Ljubljana related

13 Jul 2019, 11:39 AM

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Stratford explained that Croatia did not recognise the border arbitration award because it had withdrawn from the arbitration process before it was declared.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".

08 Jul 2019, 17:24 PM

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.

12 Jun 2019, 16:10 PM

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

31 May 2019, 11:49 AM

STA, 30 May 2019 - Former Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec suggested on Thursday that interviews conducted by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission had confirmed he had been in no way involved in the border arbitration incident with Croatia. He called that commission's chair Matej Tonin a "notorious liar" who is abusing his post and hurting Slovenia.

Erjavec commented after today's government session on Tonin's claim, made after Wednesday's session of the commission, that the testimonies by two former directors of Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA and that of arbitration agent Simona Drenik did not add up.

While the commission plans to continue the investigation into the phone conversations - believed to have been recorded by Croatian intelligence - between the Slovenian arbitration agent and the Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal, Erjavec said he hopes "Tonin's lying will finally end".

Erjavec, who is now serving as defence minister while he was foreign ministry when Croatia published the phone conversations in 2015 and used them as an excuse to pull out of the arbitration process, said he had to listen to accusations he had caused the scandal for four years.

After allegations that Croatian intelligence services had something on Erjavec and were extorting him and reproaches related to his weekend house in Croatia, Tonin has recently led those peddling the allegation that the collusion between judicial agent Drenik and arbiter Jernej Sekoloec had been ordered by the minister, Erjavec said.

The minister, who heads the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), added Drenik had said on Wednesday that no pressure had been exerted on her. "However, somebody is making misleading statements all the time and creating a big show out of this," Erjavec added.

He pointed out that Sekolec, interviewed by the commission on Thursday along with Drenik and former SOVA director Andrej Rupnik, had acknowledged he had made a mistake and had expressed regret.

Erjavec expects that Tonin, who is the president of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), will "stop abusing" his leading post on what is a very important commission.

Tonin responded to the accusations by saying that it was understandable that those involved in the arbitration fiasco would like to forget about it all as soon as possible.

However, irregularities occurred, this was also confirmed by the arbitration tribunal, and finding out the truth cannot undermine Slovenian interests while it can prevent such mistakes from repeating, Tonin wrote.

He said it was the commission's duty to find out whether SOVA had properly trained and equipped people at the Foreign Ministry and to draw up a report on how to remedy potential shortcomings.

Tonin said the commission had also received this mandate with votes from the coalition, and that everyone testifying before the commission was doing so voluntarily, which makes any accusation of abuse indecent and foul.

What is more, "Minister Karl Erjavec knows that I cannot speak publicly about the details, which is presently allowing him to attack the work of the commission and me personally". Tonin said the final report of the commission would serve as the best answer to the minister's offensive remarks.

Meanwhile, speaking to TV Slovenija in the evening, Drenik said she felt the reviving of the scandal was a political stunt.

Surprised by Tonin's claim her testimony did not match that of the former SOVA directors, Drenik repeated she had answered the question of the commission within the confines of the commission's mandate.

Drenik said she had been convinced during the conversation with Sekolec that she had been sufficiently protected, but added that she saw things differently today. "We would have acted differently today," she said.

"It is clear, and I'm convinced this is the case, that Slovenia was not the only party that was involved in such ex-parte communication, but there is no direct evidence for this," Drenik also said.

Still, Drenik is content with how things ended, as the arbitration tribunal dismissed this "procedural complication" as not grave enough to derail the procedure and Slovenia got an arbitration result it can be happy with.

17 May 2019, 19:59 PM

STA, 17 May 2019 - Slovenian police officers are systemically denying migrants the right to asylum and are illegally returning them to Croatia, according to a report by Info Kolpa, a civil initiative launched about a year ago in response to growing allegations by migrants that Slovenia was denying them the right to asylum. Police deny the accusations.

The initiative wanted to determine whether migrants who requested asylum in Slovenia were refouled to Croatia, where they were subjected to systemic physical and psychological abuse by the police.

