This article argues that there is a difference in what constitutes the sources of recognition prior to countries’ membership in the Euro-Atlantic community represented by NATO and after countries become its members. While prior to membership, countries are recognized for their compliance with NATO standards and policies, upon membership countries get the opportunity to promote specific interests legitimately and may seek recognition via non-compliance with NATO mainstream.
The paper explores this dynamic of recognition on the issue of Kosovo independence where Slovakia went from supporting NATO in its effort to protect civilians in Kosovo in the late 1990s to non-recognition of Kosovo in defiance of the majority of NATO member states less than a decade later. The crucial point proposed here is that there was a shift in how recognition by NATO worked prior to Slovakia’s membership and upon membership in these frameworks. While prior to membership recognition was achieved by compliance and identification with NATO standpoints, policies and actions, upon membership, recognition is achieved by differentiation from these patterns. More generally, the study shows that NATO membership is a powerful source of conditionality in relation to future members and a powerful source of legitimacy in relation to current members’ actions. While this has been discussed in the literature, the point here is that recognition in its various forms is an important driving force in these conditionality processes.