February 12, 2019
Delo reports that European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is only weeks away from deciding on Slovenia’s suit against Croatia, who according to the plaintiff unlawfully prevented repayment of the loans that Ljubljanska Banka (LB) made to Croatian companies. According to Delo, this will also be the first state-to-state property rights violation case in front of the EHRC, and only the fifth overall, as most cases at the ECHR are lodged by private persons.
In a dispute that began as both countries gained their independence, Slovenia had already been ordered to repay the LB foreign currency saving accounts that went missing following the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the consequent transformation of Ljubljanska banka into Nova ljubljanska banka.
Slovenia, who has been taken to court by Croatian savers and has already settled its €163 million debt according to the court’s decision, is arguing that if the Slovenian state had to repay LB debts to Croatian savers, then the unpaid loans taken by Croatian companies have to be repaid to LB as well.
Slovenia decided to lodge its application at the ECHR after exhausting all legal remedies in Croatia. According to its assessment the Croatian courts, Constitutional Court included, continue to prevent collecting claims from the Croatian companies for Ljubljanska banka, the plaintiff, with politics being one way to achieve this. As an example of the latter Delo cites the example of then finance minister Slavko Linić, who in 2007 prevented the execution of the final decision in favour of LB, claiming that until LB repays its Croatian clients’ saving accounts, there will be no ruling in favour of LB either. LB then took the case to theECHR, which eight years later ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter since LB was a state-owned bank.
In a current lawsuit Croatia disputes ECHR's jurisdiction over the case, arguing that Slovenia filled an application out of dissatisfaction with the rulings of the Croatian courts.
The Grand Chamber of the ECHR will first decide on the admissibility of the Slovenian suit, only then will the content assessment follow.
STA, 5 February 2019 - A subsidiary of the Slovenian national railways operator Slovenske Železnice has won the tender to build a new container terminal in the Croatian seaport of Rijeka, a decision that is yet to be made final as a rival bidder from Croatia has filed an appeal.
The new terminal is planned to increase the port's capacity by eliminating a bottleneck and adjust the port's railway infrastructure to the railway station in Rijeka.
The project will be co-funded in a 85% share by the European Commission as part of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The selection of the bid filed by the engineering company SŽ - Železniško Gradbeno Podjetje Ljubljana, estimated at EUR 28.5m, is being challenged by Croatia's DIV Grupa, which had submitted the lowest bid (EUR 24.6m).
The contracting authorities, the Rijeka port administration and the infrastructure arm of the Croatian national railways operator Hrvatske Željeznice, said that the bid by DIV Grupa was "unrealistically low".
Several other international and Croatian bidders participated in the tender, including Slovenia's Kolektor Koling, which valued its bid at EUR 29.3m.
All our stories related to Croatia can be found here
STA, 14 January 2019 - Slovenian cyclist Janez Brajkovič announced on his blog on Monday that his sample taken during last year's Tour of Croatia had tested positive for a banned substance, earning him a ten-month suspension from the International Cycling Union (UCI).
The 35-year-old from Metlika handed over the sample, which tested positive for methylhexanamine, on 18 April 2018 as part of the main men's cycling stage race in Croatia, which is a part of the UCI Europe Tour.
The sample reportedly contained an extremely low level of the stimulant and energy-boosting drug, which the member of the Slovenian professional cycling team Adria Mobil believes is connected to his use of food supplements.
The Slovenian did not appeal the test results, while attributing the failed test to one of the food supplements he consumed being contaminated with the drug.
Admitting that the substance is banned in professional cycling, Brajkovič said it was a "small quantity, because as far as I know the concentration was 20 to 40 times lower compared to samples of other athletes," he said on the blog.
"I could fight this and bring the case to the anti-doping court, where it would be reviewed right from the beginning. But to be honest with you, I neither have the will nor the money to challenge this, which is why I have accepted the penalty."
In addition to being the world under-23 time trial champion in 2004, Brajkovič's biggest achievements include wins at the Criterium du Dauphine (2010), the Tour de Georgia (2007) and the Tour of Slovenia (2012).