To determine what was happening along the Schengen border, the initiative set up an SOS number to which migrants are able to report their names along with their intent to request asylum and their locations upon entering the country. The initiative then forwards the data to the police, the human rights ombudsman and Amnesty International.

The report also notes that there was a rapid drop in the number of asylum seekers in the span of a single month. In May 2018, the Črnomelj police station apprehended 379 migrants of whom 371 (98%) requested asylum. "In June, there was a drastic change in how procedures were conducted at the Črnomelj police station: out of 412 persons processed, only 13 requested asylum."

The report, compiled in cooperation with the Border Violence Monitoring NGO, says that this was proof that the police were covering up what was going on at police stations along the border, and "mass malversation in how asylum procedures are conducted by the Slovenian police".

"This radical change is in correlation with contentious instructions by Police Commissioner Simon Velički about returning migrants to the Croatian police ... dated to 25 May 2018."

The report lists several cases of migrants who sent their names and locations to Kolpa Info. It is not known what happened to many of them after their information was forwarded to the police.

Moreover, in many cases people were refouled back to Croatia and further south to Bosnia-Herzegovina, often being beaten by the Croatian police. Many report of having their money taken by the Croatian police, as well as cellphones and other possessions.

The report includes the story of a man whose shoes were taken away by the Croatian police in February and had to have his toes amputated as a result.

The initiative says that the stories of migrants paint a grave picture about the way Slovenian police operate when it comes to the treatment of migrants.

"The violations are not sporadic and they do not depend on individual police officers, they amount to systemic denial of the right to international protection, an order coming from the top of the police force, and with the knowledge of the top officials of the Interior Ministry."

The head of the border police, Peter Skerbiš, rejected the accusations saying the actions of the Slovenian police were professional and in line with the law. He said police did not deny anyone the right to international protection.

Skerbiš told the press today that these claims had been checked several times in the past by NGOs, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the UNHCR. No irregularities had been found, he said.

Police officers have received no instruction to push people back and the foreigners who express the intention to request asylum are transported to the asylum centre.

Only those who do not want to request for asylum are returned to Croatia after evidence is gathered that they entered Slovenia from there.

Regarding claims about Croatian police violence, Skerbiš said that Croatia is an EU member state and considered a safe country. "We have so far received no information or instruction from EU institutions that foreigners must not be sent to Croatia."

The initiative demands an immediate stop of what they say is collective refoulement of migrants on the basis of a bilateral border control agreement, immediate annulment of this agreement and the upholding of the right of international protection.

The initiative also demands civil oversight over police work when it comes to migrants. Moreover, it says the police must disclose contentious internal communication, while investigations must be launched against former commissioner Simon Velički, his successor Tatjana Bobnar, as well as former interior minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar and former state secretary Boštjan Šefic.

13 May 2019, 09:49 AM

STA, 12 May 2019 - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec has announced that the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) have deployed additional soldiers to the border with Croatia to help the police manage the increasing number of illegal crossings of the border.

Speaking to the press on the sidelines of a Victory Day ceremony in Topolšica on Saturday, Erjavec said that the help had been requested by the police, adding that the SAF had more units ready to be deployed at any moment.

According to the SAF, an additional 35 soldiers were deployed on Saturday to the southern border, and the current number of soldiers in the daily shift is 66.

The additional 35 soldiers have been deployed to the area covered by the Ilirska Bistrica police station (SW), while the remaining 31 serve in various locations, the army told the STA.

The police and armed forces have thus responded to the increasing number of illegal crossings of the border, as detected also by the locals living along the border.

The calls for better border control culminated after a 79-year-old local was abducted in his car on Wednesday by four illegal migrants.

Erjavec said on Saturday that he was in constant touch with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar regarding the issue, while Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar and the army chief-of-staff, Maj-Gen Alenka Ermenc were coordinating the operative measures.

"I can say that we have units ready to boost the presence of the Slovenian army on the southern border at any moment, of course in mixed units with the police," the minister added.

