Austria and Netherlands Worried about Croatian-Slovenian Border Dispute

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The Prime ministers of both countries have offered their help in solving the issue.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed concern about the dispute over the border between Slovenia and Croatia, reports on January 2, 2018.

Kurz and Rutte explained their views at a news conference on Monday after their meeting in Vienna. They also both expressed willingness to help address this issue, according to the Slovenian news agency STA.

Kurz said he was “very unhappy” because of the situation in a country which neighbours Austria and added that he wanted to “contribute positively to the resolution of the conflict.” Rutte also said he wanted to help resolve this issue, added STA, citing the Austrian news agency APA.

Kurz, whose country will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year, spoke with Rutte about the most significant challenges for the EU – Brexit, migration and the EU budget.

On 29 June last year, the Arbitration Court issued a judgment on the border between Croatia and Slovenia, which gave most of the disputed areas on land to Croatia, but also gave Slovenia most of the Bay of Piran, which was the main issue of the dispute. Croatia left the arbitration proceedings in 2015, after the publication of secret recordings which showed that the Slovenian government was improperly trying to influence the arbitrators. Two Slovenian officials submitted their resignations at the time. After several months, the Tribunal decided to continue with the proceedings in spite of that and in June 2017, a decision was announced.

Slovenia insists on the implementation of the judgement, while Croatia wants to start new bilateral negotiations. After adopting the necessary laws, last week Slovenia announced that it would begin implementing the decision. Tensions are running high among fishermen and police boats in the Bay of Piran, but so far no major incidents have occurred.

A possible compromise solution is for Croatia and Slovenia to sign a new bilateral agreement which would more or less just copy the provisions of the arbitration judgement, which should be acceptable to both sides. This would satisfy Slovenia, since it would, in reality, implement the judgement, but would also respect the decision of the Croatian Parliament that the arbitration proceedings are invalid since it would represent an entirely new international agreement.

Both governments are under international pressure to avoid incidents and tensions and come to a mutually acceptable solution, but Slovenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections and hard-liners’ pressure in both countries are making this difficult.


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