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law; ascertaining, by all lawful means, conditions and developments in the receiving state, and reporting thereon to the government of the sending state; promoting friendly relations between the sending state and the receiving state, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations. Diplomacy "as a state institution and as a factor in state politics and state interests (Benko, 1997:257-259)" must thus carry out three basic tasks: "representing, negotiating and observing." In this way, it secures for its government information on the receiving state, thus facilitating more complete and considered decision-making on concrete policies towards this state. With this information diplomacy advises its government and, as and when the need arises, it also carries out negotiations on certain matters according to its government's instruction.

11. My own experience and observations; also Jerak and Purkart (1997), and Kosin (1997).

12. How did the other four new states that appeared after the dissolution of Yugoslavia use the diplomatic personnel from the former common diplomacy? Croatia took on a number of individuals from the first group (mainly from the clerical subgroup); in Bosnia and Hercegovina, the extent of the recruitment from the first group depended on the tripartite structure of the state leadership; in Macedonia, most of the diplomats from the first group were included in the new diplomacy; the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia recruited into its diplomacy those former diplomats who were from Serbia and Montenegro (they constituted a good half of the former diplomacy, whilst Slovenia participated with 3-5 percent, Macedonia, with slightly more, Croatia, with about 33 percent, the rest coming from Bosnia and Hercegovina, Vojvodina and Kosovo. The second group was included in the new diplomacies of all these countries, and the appearance of the third group was also noticeable.

13. These ideas were communicated to me by Andreja Purkart, a young Slovene diplomat currently working at the Slovenian Embassy in Washington. According to her, the lack of personnel in the new diplomacies forces young people, who are devoid of any useful working experience, to take on responsibility for projects which even their older colleagues in established diplomacies do not face daily. This means, they mature very quickly, a process particularly noticeable when they are assigned to a mission abroad. With minimal working experience, they carry out independent and demanding work. The natural allies of these complete novices are the first subgroup of the first group and some individuals from the second subgroup, as well as the political recruits. None of these, in contrast to some of the others, feel threatened by ambitious and hardworking young diplomats.

14. Slovenia established its own Diplomatic Academy in Winter of 1996. A proposal for its formation was written by me in November 1990, while I was still serving in the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry. The whole text is published in my recent book, A Slovene in Belgrade, 1987-1991. A decade later, I am even more convinced of the usefulness of this idea and its later realization, as well as of the fact that the Academy could further fulfill its mission only as an internationalized institution.

15. Briguglio, 1995:110.

16. Steiner, 1982:31.


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The revised text of a paper delivered to Rice University's Central Europe Study Group, February 21, 2000.


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