Črnomelj protesters demand better control of border

STASTA, 11 May 2019 - Several hundred people gathered in the town of Črnomelj (SE) Saturday afternoon demanding better control of Slovenia's southern border. The rally was called after four illegal migrants abducted an elderly man earlier this week and used his car to drive to the border with Italy [more on that story here].

"Instead of ensuring our safety, those in charge have been telling us that Slovenia is safe and that there is no reason for fear," said Maja Kocjan, the president of the local civil initiative.

The protesters believe that the government and the police are not doing enough to protect the locals living along the border, with many signing a petition with five key demands. Unless they are taken seriously, another rally is to be organised in Ljubljana.

The petitioners demand that the government prevent illegal migrants from crossing the border, provide protection to people and property, and deploy additional police and military officers, if necessary. Calls like "Military to the border!" were heard a number of times during the protest.

The petition also demands changes to the asylum legislation so that people coming from safe countries could not request asylum in the country.

Moreover, the government must also stop procedures for the establishment of migrant registration centres, as protesters fear that these would become permanent migrant centres.

One such centre has been planned for the area of Ilirska Bistrica, a town further west along the southern border, where a civil initiative has been fighting against the centre for months.

Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SD), also addressed the rally. Meanwhile, the Črnomelj Mayor Andrej Kavšek was not at the rally.

People have come to Črnomelj from all across the country and it was hard to tell how many of them were locals, according a report by to TV Slovenija.

A number of politicians also joined the protest, among them right-leaning candidates vying in the European Parliament election.

Also there was Janez Janša, the head of the opposition Democrats (SDS), accompanied by several senior members of the party, including MEP Milan Zver. Local initiative head Kocjan is also a member.

Janša told the press that the SDS had been trying to get the demands in the petition enacted for years. He said that they would "continue to pressure those in charge to start listening to the people".

He was critical that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has not called a meeting of the National Security Council to improve border security, not even after the abduction.

Also at the rally was Marjan Podobnik, the president of the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), which had joined forces with the SDS for the 26 May election.

Senior members of the non-parliamentary right-wing Homeland League (DOM) and United Slovenia were also in the crowd.

27 Apr 2019, 18:52 PM

STA, 27 April 2019 - Some 400 locals living along the border near the Jelšane border crossing with Croatia staged a rally on Saturday demanding better border protection and rejecting the idea of their community hosting a processing centre for migrants.

 

Those living in border areas are faced with illegal migrations on a daily basis, and migrations involve pollution of the environment, break-ins and damage to property, said Ivan Cegnar, who heads a local civil initiative that has spearheaded the protests.

"What's particularly worrying is the fear, being unable to freely move in our back yards," said Cegnar, the head of the local government council in Jelšane.

He said the locals demanded that the state protect the Schengen border in line with the law and commitments Slovenia made when it joined the Schengen zone.

Emil Rojc, the mayor of Ilirska Bistrica, said that migrations had led to a deterioration in the quality of living for the locals.

They demand that police beef up security and reject what Rojc said were "excuses" by the police that there are not enough officers to protect the border. He said Slovenia could seek assistance from the EU border agency Frontex.

If needed the army should be called up as well, said Rojc, who hails from the ranks of the Social Democrats (SD) and has raised eyebrows in his party's ranks with his hard stance on migrations.

The protest is the apex of months of mounting opposition in Ilirska Bistrica area, where many migrants chose to cross the border.

In the first three months of this year police in the western Koper District, which includes Ilirska Bistrica, registered 388 illegal border crossings, up from 266 in the same period in 2018.

The area is not the main entry point for migrants, as the vast majority cross further east covered by the Ljubljana and Novo Mesto police.

In the entire country they registered 1,639 attempts at illegal border crossing, an increase of almost 150% on the year before.

But what has further aggravated local woes around Jelšane are contingency plans that involve using buildings near the Jelšane border crossing for a processing centre for migrants in the event of a surge in migrant numbers.

The government has tried to assuage fears by emphasising that this would be a measure of last resort, but it has refused to specify at what point it may be activated.

