STA, 4 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec expressed concern on Thursday over the news that the Croatian Intelligence Agency (SOA) was behind the wire-tapping of Slovenia's arbitrator and agent in the border arbitration. "If this is the modus operandi in the EU we are concerned," the PM said after today's government session.
Šarec said the head of the Slovenian national intelligence agency SOVA had presented the situation in this case and in the Balkans to cabinet members behind closed doors today.
"I will not go into detail because these are matters of the system of national security and the intelligence agency and it is not wise to talk too much," he said, adding though that what they had heard was worrying.
"On the one hand we are happy because the intelligence agency is doing a good job, but on the other we are concerned if this is the modus operandi within the EU and if this is how countries which are supposed to be friendly treat each other."
News portal 24ur.com reported on Wednesday that the SOA was the one who wire tapped the phone calls between Jernej Sekolec and agent Simona Drenik, who were not allowed to communicate with each other, in July 2015.
After the recordings of the conversations were leaked, Croatia declared the process irrevocably tainted.
Even though Sekolec and Drenik resigned and the tribunal decided the breach was not so grave as to derail the process, Croatia declared it would not accept the arbitration award.
So far it had been speculated that German or US intelligence services were behind the wire-tapping.
The prime minister stressed that the arbitration process was now concluded and that solving the border issue through arbitration had been a condition for Slovenia's support to Croatia's EU membership.
"This is why what we heard today did not give us optimism regarding our neighbourly relations," he said, adding that Slovenia would continue to act in the European spirit.
The Croatian side rejected today any involvement of its intelligence services, with Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Affairs Andreja Metelko Zgombić telling the press she did "not know where the Slovenian prime minister got such information from".
She said Croatia had not been able to determine how the story about the collusion on the Slovenian side had arrived to Croatia media.
Meanwhile, Slovenian Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, who was foreign minister at the time of the wire-tapping scandal, told the press today he was happy that it was finally clear who had conducted the wire-tapping.
"Obviously this was the job of Croatian secret services for a reason, because the Croatian leadership obviously thought the arbitration award would not be favourable for Croatia, that Slovenia will be given free access to high seas and more than half of the Piran Bay. Obviously they wanted to discredit the procedure," he said.
He added that Croatia had also picked the perfect timing to release the recordings, when he was on a private trip abroad with his wife.
Erjavec refused to speculate whether the revelation that the SOA wire tapped the Slovenian officials would in any way help Slovenia's efforts for the implementation of the arbitration award.
The report on wiretapping to Sekolec and Drenik will be discussed by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission next Wednesday. The commission will also debate the situation in the Western Balkans and an increase in illegal migration.
Slovenia launched proceedings against Croatia over its non-implementation of the arbitration award before the EU's Court of Justice in the mid-March 2018. It argues that Croatia infringes EU law by refusing to implement the June 2017 award of the arbitration tribunal.