STA, 5 August 2019 - The newspaper Delo expresses bewilderment on Monday at European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen's calling Croatia the EU's most successful country and a role model.
"They can be a role model for us, actually. In tourism they have beaten us well in many areas (not in all elements, that is). They may be our role model in construction of roads in Istria, for example [...]
"They could serve as an example to us in football, in how their seaside towns are neat compared to Piran, by the steep bills ... Or by diplomatic jostling, brand stealing and the game called steal the land ...
"But to be our role model as a European rule of law entity, as a whole, with all the economic, demographic, klepto-corrupt, clero-fundamentalist, fascist-loving [...] and other complexes? Well, politics disrupted Ursula's dioptre a bit there. We have thus come out of Jean-Claude's frying pan into Ursula's fire," writes the paper under the headline Pearls of Piran and Croatia.
STA, 5 August 2019 - This year's celebrations of Operation Storm in Croatia are another step towards a revisionist interpretation of the independence war. The victory is increasingly framed as the Ustasha having defeated the Chetniks, Večer comments on Monday.
For example, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović openly speaks about how she would like to attend a concert in Split by the chauvinist singer Thompson, who has been banned in Istria, Switzerland, Germany and other places because of his Ustasha lyrics.
"But it is not enough to say that the far-right turn in Croatia and attempts to normalize extremist views and content is happening just because of the campaign for the presidential election, which has not even formally begun yet.
"With Trump in the US, Johnson and Brexit in Great Britain, not to mention the buffoons in Central Europe headed by Orban, this is unfortunately a global trend.
"That joke from the times of Operation Storm - hating those of other nationality or religion more than you have to - is becoming a rule. Including in Slovenia with its village guards," the paper concludes in Normalization of Extremism.
Related, and from Total Croatia News: Ahead of Operation Storm Anniversary, New Tensions Between Croatia and Neighbours
STA, 30 July 2019 - The Croatian police have apprehended at the weekend a Slovenian couple who was trying to smuggle more than eight kilograms of illicit drugs to Croatia, the Rijeka-based newspaper Novi List reported on Tuesday.
The couple from Kamnik near Ljubljana, who were caught with the drugs at the Jelšane/Rupa border crossing north-west of Rijeka, are facing sentences of between one and twelve years in prison.
The Croatian police apprehended the 41-year-old man and the 40-year-old woman on Saturday at around 5am as they were entering Croatia, discovering the drugs in their vehicle. The couple was taken into custody in Rijeka.
The police seized a total of 8.2 kilograms of various illicit drugs, with amphetamines representing more than half. The pair was also smuggling cocaine, heroin, marijuana, hashish and ecstasy.
The drugs have an estimated street value of almost EUR 150,000, Novi List said, adding that this was one of the largest drug busts in the area recently.
The drugs were found in a backpack in the trunk of the car, in a bag put in the compartment for the spare tire, and in the right front door. The pair tried to hide the drugs with clothes and accessories for holidaying.
STA, 30 July 2019 - Commenting on reports about Croatia being ready to enter the Schengen area in the autumn, the newspaper Delo says in Tuesday's front-page commentary that the government will thus be faced with a challenge of whether to support Croatia or use this step as leverage to ensure the implementation of the arbitration ruling.
"Prime Minister [Marjan] Šarec faces the first serious foreign affairs dilemma, which is strongly linked to interior policy, in particular to the opposition Democrats' criticism that this government is not able to protect the border properly.
"He will also face the public opinion, which will probably not welcome any yielding to Croatia."
The paper says that in terms of security and border control Slovenia would benefit from Croatia becoming a Schengen country; however, it would also lose its advantage in the two countries' border arbitration dispute.
Given Slovenia's status in Brussels, it is not likely that the country's efforts to let the new EU Commission decide on the issue would be successful, concludes the commentary headlined Šarec's Dilemma of Security and Politics.
STA, 28 July 2019 - Smiljana Knez, Slovenia's outgoing ambassador to Croatia, has told the STA in a valedictory interview that a lack of trust is the biggest obstacle preventing relations between Slovenia and Croatia to thrive.
Knez is happy with her record in office to an extent, because the embassy "has in fact done a lot" considering the state of the political relationship between the countries, which is at a lowest point since the signing of the arbitration agreement in 2009.
"The relationship is not such as I'd like it to be, it could be much better. There's always room for improvement, but the precondition is the political will to solve issues and the willingness to respect the rule of law," Knez said.
She believes that it is time the countries fully resolved one of the big issues that have been troubling their relations for 28 years such as the border and or the matter of the Yugoslav-era savings deposits with the Zagreb branch of the defunct Slovenian bank Ljubljanska Banka.
