December 30, 2017
Turbulent times are expected ahead of the deadline for the border arbitration decision which Slovenia begins implementing today, while Croatia does not. Especially problematic in this respect is the implementation of maritime border control, as Croatia has to move out from most of the Bay of Piran according to the EU arbitration court’s ruling, something that it has not committed to.
As such, on Friday Croatian fishing vessels, protected by Croatian police, sailed into the Bay of Piran, where they were approached and reminded by the Slovenian border police that they were now fishing in Slovenian waters.
Croatian fishermen, not knowing where they could fish after December 29, met with the Croatian police Thursday, who instructed them to continue fishing in the Bay of Piran, guaranteeing their safety.
Croatian interior minister Davor Božinović stated Friday that the Croatian police are “ready to respond to any border violations,” as it is Croatian interior ministry’s responsibility to “protect Croatian integrity, sovereignty and interests.”
Meanwhile, it has been announced that the arbitration ruling on new border lines has been legally inscribed into the state records of border demarcations by the Slovenian government’s decision, which enters into force on Saturday.
The dual aims of exercising sovereignty rights in the disputed areas and “avoiding incidents,” as the prime ministers of both countries, Cerar and Plenković, vowed to in their recent meeting in Zagreb, thus appear to be on a collision course.
The former Croatian ambassador to Slovenia and long-time diplomat Ivica Maštruko expressed his confusion with regard to his country’s strategy in rejecting the arbitration decision: “I don’t understand why Croatia doesn’t accept arbitration ruling, which she finds very satisfying, and for which even Plenković once said that it was 90% acceptable.”
The win-win solution obtained by the arbitration tribunal is based broadly on a land-for-the-sea swap. For Croatia none of the disputed areas are of extreme strategic importance and it matters little whether she wins its share on land or at sea. Slovenia, on the other hand, needs access to international waters, and is more than willing to swap almost anything to ensure this. The Croatian insistence on separate agreements for the disputed zones at land and sea is unacceptable for Slovenia, as if this occurs then the Law of the Sea applies, and the dividing line between the countries is drawn in the middle of the Bay, and no exchanges are possible. In other words, while Croatia gains nothing, Slovenia loses a lot.
A story comes to mind from this year’s Christmas edition of The Economist. It is about a peasant called Vladimir, who one day is offered a wish from God, who then says whatever Vladimir chooses, he will give to his neighbour twice over. “I have it”, says the peasant, “Lord, please, take out one of my eyes.”