December 20, 2017
The meeting of the premiers of Slovenia and Croatia, Miro Cerar and Andrej Plenković, resulted in no progress in solving the border dispute between the countries. Cerar insisted on implementation of the European Court of Arbitration’s decision, and rejected Plenković proposal of a framework within which a two-way solution could be found.
The Zagreb meeting was seen as the last chance for Slovenia to persuade Croatia to accept the arbitration ruling before the six-month deadline by which both parties had to prepare everything needed for the implementation of the tribunal's ruling, which expires on December 29, 2017.
Croatia rejects the arbitration ruling and claims to have abandoned the arbitration process in 2015 due to procedural violations, when it was discovered that contact had been made between a Slovenian official and a member of the tribunal committee. It insists on the beginning of the two-way talks, with the border situation from June 25 1991 as a negotiation starting point.
In his statement to the media, Cerar described the importance of the meeting, saying that “it is important for the citizens of Slovenia, Croatia and also for the international community to see that Slovenia is a country of dialogue but also a country which respects international law and is committed to the rule of law.”
Furthermore, Cerar added that the position of Slovenia is clear and not implementing the tribunal’s decision is seen as violation of international law, so it is appropriate to investigate the possibilities of filing legal remedies in case Croatia refuses to enforce the ruling.
Slovenian politicians said that the lack of progress in the meeting was expected, and expressed support of Cerar’s persistence in defence of the arbitration ruling.
Foreign Minister Karel Erjavec stated that the meeting meant that “another day was lost” and that “Croatia has lost all its credibility.” Erjavec went on to say that “it is good that the Prime Minister of Croatia has been informed that Slovenia will, after the deadline expiration date, begin the implementation of the arbitration ruling on its own, wherever it is possible to do so.”
As far as the maritime border is concerned, the arbitration ruling can be enforced, but despite both premiers promising to avoid incidents, no one can tell what will happen when Slovenian or Croatian fishermen sail into the disputed waters, and what the reaction of the border police will be.
With regard to the land border, will Slovenia withdraw from Trdinov vrh, which, according to the tribunal’s ruling, now belongs to Croatia? At present the country cannot, as both border demarcation and handover are part of the arbitration implementation procedures that Croatia continues to reject.