She sees mutual trust between all players as the first condition to tackle all open issues between the two countries. Meanwhile, efforts have been made to deepen the links between the two nations through various presentations of Slovenian business and culture throughout Croatia.
"Regretfully, there's not much trust in a whole range of issues that would require more dynamic approach to get resolved. A low level of trust makes it harder to talk, negotiate and seek solutions to unresolved issues."
Turning to the issue of border arbitration, she says that even many politicians in Croatia are of the opinion that the arbitration award is in fact good for their country.
"It's a compromise solution and I regret that Croatia has failed to respond to Slovenia's proposal to agree a demarcation of the land border because that would make people's life easier and bring the sea border, which was set for the first time, into life."
In its first reaction after the border arbitration tribunal declared the award on 29 June 2017, the European Commission stated clearly that the award has to be implemented. However, talks between Ljubljana and Zagreb on how to implement the award went on only for half a year after its declaration.
"I don't know of any indications of any discussion about any serious Croatian proposal to package the arbitration award in a way that would make it more acceptable for Zagreb," Knez says about the legal framework that the Croatian government allegedly presented to Slovenia in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Slovenia has taken Croatia to he European Court of Justice over its refusal to implement the border arbitration award. Knez says that the award will remain valid even if the court declared the suit admissible but then failed to uphold Slovenia's view that through non-implementation Croatia violates EU law in terms of Schengen and fisheries.
"I've noticed a belief in Croatia that the two countries can live with open issues because we have good relations in other fields. I don't believe in that because unresolved issues burden relations and clog cooperation in some areas. There's for instance no real cooperation within the EU even though the two countries may have shared interests."
During her three and a half years in office, the embassy has been trying hard to prevent the cold political relationship affecting the boosting of business links.
Bilateral merchandise trade amounted to EUR 4.2 billion last year, a third more than at the start of Knez's term in 2016. In the first quarter of this year trade was up by 14% compared to the same period a year ago.
The two countries have been maintaining regular contacts at the level of ministries, in particular those linked to economy, transport and infrastructure.
Knez has devoted a lot of her attention to the Slovenian minority in Croatia, which is trying for ethnic Slovenians in Croatia to become more politically engaged, not only in the Croatian parliament, but also at the local level where decisions are taken on everyday life and on preserving the minority's identity.
Knez is leaving her post in Zagreb to become an international relations advisor to President Borut Pahor. Until the arrival of a new ambassador, her duties in Zagreb will be assumed by charge d'affaires Nataša Šebenik.
In April, the newspaper Dnevnik reported that career diplomat Vojislav Šuc was appointed as Slovenia's new ambassador to Croatia. Most recently, Šuc has served as the head of Slovenia's permanent mission to the UN and other Geneva-based organisations. He has also served as ambassador to Sweden.
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 26 July 2019
STA, 26 July 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the reports on an alleged decline in the number of tourists in Croatia is not something Slovenia should be happy about, not least for the sake of decency. If this is true, this is actually a reason for concern, as Slovenian tourism is closely connected to tourism in Croatia.
Slovenia bets on tourism and a possible decline in tourist visits in Croatia could reflect on Slovenia, because it generates a lot of its tourism-related revenue with people who only make a stop in Slovenia while on their way to Croatia.
Even those who are in Slovenia for a couple of hours at least buy a motorway toll sticker, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary Damn Croatians.
"In other words: we are at least partly tied to Croatia's success in tourism economy-wise. This is why we actually should wish that Croatian tourism is as successful as possible, because this will make us more successful too."
When Germany announces a decline in economic growth, everybody in Slovenia (justifiably) speak about and analyse the possible consequences on the Slovenian economy. The same response should be expected to the reports from Croatia, as Slovenia is much more connected with the success of its tourism than Slovenians are willing to admit.
Mladina thus notes that it is detrimental for both countries that they have not been able to make alliances after gaining independence. It would be easier for Slovenia and Croatia to better control and direct migration, and to act as allies within the EU.
In the fields of science, art and tourism development, Croatia is a country Slovenia should connect with. For example, the university medical centres in Zagreb and Ljubljana could cooperate fruitfully because both countries are too small to develop many fields of medicine alone.
"Of course, the most tempting thing at this point is to debate what share of the blame individual countries and politics bear for this situation. But this debate, running almost thirty years since the two countries gained independence, has led us nowhere."
Repovž notes that in Europe, both Slovenians and Croatians are perceived as immature, quarrelsome and nitpicky, which is why normalising the relations with Croatia should be a serious objective for Slovenian politics.
STA, 25 July 2019 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija claims in Thursday's commentary that the right in Slovenia is under siege, as evidenced from a series of charges the magazine and its editor face due to incitement of hatred.
"They are cultural and just, we on the right are the source of all evil. This is evidence of a cult of hatred. The characters and acts that they are fabricating and projecting onto us are created in their heads, not ours. We are rotten persons for them, instigators of hatred and xenophobes because we love our country."