The municipal council has even tried to stage a referendum on the registration centre, but their attempt has been thwarted by courts with the argument that such issues cannot be subject to referenda. The motion has been put to the Supreme Court.

While driven by local concerns, the protest attracted the interest of rightist parties that have made opposition to migrations a core part of their agendas.

Among the participants were senior Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims, the president of the far-right Homeland League (DOM) Bernard Brščič and representatives of the extremist Identitarian movement, which had in previous days urged people to attend the protest.

SDS leader Janez Janša wrote on Twitter that the protest was "the only genuine manifestation on Resistance Day," in that it was targeted "against potential conquerors and their helpers."

Meanwhile, the SD said they did not support the protest, adding in reference to the mayor coming from their ranks that "the party's competent bodies will evaluate the conduct of individual members."

16 Apr 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 16 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec called for a European Commission that would consistently implement the rule of law and respect small member states as he gave an interview for Politico. His vote for the next European Commission chief will go to Margrethe Vestager (ALDE).

In the interview, Šarec took issue with the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for implying that small EU members did not have the same status as large countries such as France, and for not taking sides in the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.

Šarec suggested that the soft-handed approach could have been politically motivated since Juncker and the ruling Croatian party belonged to the same European Parliament group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

He said that the Commission should have urged Croatia to respect the border decision, which was handed down in Slovenia's favour by an international arbitration panel in 2017, adding that the decision was valid no matter the surrounding controversy.

"We need a European Commission which will obey the rule of law ... we need a Commission which will be less political," said Šarec, pointing out that Vestager, his choice for the next Commission chief, had a "common sense" vision for the EU.

Hailing from Denmark, Vestager also has more understanding for small member states, according to Šarec. Both of them belong to the ALDE alliance of European liberal parties, with the competition commissioner being considered the party's top candidate for the Commission presidency.

He also called for an EU which would be faster at making decisions and expressed his disapproval of the Spitzenkandidat process, describing it as "not legal" and "not democratic".

Commenting on European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent controversial remarks, which implied Italy's territorial claims on parts of Slovenia and Croatia, Šarec called them an outrageous example of WWII revisionism and declared Tajani unfit for his office.

He urged taking measures that the next European Parliament president would not be someone who advocated such problematic statements and views.

Politico also addressed Šarec's stand-up past, pointing out that a number of former comedians have started performing in the EU political arena in recent years.

The Slovenian prime minister welcomed this trend, saying that some characteristics were useful in both worlds, including being observant, brave and a quick learner, as well as a performer skilled at reading people.

11 Apr 2019, 09:26 AM

STA, 10 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has expressed regret about the European Commission's lukewarm response to the media reports that Croatia had been behind the border arbitration scandal and that it had even tried to prevent the revelations from being published.

 

Arriving in Brussels on Wednesday for an EU summit dedicated to Brexit, Šarec said he had expected the Commission call for respect for the rule of law and declare pressure on the media unacceptable, in particular when they came from a neighbour country.

Šarec also commented on criticism at home that he was trying to create a state of emergency ahead of the EU elections. "There's no state of emergency. We have responded to the pressure, we've convened the National Security Council because there was a series of initiatives for that, and I find that's right."

"We cannot be humble all the time, turning the other cheek, we must speak out when things are wrong. We've done that too. This doesn't mean we're creating a state of emergency, there's no state of emergency," Šarec said.

Related: A timeline of the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute

The National Security Council met yesterday in the wake of a report by the commercial broadcaster POP TV that an intermediary working on behalf of the Croatian government had sought to prevent its news portal from running a story last week proving that the Croatian intelligence agency was responsible for intercepting the phone calls between Slovenia's judge and agent in the border arbitration in July 2015, which Croatia used as an excuse to withdraw from the arbitration process.

He said that it was a perfectly justified reaction to summon the Slovenian ambassador to Croatia to come to Ljubljana to explain the situation, and to summon the Croatian ambassador for talks, which was to show Slovenia as a sovereign country with its own position.

"If in the past our leaders were too servile, I cannot help it. I act the way I think is right," he said.

