Agreement suggests shift in negotiations between Croatia and Slovenia
(23 September 2009)Although heralded as a breakthrough in the boundary negotiations between Croatia and Slovenia, the agreement reached by Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor on 11 September still leaves much work to be done. The agreement was described in a letter sent by Kosor to Sweden's prime minister who now serves as president of the European Union (EU). The letter indicates that Croatia can proceed with negotiations concerning its accession to the EU. However, no documents, maps or material used in its application for membership will prejudice Croatia's boundary negotiations with Slovenia.
The two sides also agreed to restart boundary negotiations that had come to a stand-still on 15 June this year. These talks will continue to be facilitated by the EU and it was stipulated that the talks should be concluded either with a successful bilateral agreement or with submission of the dispute to an arbitral tribunal. The letter indicates that both states have agreed 25 June 1991 as the critical date for the boundary dispute and that no unilateral actions undertaken after that date should affect their respective claims.
The long-running boundary dispute between the two former Yugoslav republics centres around Slovenian claims to maritime jurisdiction in Piran Bay and into the Gulf of Trieste. There are additional arguments over some sections of the land boundary, particularly along the Dragonja river. As a member of the EU, Slovenia had threatened to oppose Croatia application for membership pending resolution of the dispute. However, the recent agreement appears to have effectively separated the issue of Croatia's application to the EU from resolution of the boundary dispute. This is a significant shift in dialogue and although both sides still have not committed to submit their boundary dispute to an arbitral tribunal, this new shift may be in preparation for such a move.
Sources: 'Prime Minister Kosor's letter to Swedish EU Presidency' Press Release, Government of the Republic of Croatia, 11 September 2009.