"Of course we're not any of what they make us out to be. All these horrible shows and horrible things planted on us take shape in them, in the twisted psyches of progressive evildoers," the commentator says in Us and Them.
It argues that this hatred is very palpable and felt at every step. "First they brand us with words, then comes violence, which is then leveraged by politicians, their officials and bureaucrats, their hereditary allies, the travelling mafia in the form of Antifa."
"In fact, they are the most intolerant group of people ... they have sent a tsunami of evil upon us and taken the right to be the sole arbiters not just of their thoughts and actions but also our thoughts and conduct. The result is always the same, regardless of circumstance: we are evil, they are not."
The commentator concludes that the right has been tolerant for too long which is why violence against is has become commonplace. "For us violence is a horrible thing, the idea about armed coup against the government unimaginable, but they have revolution and violent coups in their blood. There is us. And there is them."
STA , 21 July 2019 - The majority of migrants who were apprehended in a large group in Ilirska Bistrica area on Friday (as reported here) have been handed over to Croatian authorities, the Koper police department told the press on Sunday.
Police spokesman Tomaž Čehovin said that 108 out of 123 apprehended migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, had been handed over to Croatia, while 15, mostly minors, had requested international protection.
According to Čehovin, there was no violence in the course of the police procedure, nor were any weapons or other dangerous items found. The migrants were given food and essentials and no one got hurt.
Some 40 police officers were part of Friday's operation, including reinforcements from other police departments.
Čehovin noted that cooperation with the Croatian police was good and pointed out that the Slovenian Armed Forces' assistance had come in handy.
He was also understanding of the locals' feelings of unease regarding the migrant situation since the Ilirska Bistrica area is quite big and the response time is not always as good as the people would wish.
Ilirska Bistrica police are getting assistance from the army and the Koper police due to a bigger inflow of refugees recently, said Čehovin.
On Friday several camps clustered in the woods near the village of Šembije were discovered, an unusual situation since in the past most migrants would try to cross the border in smaller groups.
STA, 8 July 2019 - Slovenia reiterated its stance that by not implementing the 2017 border arbitration award, Croatia is violating EU law, as it presented its view in an oral hearing of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) about the admissibility of Slovenia's lawsuit against Croatia.
The court convened on Monday to deliberate on Croatia's December 2018 arguments that border arbitration between Slovenia and Croatia does not fall under the ECJ's jurisdiction, because borders are a matter of international rather than EU law.
The EJC advocate general will present his legal opinion on the case on 6 November.
Presenting Croatia's stance to ECJ judges, lawyer Jemima Stratford said the case did not fall under the court's jurisdiction and the court should not interfere in bilateral disputes.
Bilateral territorial disputes are outside the EU court's jurisdiction, even if they have a bearing on the implementation of EU law, she said.
She added that the only possible legal basis for the legal action would be Article 273 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The article enables EU members to bring a dispute before the ECJ in a consensual manner. It relates to disputes which are not strictly EU law, but are relevant for member states and the EU.
Stratford explained that Croatia did not recognise the border arbitration award because it had withdrawn from the arbitration process before it was declared.
Although Slovenia claims the arbitration award is a fact, it is also a fact that the award is not being implemented on the ground, she added.
Croatia therefore believes Slovenia is creating a fictitious dispute, she said, adding Croatia and Slovenia were acting in line with their respective legal understanding of their borders.
The apple of contention is therefore the course of the border, not the interpretation of EU law, Croatia's representative said.
Presenting Slovenia's stance, agent Maja Menard said the lawsuit was not about the border, because the border had been set in the 2017 award, which was final and self-implementable, and the two countries were obliged to respect it.
Menard also reiterated that by not recognising the arbitration award, Croatia was violating EU rules and policies.
In the lawsuit, which is based on Article 259 of the Lisbon Treaty, Slovenia proposes the ECJ establish that Croatia violated Articles 2 and 4, which stress the importance of the rule of law and sincere cooperation between member states.
Slovenia also claims Croatia is violating the common fisheries policy, Schengen rules about the free movement of people and a directive on maritime spatial planning.
Menard stressed that a decision of international law was in the ECJ's jurisdiction if the decision was necessary to interpret EU law, to which it referred.
Following the presentation of both countries' positions, judges asked several questions, many about a note concerning the border arbitration in Croatia's EU accession agreement.
The note in annex 3, chapter 5, refers to fisheries, saying the fisheries regimes will start applying when the arbitration award reached on the basis of the arbitration agreement signed by Slovenia and Croatia on 4 November 2009 is fully implemented.
Judge rapporteur Christopher Vajda thus asked Croatia about it in relation to the country's argument that the ECJ had no jurisdiction in the case.
