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Croatia and Slovenia have agreed on the members of the arbitration panel tasked with settling their border dispute, and the panel's work is set to begin.
The court's president will be Gilbert Guillaume of France, while the other two members will be Bruno Simma of Germany and Vaughan Lowe of Great Britain, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic announced in Zagreb on Tuesday.
"It is very encouraging that we managed to reach an agreement so quickly on such a delicate issue," Milanovic told reporters, adding that intensive diplomatic consultations had been held prior to the agreement.
The European panel members selected by Zagreb and Ljubljana were part of a list of possible judges provided by the European Commission, while the two countries also each put forward a judge to stand on the five-member panel. Croatia appointed Budislav Vukas, and Slovenia Jernej Sekolec.
"Bilateral talks have proven to be important and this government will continue to nurture such talks. Croatia and Slovenia have made the first important step in the establishment of international arbitration," Pusic said.
Croatia and Slovenia have been unable to agree on their land and sea border since becoming independent states in the early 1990s. The dispute centres on ownership of Piran Bay in the north Adriatic Sea and Slovenia's access to international waters.
An arbitration agreement was finally agreed in the second half of 2009 by then Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers Jadranka Kosor and Borut Pahor. Slovenia had blocked Croatia's EU negotiations for more than a year before the deal was signed.
The two leaders agreed to allow an arbitration panel rule on the case, and accept whatever judgement the panel reached, without the possibility of appeal.
The arbitration proceedings are expected to last for several years and cost some ten million euros, which will be paid equally by Croatia and Slovenia.
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