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International Boundaries Research Unit

Boundary news

Croatia and Slovenia submit arbitration agreement to UN

(2 June 2011)

On 25 May 2011 Croatia and Slovenia jointly submitted their arbitration agreement for registration with the United Nations. The arbitration agreement was signed by both prime ministers in November 2009 but was subject to a complex ratification process, having to be sent to a popular referendum in Slovenia and was narrowly voted for in May 2010. Now registered with the UN, the treaty specifies that the procedures for arbitration will begin at the moment Croatia signs its accession into the European Union, likely to be finalised by the close of 2011.

The agreement calls for an arbitral tribunal to define the full length of their land and maritime boundary. Croatia and Slovenia have a long-standing dispute regarding their maritime boundary in the Piran Bay, which stems from their independence in 1991. Slovenia’s short coastline means that it would only generate a small wedge of maritime space beyond Piran Bay if strict equidistance was used to determine its maritime boundaries, as advocated by Croatia. Instead Slovenia has requested a corridor of maritime jurisdiction that extends beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial sea, allowing it access to areas of less restricted navigation. Slovenia, as the only member of the EU from the former Yugoslavia, has been able to threaten a veto of Croatia’s application to the EU for membership until both its maritime and territorial boundary disputes are resolved. It has been decided that an ad-hoc arbitral tribunal will be used to resolve the outstanding disputes. It is now believed that with the submission of the agreement to the UN that the arbitration tribunal could begin within a year, but is expected to take at least three years to reach a decision that will be binding upon each country.

Sources: ‘Slovene-Croatian border arbitration deal registered with UN’, BBC Monitoring European, 26 May 2011.

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