European Commission: Arbitration Decision Should Be Implemented

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The EC supports the Slovenian position.

The European Commission supports the Slovenian position in the arbitration agreement dispute and calls for the arbitration tribunal’s decision to be implemented, although Croatia has withdrawn from the proceedings, reports Večernji List on 5 July 2017.

After a discussion behind the closed doors of the College of Commissioners, described by a source as a lot more vehement than expected, the message was sent on behalf of the entire Commission by its Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

“The European Commission takes note of the final decision of the Arbitration Tribunal and expects both parties to implement that decision,” said Timmermans. The Commission expects prime ministers Miro Cerar and Andrej Plenković to agree on the implementation of the arbitration decision during their meeting on 12 July, added the European Commission Vice President.

“This is a bilateral issue, a final verdict has been made, and it is now necessary to discuss how to implement it. Perhaps the two sides will want to look for help from the European Commission on how to implement it. I am aware of the situation, but there is a will for talks. We will do all we can to help apply the verdict in the best possible way,” said Timmermans.

During the meeting, Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner from Croatia, explained Croatia’s perspective and advocated that the Commission should not go into assessing the implementation of the arbitration tribunal’s decision, from which Croatia has withdrawn following the illegal conduct of the Slovenian side. Mimica emphasised that it was a bilateral issue over which the Commission had no jurisdiction. The debate involved other European commissioners as well, and not just Violeta Bulc from Slovenia. Some of them insisted that the European Commission should call on both sides to implement the arbitration decision, presenting it as an issue of respecting the principles of international law.

According to unofficial sources, among the European commissioners who insisted on the compliance with the arbitration decision, there were those who wanted to frame the issue as whether Croatia respects the rule of law, while others emphasized that it was a bilateral issue, adding that this situation should not be compared with the problems with the rule of law in some other member states, such as Hungary and Poland.

Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who announced to the press the position of the European Commission on the arbitration decision, has been in charge of this issue in the Commission since July 2015, when the scandal with the behaviour of the Slovenian side in the arbitration was discovered and when Croatian Parliament unanimously supported Croatia’s withdrawal from the arbitration agreement.

At the time, he wrote a letter to the Croatian government claiming that the arbitration would continue regardless of the Parliament’s decision and that the Commission would respect the decision made by the arbitrators. Over the past few months, the Croatian government has been trying to explain to Timmermans and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that it was a bilateral issue between the two member states and that the Commission should not take sides. But, yesterday, after the debate, it became evident that a different position prevailed.

Before the meeting of the European Commission, the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) issued a joint statement calling on Croatia and Slovenia to “respect the arbitration decision in a constructive spirit.” The Benelux prime ministers emphasise the importance of the rule of law as the foundation upon which the EU is built, says the statement.

“This is not a job of the European Commission. They should not interfere in bilateral relations, that can only lead to deterioration of relations between us and Slovenia. For Croatia, this arbitration does not exist, and we will not accept it, regardless of what the European Commission says. It is evident that we need a new generation of politicians who will sit with the Slovenians and solve this issue from the start. This is also evidence of the HDZ government’s inability to explain our position in Europe,” said Orsat Miljenić (SDP).


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