He was ninth at the Tour de France in 2012 as a member of Astana Pro Team, which was the best ranking for a Slovenian until Primož Roglič finished forth last year.
Brajkovič, who was also a member of the professional teams Bahrain Merida, RadioSchack and Discovery Channel, said that testing positive for doping was not actually the worst thing that had happened to him in his career.
"I was a victim of mobbing and an outcast in a team because I did not want to expose myself to the deadly consequences of doping.
"During the Tour de France, a team mate even started strangling me because of this. After I signed the contract, they said I was nobody and valueless and that they will make sure I never race again."
Adria Mobil, which Brajkovič represented at the Tour of Croatia, said it had been informed about the positive test last July, but added that it did not need to suspend the cyclist under the anti-doping rules.
"Considering the quantity and type [of the substance], there was no direct and immediate suspension of the cyclist. Under an agreement with the competitor and the UCI and under the team policy on doping, Brajkovič has not competed since last July," the team said in a press release.
"The competitor has been cooperating with the UCI all the time in proving the origin of the banned substance found in his sample," it added.
Adria Mobil, which did not extend its contract with Brajkovič, noted that the cyclist had proven the failed test was a consequence of his carelessness. He purchased the food supplement on-line, and the label did not say that it contained the banned substance.
The usual penalty for such violations is a 24-month ban, but the UCI has reduced it to ten months due to these circumstances, the team said, adding that only the result from the Tour of Slovenia would be deleted from his record.
STA, 19 December 2018 - The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will examine the case brought by Slovenia against Croatia over the defunct bank Ljubljanska Banka (LB), the court said on Wednesday.
In the application lodged on 15 September 2016, Slovenia argues unfairness, a lack of impartiality and discrimination by Croatian courts in proceedings brought by LB to collect debts owed by Croatian companies.
The Strasbourg court said that the ECHR Chamber, which had been allocated the case, now relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber, comprised of 17 judges.
Jurisdiction is relinquished to the Grand Chamber only exceptionally. Under Article 30 of the European Convention of Human Rights this may happen when a case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation of the Convention or its Protocols, or where the resolution of a question before the Chamber might have a result inconsistent with a judgement previously delivered by the Court.
A response by the Government Communication Office indicates that the Grand Chamber is to first decide on the admissibility of the inter-state case.
Slovenia's high representative for succession Ana Polak Petrič hailed the decision, but said that it did not come as a surprise and that given the weight of the arguments presented by Slovenia in the inter-state case "we believe the application needs to be examined by the Strasbourg court's Grand Chamber".
She told the STA that the decision meant that the case would be heard and that Slovenia would have an opportunity to set out its arguments, possibly even in an oral hearing.
Polak Petrič expects the procedure to take several years. "Inter-state cases take their time, considering broader aspects involved. Countries also take their time to present their arguments, and nor is the damage claim simple. It concerns 48 cases from the 1990s in which Ljubljanska Banka claimed debts in Croatian courts".
In the application, Slovenia alleges that Croatia's judicial and executive authorities have illegally prevented LB from recovering debt from Croatian companies incurred in the 1990s through their systematic and arbitrary conduct, thus violating European law originating in the European Convention of Human Rights.
On brining the case, the then Justice Minister Goran Kelmenčič explained that such conduct on the part of Croatia put Slovenia in an unfair and unenviable position, considering the country had to repay the savings deposits held by Croatian clients of the LB Zagreb branch under the 2014 ECHR judgement in the Ališić case.
On the other hand, he said that Croatia had done everything in its power over the past 25 years to prevent LB to collect debts owed by Croatian companies.
Klemenčič explained that LB was the biggest bank in the former Yugoslavia and that the Zagreb subsidiary had financed Croatian companies, enabling them to function and develop. "Loans from LB created positive effects on the Croatian economy."
Since the debtors (Croatian companies) after the break-up of Yugoslavia failed to settle their debts to LB stemming from loans and guarantees granted after 1980, LB and its Zagreb subsidiary launched enforcement proceedings before Croatian courts between 1991 and 1996.