Stratford said the note merely set the time frame of the implementation of the fisheries regime.
But Slovenia's lawyer Jean-Marc Thouvenin explained the note introduced the arbitration agreement and what stemmed from it into EU law, which made it part of EU law.
Italian judge Lucia Serena Rossi said this was really just a note, but a very important one. As such it is part of primary EU law and thus falls under the ECJ's jurisdiction.
Once the two-and-a-half-hour oral hearing was over, Advocate General Priit Pikamäe announced he would present his submissions - his independent legal opinion - on 6 November.
If the lawsuit is admitted, the court will start to deliberate on its content.
Speaking to the press after the hearing, Marko Vrevc from Slovenian Foreign Ministry said he would be surprised if the court decided not to admit the lawsuit.
Menard said the hearing had gone according to plans and the debate had been intense as expected. She has a positive feeling about it since Slovenia had an opportunity to answer the judges' questions in detail.
The agent expects the court's decision on the admissibility at the start of 2020.
She was also not surprised Croatia had referred to Article 273 during the hearing, noting this implied "a quasi arbitration process which requires both sides' consent, but we insist the border dispute is settled, so we need no consensus on another attempt to solve it".
STA, 8 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Monday that security on Slovenia's southern border would be beefed up, including with new equipment such as drones, after meeting with Ilirska Bistrica officials and civil society representatives to discuss the situation on the border with Croatia.
Šarec, visiting the south-western town along with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, said that he understood locals' feelings of unease about the situation.
Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc pointed out that the number of illegal border crossings had doubled since Poklukar's first visit to the area.
"We've never said there was no migration issue," said the prime minister, adding that the need for strengthening border controls had been acknowledged.
Šarec announced the expected arrival of additional soldiers to the area as well as the deployment of new police equipment, including border patrol drones, and expansion of the border fence.
However, Šarec also said that Slovenia's border patrol had been effective in meeting set expectations and that "we cannot settle for various forms of fear-mongering, which are sometimes politically-motivated as well".
Šarec will also visit the Kostel and Črnomlje municipalities later today.
STA, 3 July 2019 - Continuing the tradition, the Slovenian police will send three officers to Croatia to help the Croatian authorities handle cases involving Slovenian citizens during the peak summer tourist season between 17 July and 18 August.
Slovenian tourists in Croatia will be able to see Slovenian police officers in the city of Pula and on the islands of Krk and Pag, the police announced on Wednesday.
They will participate in procedures carried out by their Croatian colleagues involving Slovenians, primarily to enable better communication and provide Slovenian tourists with explanations regarding these procedures.
They will be wearing Slovenian police uniforms but will not be armed, and will not be implementing powers and taking measures under the sole jurisdiction of the Croatian police.
Slovenian tourists in Croatia will be able to contact Slovenian police officers through the Slovenian embassy in Zagreb or the relevant police stations in Pula, Krk and Pag.
Before their departure to Croatia, the three police officers were received today by Deputy Police Commissioner Tomaž Pečjak.
While Slovenian police officers help out in Croatia during summers, Croatian police officers are in Slovenia during winters, touring ski slopes popular among Croatian tourists.
STA, 18 June 2019 - A deal was signed in Novo Mesto on Tuesday that is to pave the way for revitalisation of a hundred-year-old cross-border railway infrastructure connecting Ljubljana with Slovenian border towns and further with Croatia.
The agreement on cooperation was signed by representatives of nine Slovenian municipalities, including Ljubljana, and Croatia's Karlovac. The project will be coordinated by the Novo Mesto Development Centre.
According to the head of the centre, Franc Bratkovič, the municipalities will contribute more than EUR 100,000 for the project in the next couple of years. "We will do everything we can to have the project included in national and European documents," he said.
The goal of the initiative to revive the hundred-year-old cross border railway infrastructure connecting Ljubljana with the border towns and further with Croatia's Karlovac and later Zagreb, is to make the Slovenian railway network and the towns along the railway competitive, said Novo Mesto Mayor Gregor Macedoni.
The modernisation of the railway is to boost connectivity, international cooperation and regional development.
One of the initiators of the project that was conceived a year ago, Grosuplje Mayor Peter Verlič, said that it was a precondition for the setting up of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, which will enable the drawing of EU funds.
The modernisation of the railway, which is expected to be finalised in about ten years, will be funded from various sources.
In the initial phase, the railway track is to be modernised to allow for higher travelling speeds and heavier trains, train stations renovated and dangerous level crossings eliminated.
The next phase is to include electrification of the track and the purchase of ten modern trains.
The costs of the project have not been estimated yet, but Verlič said they would probably be similar to the costs of the modernisation of the Grosuplje-Kočevje railway.
Those costs reached almost EUR 100m.