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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Stalemate continues in Croatia-Slovenia boundary dispute

(2 February 2009)

After the fourth and possibly last meeting of the joint Croatia-Slovenia commission of legal experts held on 28 January, there appears to be no settlement in the on-going boundary dispute. The joint commission was set up in 2007 to prepare their land and maritime boundary dispute for submission to an international court or tribunal. Although no judicial body has been specified, both sides appear willing to submit their case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the commission did agree that the critical date for the dispute would be 25 June 1991, meaning that any actions or documents after that date would be of limited influence. However, the commission has failed to reach agreement on two crucial issues. First, Slovenia wants the court or tribunal to adjudge the case based on the legal principle of ex aequo et bono, which would require the judicial body to apply directly the element of equity or fairness in its decision. Croatia would prefer the case be settled strictly on the application of international law. Second, the two sides also continue to disagree on the scope of the dispute, and whether the court or tribunal should only address the territorial sea portion of the maritime boundary or include the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone areas. Slovenia believes that specifying the maritime zone might prejudge their respective positions before the case begins. Some reports indicate that questions also remain over which portions of the land boundary are in dispute.

Two days after the fourth meeting, the Slovenian co-chairman of the joint commission Miha Pogacnik resigned after Slovenia’s prime minister criticised the fees charged for his work on the commission. Although the Croatian co-chairman Davorin Rudolf has stated explicitly that the resignation would not discontinue the work of the commission, the stalemate means that the commission has effectively passed the boundary dispute back to their respective governments. The European Commission has proposed appointing a panel led by former Finnish president Marrti Ahtisaari to mediate negotiations. However, with Slovenia still threatening to block Croatia’s accession to the European Union (EU) until the boundary dispute is resolved it remains unclear if there is sufficient political will to resolve the dispute either through diplomatic or legal channels.

‘Border Commission Agrees to Disagree on Two Major Issues’ STA, Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija d.o.o, 28 January 2009; ‘Croatian-Slovene arbitration commission holds session, continuation of work uncertain ‘ HINA-CROATIAN NEWS AGENCY, 28 January 2009; ‘Rudolf on Pogacnik's resignation’ HINA-CROATIAN NEWS AGENCY, 30 January 2009; ‘Pogacnik Steps Down as Border Commission Head ‘ STA, Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija d.o.o, 30 January 2009; ‘Mesic comments on EC's proposal for mediation group ‘ HINA-CROATIAN NEWS AGENCY, 31 January 2009