- ESI op-ed: High Noon in Slovenia – a referendum and the future of Balkan enlargement (3 June 2010)
- ESI audio slide show: Background to the Slovenian-Croatian border dispute (18 February 2010)
From late 2008 to October 2009 Slovenia blocked Croatia’s EU accession negotiations over a bilateral border dispute. While an agreement signed by the prime ministers of the two countries on 4 November 2009 has resolved the problem, for those interested in the future of EU enlargement in South Eastern Europe a number of pressing questions remain. Why and how did this conflict escalate? What was its real cost to Croatia’s accession process? What made an agreement possible?
The dispute also raises more general questions. What should be the EU’s policy in future instances of such bilateral disputes and vetoes? How can the EU address the fact that virtually all Yugoslav successor states still have unresolved border issues with at least some of their neighbours (including Croatia, which has them with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia)? How to ensure that future disputes do not escalate? And does this case hold any lessons for dealing with other vetoes, such as those currently affecting Macedonia’s (by Greece) and Turkey’s (by Cyprus and France) accession process? Can this crisis be turned into an opportunity for the EU in the Balkans?
These questions will be addressed in a forthcoming ESI report. In the meantime, listen to ESI’s Kristof Bender for an 11 minute summary of the background to the dispute:
- For information on Slovenia’s EU accession and Croatia’s EU accession process visit ESI’s country sections on Croatia and Slovenia (see in particular Slovenia’s road to the EU).
- Portrait of Dimitrij Rupel, Slovenia’s long-time foreign minister
- Portrait of Alojz Peterle, Slovenia’s prime minister during Italy’s blocking of Slovenia’s EU accession process in the mid-1990s.
- Arbitration agreement between the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and the Government of the Republic of Croatia, 4 November 2009.
- Jozef Kunic, “The Slovenian-Croatian Border Question – Is the Path to Solution the Right One?”, International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies, Ljubljana, 29 January 2009.
- Davor Vidas, The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the European Union and the Rule of Law. What is going on in the Adriatic Sea?, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, 10 December 2008.
- Matej Avbelj and Jernej Letnar Cernic, “The conundrum of the Piran Bay: Slovenia v. Croatia – The case of Maritime Delimitation”, in: The University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law & Policy, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2007; an electronic copy is freely available.
- Bruno Lopandic and Bojko Bucar, “Zagabria e Lubiana, duello sull’Adriatico”, LIMES, No.6/2003, pp. 131-139.
- Bojko Bucar, “The Issue of the rule of law in the EU enlargement process: aspects of Slovenian Italian relations”, published in Development and Developing International and European Law. Essays in honour of Konrad Ginther on the occasion of his 65th birthday, Peter Lang (publisher), 1999, pp. 341-353.
- Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Non Paper – Chronology of Slovenia-Croatia Border issue” (22 February 2009)
- Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Slovenian comments on two Croatian memos on Slovenian-Croatian relations (13 February 2009)
- Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Information on prejudices in certain negotiating chapters of accession negotiations for Croatia’s membership of the EU” (18 December 2008)
- Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Aide Memoire” (June 2006, Precis of the Slovenian position)
- Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, White Book on the Border between the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Croatia (Bela Knjiga o meji med Republiko Slovenijo in Republiko Hrvasko), 2006 (Slovenia’s 442 page documentation in support of its position in the dispute; English translation [without the original documents]).
- ANNEX XIII of the Europe Agreement between the EU and Slovenia (Spanish Compromise), Exchange of letters between Slovenia and the European Community otherwise know as the Spanish Compromise, which ended Italy’s veto of Slovenia’s Europe Agreement.
- Dimitrij Rupel, “Europska komisija neka postupa u interesu EU”, Delo (Sovenian daily), 7 May 2009, in which the former Slovenian Foreign Minister suggests that it is the EU’s duty to side with Slovenia in its dispute with Croatia. The EU, argues Rupel, should support its fellow member. An English summary is available on the website of the Slovenian government’s communications department.
- Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, “Chronology of the Border Dispute between Croatia and Slovenia“, Zagreb, 16 March 2009 (presentation outlining Croatia’s position and criticising Slovenia’s).
- Factual information on Croatia as provided by its government, including its Maritime Code, can be found at this United Nations website.
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 10 December 1982, articles 15 (delimitation of bays), 21 (innocent passage), and 22 (sea lanes and traffic separation schemes) are of special note.
- An overview on UNCLOS and a range of related documents are available at the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea Website.
- A number of academic institutions deal with oceans and the law of the sea; some of them are listed on the UN’s website.
- Information on arrangements between states in complex geographic configurations in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas can be researched on the UN’s website on legislation and treaties
International media coverage
- Natasa Radic in the SEE Times on the beginning of the blockade in December 2008: Longstanding Croatia-Slovenia dispute imperils Croatia’s EU ambitions (22 December 2008).
“Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar on Friday (19 December 2008) said in Ljubljana the EU was ‘obviously not paying enough attention to the interests of member states, which it should be representing, but [was] looking to reach results in the area of enlargement’.”
- To view the conflict through the eyes of Josko Joras, whose house lies in an area controlled by Croatia, but who refuses to acknowledge Croatian authority, click here.
- For more on Josko Joras’ house, see this article in Ljubljana-life.com.
“Every time this guy has a conflict with the Croatian police, it’s a lead item on the television news.”
- On 18 February 2009 the BBC reported that the Slovenia-Croatia border row was heating up:
“It’s easily missed on a map, but this small bay of just 20 square km (eight square miles) is making big diplomatic waves.”
“With tensions on both sides rising … no solution was found.”
- Toby Vogel in the European Voice on the collapse of Croatian-Slovenian border talks:
“Talks between Croatia and Slovenia about European Commission proposals for mediation in a border dispute broke down yesterday (18 June), hours before a summit of European Union leaders.”
- Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called for a period of reflection just before his country took over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July 2009. Watch him here.
“This is a bilateral dispute. Responsibility for solving bilateral disputes rests with the countries themselves. They should not impede the accession negotiations in our opinion, but they have done so as we know.”
- Elitsa Vucheva in the EUobserver on the EU’s growing impatience with the dispute (24 June 2009).
“‘The European Commission has tried to help Croatia and Slovenia solve their 18-year-old dispute. But, after six months of work and discussion, I believe it is up to Croatia and Slovenia to find a solution,’ Mr Rehn said.”
- Watch a short reportage on the conflict on AlJazeera (11 August 2009).
“It seems like such a small dispute … and yet it is undermining the stability of this region.”
- The signing of the arbitration agreement on 4 November 2009 on CNN World: “Croatia, Slovenia sign border dispute deal” by Simon Hooper.
“‘This is not only a historic day for Croatia, Slovenia and the EU, but for the entire international community,’ said Slovenian Prime Minister Pahor. ‘Today we have shown that we solve problems, we do not create them’.”
- World Politics Review, “In Pressing Its Case Against Croatia, Slovenia Risks EU Reputation” (9 August 2012)