January 15, 1992 when the countries of the then European Community (EC) jointly recognised it as an independent state and Germany, which played a key role in that process together with the Holy See, established diplomatic relations with Croatia.
On January 15, 1992, when Croatia became internationally recognised, the Homeland War was under way and nearly a third of the country was occupied by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Serb insurgents. Croatia would fully regain control of its territory only six years later, after the completion of peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia and the Danube region.
That evening, in his televised address to the nation, the first President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, said: “This day – January 15, 1992 – will be engraved in gold letters in the 14-century-long history of the Croatian people on this sacred soil bordered by the Mura, the Drava, the Danube and the Adriatic.”
The international recognition of Croatia was a gradual process that followed the country’s declaration of independence on June 25, 1991. On that day Slovenia also declared independence from Yugoslavia and the two new states recognised each other the next day. At the same time the Soviet Union was also dissolving with the Baltic States and Ukraine leading the way. Although themselves without international recognition, they recognised Croatia in 1991. The first one to do so was Lithuania, on July 30. It was followed by Ukraine (December 11), Latvia (December 14) and Estonia (December 31).
The first sovereign country to recognise Croatia was Iceland, which did so on December 19, 1991. Germany also did so on the same day, but decided that its formal recognition would take effect on January 15, 1992 together with recognition by other EC member states. Two days before the EC, January 13, 1992, Croatia was recognised by the Holy See. The Vatican had announced its recognition of Croatia and Slovenia already on December 20, 1991 in a special document in response to requests by Croatia and Slovenia for diplomatic recognition. On October 3, 1991 the Vatican was the first to announce that it was working on the international recognition of Croatia. A day after the Holy See, Croatia was recognised by San Marino.
On January 15, 1992 Croatia was recognised by the United Kingdom, Denmark, Malta, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Norway, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Canada, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg and Greece. The next day Argentina, Australia, the Czech Republic, Chile, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Slovakia, Sweden and Uruguay followed suit. By the end of January 1992, Croatia had been recognised by seven more states — Finland, Romania, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
Russia recognised Croatia on February 17, 1992, Japan on March 17, the United States on April 7, Israel on April 16 (diplomatic relations, however, were established only five and a half years later), and China on April 27. The first Asian country to recognise Croatia was Iran, on March 15, 1992, while Egypt was the first African country to do so, on April 16, 1992.
Croatia became a member of the United Nations on May 22, 1992, and 21 years after its international recognition, on July 1, 2013, it joined the European Union as the 28th member state.