There were more than 80 such proceedings, and they were worth millions, the minister stressed, adding that in 25 years LB had managed to enforce through Croatian courts only EUR 700,000.
Klemenčič said that the lawsuit contained proof that the "Croatian executive directly interfered with the functioning of the judiciary, prevented enforcements, while the judiciary in Croatia changed the case law and prevented LB from successfully enforcing their legitimate claims to Croatian companies".
In the wake of the 2014 ECHR judgement in the Ališić case, Slovenia examined 81 suits brought by LB in Croatia, finding that in 26 the cases the European Convention of Human Rights had been violated.
Polak Petrič said that since Slovenia lodged its application with the ECHR, the number of cases in which Slovenia detected direct violations of the Convention had increased from 26 to 48.
Court proceedings in Croatia are slowly coming to an end and every case in which the judgement becomes final is included in Slovenia's application in support of the case.
Polak Petrič said that the damages claimed by Slovenia from Croatia had increased from EUR 360m to EUR 430m.
The Slovenian government alleges multiple violations of Article 6 of the Convention with respect to the right to a fair trial, equality before the law, right to enforcement and trial within a reasonable time.
Slovenia also alleges violation of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention concerning peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
The Foreign Ministry also commented on the issue today for the STA, saying LB had only been able to secure a tiny fraction of the claims to Croatian companies.
Croatian courts on average needed more than 15 years to reach final decisions in the matter, while in some cases the procedures dragged on for more than 22 years, the ministry wrote.
Slovenia expects that following the decision on the LB savers, the ECHR will also find a just solution as regards the rights violations suffered by the bank, it added.
STA, 6 December 2018 - The number of workers from abroad rose by 18.8% to 86,014 between end of September 2017 and end of September this year, with former Yugoslav countries representing the main workforce pool for Slovenian companies, data from the Statistics Office shows.
According to the Statistics Office, nearly half of foreign workers in Slovenia come from Bosnia-Herzegovina (41,832). They are followed by those from Serbia (10,451) and Croatia (7,316).
However, the inflow of workforce in percentage increased the most from Kosovo, by 27% to 6,930, compared to 24.5% rise in workers from Serbia, a 21.4% rise in workers from Bosnia and an 18.9% increase in workers from Croatia.
Workers from Croatia got free access to the Slovenian labour market under EU rules in July as a consequence of the election-related political hiatus, and Slovenia has accords designed to improve workers' legal standing with Bosnia and Serbia.
The accord with Bosnia has been in force for some time now, while the one with Serbia was only signed in early November, so it has not affected the data yet.
Despite having no such deals, Slovenia is a destination of choice for workers from other former Yugoslav countries as well, including for those from Macedonia, whose number increased by 15.8% to 5,914 by the end of September.
STA, 16 October 2018 - Slovenia and Croatia have submitted a joint application for EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for extra virgin olive oil from Istria under the name Istria oil. The bid will however not affect the already protected extra virgin olive oil from Slovenian Istria, which has had EU PDO status since 2007.
STA, 12 October - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was willing to assist in the resolution of the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute and praised Slovenia's efforts to protect the Schengen border after she held talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec in Berlin on Friday.
STA, 20 September 2018 - Slovenia cannot agree to the European Commission making a political issue out of the implementation of the Slovenian-Croatian border arbitration award, because this also damages the future of the Commission and of the EU, Slovenia's new Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said in an interview with the STA.
STA, 15 September 2018 - Slovenia's most senior politicians reiterated that there was no alternative to the implementation of the border arbitration award as they responded to the revelation by Der Spiegel that the European Commission had been advised by its Legal Service to support Slovenia's positions in its case against Croatia.
STA, 4 September 2018 - Foreign minister nominee Miro Cerar wants Slovenia to have an open, balanced and more uniform foreign policy. In his hearing at the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday he also pledged to strive for the implementation of the Croatian border arbitration decision. Cerar was backed with nine votes in favour and none against.