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News 22 Sep 17

Slovenia PM Calls off Border Talks in Croatia

Only a day after the Croatian and Slovenian leaders agreed to meet in Zagreb to discuss their border dispute, Slovenia's Mirko Cerar has cancelled the visit over his counterpart’s UN speech.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar addresses the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

Slovenian Prime Minister Mirko Cerar on Thursday said that he was cancelling his visit to Zagreb after his Croatian counterpart, Andrej Plenkovic, told the UN in an address that Slovenia had “compromised” international arbitration of their dispute over the Piran Gulf.

In June, the Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded a bigger portion of the gulf to Slovenia. However, Zagreb rejected the verdict, and called for bilateral talks to solve the matter.

On September 27 the two prime ministers agreed to meet to discuss the dispute over the territorial waters between Croatia and Slovenia in the Piran Gulf in Istria.

Cerar, however, stated that the meeting was now impossible as Plenkovic had “officially” told an international audience that Croatia views the court's arbitration process as compromised.

“We remain open for dialogue, but only if Croatia accepts the arbitration ruling and expresses a willingness to cooperate in its implementation,” Cerar told RTV Slovenia.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Plenkovic said Croatia rejected the Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the sea border in Istria because of its “compromised impartiality”.

“Compromised impartiality ... means that the rulings are legally null, which has left Croatia no other choice but to withdraw from the arbitration process,” Plenkovic said.

In 2015, a Croatian daily, Vecernji list, published recordings of unauthorised phone conversations between Jernej Sekolec, the Slovenian judge on the court, and Simona Drenik, the representative of the Slovenian government.

During the conversations, which were not permitted, Sekolec revealed confidential conversations between the judges, predicting that the court would award Slovenia up to 75 per cent of the waters of the Piran Gulf, as Ljubljana has been demanding.

Croatia's government and parliament then called the entire process “compromised” and “contaminated”.

“We believe that this example of disregard for the rule of law discourages states from resolving disputes before a third party,” Plenkovic told UN General Assembly.

The dispute between Croatia and Slovenia over the maritime waters on the Istrian peninsula dates back to the break-up of Yugoslavia. It resulted in Slovenia temporarily blocking Croatia’s EU accession talks in December 2008.

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