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News 19 Dec 17

Croatia, Slovenia Meet to Tackle Border Dispute

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar visits Zagreb on Tuesday in an attempt to move forward in resolving the long-running territorial dispute with Croatia over waters in the Piran Gulf.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Andrej Plenkovic (left) and Miro Cerar (right). Photo: Beta

After months of rows and cancelled meetings, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar is visiting Zagreb on Tuesday to meet his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic in the hope of moving forwards towards a resolution of the territorial dispute between the two states.

Relations with Slovenia deteriorated in June this year when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favour of Slovenia over the territorial dispute about waters in the Piran Gulf.

The Croatian government maintained the position of the previous administration in Zagreb, which was to claim that the arbitration process was compromised.

In July 2015, Croatia revealed recordings of unauthorised phone conversations between Jernej Sekolec, the Slovenian judge on the court, and Simona Drenik, the representative of the Slovenian government.

Ahead of the meeting in Zagreb, Cerar met leaders of his coalition partners in Ljubljana on Monday.

While some coalition members expressed a lack of optimism that the meeting will end the dispute, Karl Erjavec, president of the Democratic Pensioners’ Party and Slovenia’s vice-prime minister, said that he hopes that Cerar will not sign any bilateral agreement.

“I hope our prime minister will not sign or accept any obligations because we have bad experiences with Croatian politics. We can’t even start talking about a bilateral agreement because it would mean that we would give up the arbitration [decision],” Erjavec said.

He concluded that Cerar should inform Plenkovic about measures Slovenia will take if Croatia does not conform to the decision by December 29, the deadline for its implementation.

Erjavec previously announced a plan to sue Croatia before the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg due to its decision not to implement the verdict.

Plenkovic said on Monday that both states need “to meet halfway” to resolve the border dispute.

“If you look at the arbitration decision itself – I am not saying that I accept it or that it has a legal meaning for us, but in many respects, when it comes to the land border, it follows the fundamental principle that the Croatian legal team has always represented, which is the cadastral border,” he told Croatian news agency HINA.

“It’s good that Prime Minister Cerar is coming to Zagreb. This shows the responsibility, good neighbourly and friendly relations between the two countries,” Plenkovic added, saying that the two countries must try to find common ground.

Plenkovic and Cerar met in Ljubljana in mid-July, soon after the decision, but it took months for a return meeting in Zagreb to be confirmed.

Although Plenkovic arranged a meeting to resolve the issue with Cerar in September, the meeting was cancelled after the Croatian premier’s statement that the court’s decision was invalid because of its “compromised impartiality”.

Some observers saw Slovenia’s veto in September on Croatia’s accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD as a direct consequence of the unresolved issue between the two states.

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