STA, 12 June - The EU Court of Justice has scheduled an oral hearing for 8 July in a case that Slovenia has brought against Croatia due to its failure to implement the award of the border arbitration tribunal, according to the schedule released by the court on Wednesday.
Slovenia has accused Croatia of breaching several provisions of EU treaties and regulations with its refusal to implement the final award of an arbitration tribunal the two countries appointed to resolve their long-standing border dispute.
In general, Slovenia asserts Croatia is failing to respect the rule of law, which is a fundamental value of the EU, and unilaterally refuses to fulfil its obligations under the arbitration award, which is in breach of its duty of sincere cooperation as enshrined in the EU Treaty.
Slovenia has also made more specific charges relating to breach of common fisheries policy, violation of the rules governing the free movement of persons, and violations preventing Slovenia from conducting maritime spatial planning.
The arguments will be heard by the court's Grand Chamber, which comprises 15 judges and is called up either at the request of a party or to deliberate on matters that are highly important or complex.
In this part of the procedure, the court will first determine whether the application is admissible; Slovenia claims Croatia's violations directly infringe on EU law, while Croatia has told the court this is a matter of international rather than EU law.
The Foreign Ministry told the STA the Slovenian side would "reiterate its position that the final award of the arbitration tribunal on the border is valid and binding".
"By rejecting the border as determined with the [arbitration] award, Croatia is preventing Slovenia from exercising EU law in certain parts of Slovenian territory. This is why Slovenia is suing Croatia at the EU Court," the ministry said.
Moreover, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, told Radio Slovenia today that Slovenia was well prepared for the 8 July hearing.
He stressed that the arbitration award would remain binding no matter what the Luxembourg court decides and would have to be implemented.
Having the EU Court of Justice confirm this will be yet another argument for the implementation of award, Cerar told reporters in Trieste on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI).
"I hope that Croatia will start with the implementation before the end of the proceeding in Luxembourg," he said.
Croatia insists that the court is not competent to rule in the case. "Our position has been clear from the start: we don't see how the court is competent in this dispute," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told reporters at an European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Spain.
He also reiterated Croatia's long-held position that all disputes should be resolved bilaterally. The outstanding bilateral issues are "issues left over from the break-up of Yugoslavia. These are issues that can be resolved in agreement," he said.
If the court rules that Slovenia's application is admissible, it will delve into the substance of its claims. It may also decide to merge the admissibility decision with the substantive ruling.
The court's rules of procedure provide for several steps that both sides may follow and while it is difficult to forecast how long the procedure may take, it is unlikely to be completed this year.
All our stories on this border dispute can be found here