Asked whether he planned to discuss the matter with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković and EU leaders, Šarec said that he always exchanged a few words with Plenković at the summit and that they would also have a word at the summit of China and 16 central and east European countries in Croatia's Split on Thursday.

"As far as I know Croatian journalists have joined in the protest against such interference in the media," Šarec said, referring to the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists backing the Slovenian Journalists' Association in condemning the pressure on POP TV.

Provided an opportunity, Šarec plans to have a word about the issue with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, but he does not believe he will get any other answer from the one already issued by the Commission. "The time has obviously come for elections and for change," he said.

Šarec will tell Plenković that the rule of law must be observed and that pressure on the media is unacceptable, he said. "We expect Croatia to refrain from such acts, to implement the arbitration award as soon as possible, and to stop with the practice that is not in Slovenia's or Croatia's interests."

The European Commission did not wish to comment on the revelations yesterday, saying this was a bilateral affair. The Commission reacted in a similar way the day before when asked to comment on Hungary's protest over the cover of the Mladina magazine portraying the Hungarian PM.

Šarec – May “brings nothing new to the table” on Brexit

STA, 10 April 2019 - Slovenia continues to support as short a delay of Brexit as possible, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said as he arrived for the latest EU's Brexit summit in Brussels on Wednesday. We fear that Britain, should it hold the EU election and stay a member, would not be constructive, he said.

"You know how it is in politics. There are no guarantees in politics. All these safeguards to be adopted potentially can only be political. Should for instance a change of power occur in Great Britain, we have no way of knowing who comes after Theresa May and how they would behave," the Slovenian PM said in his doorstep statement.

He reiterated that what mattered most was not Britain but how the EU will function. "In case a blockade occurred, if we found ourselves in a situation where the institutions are blocked, we'd be in serious trouble."

Šarec does not know what to expect from tonight's developments, arguing that "Theresa May arrives each time to explain things while she brings nothing new to put on the table".

All our stories on Slovenia and Brexit are here

10 Apr 2019, 12:33 PM

STA, 9 April 2019 - Slovenia and Croatia have been locked in the border dispute ever since they declared independence almost 28 years ago. The countries have seen several intelligence scandals since, the last one prompting PM Marjan Šarec to call a session of the National Security Council. Below is a timeline of the developments.

25 June 1991 - Slovenia adopts the Basic Constitutional Charter on Independence, which states that the borders of the republics in the former Yugoslavia are the internationally-recognised borders of the new state. Croatia makes a similar declaration.

11 January 1992 - The Arbitration Commission of the Conference on Yugoslavia (the Badinter Commission) adopts the position that the borders of the former Yugoslav republics are the borders of the newly-emerged countries in the region.

28 April 1997 - Slovenia and Croatia sign the Agreement on Border Transport and Cooperation (SOPS) in a bid to facilitate the movement of people living in border areas (all municipalities within the 10-km belt of the border on both sides). The Croatian parliament ratifies the treaty the same year, Slovenia follows suit in June 2001. Even though the agreement also imposes the fishing regime in the Bay of Piran, incidents involving fishermen would be rife in the years to come.

January 1998 - Two operatives of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) stray into Croatia in a spy van near the town of Zavrč. Their van is confiscated by the Croatian authorities, including the equipment with intelligence. Croatia does not return the van to Slovenia until 2001.

20 July 2001 - The Slovenian and Croatian governments endorse and initial a draft agreement on the border hammered out by the prime ministers, Janez Drnovšek and Ivica Račan. This is the first time that the two countries determine the border at sea. The agreement gives Slovenia 80% of the Bay of Piran and a corridor with access to international waters; Croatia retains contact with Italian territorial waters. The Slovenian parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee confirms the treaty, but the Croatian parliament is staunchly against.

4 September 2002 - Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan sends a letter to Slovenia in which Croatia announces it is withdrawing from the Drnovšek-Račan agreement.

3 October 2004 - Croatia implements a protective ecological and fisheries zone in the Adriatic Sea a year after declaring it despite protests from Slovenia and Italy.

10 June 2005 - The governments of Slovenia and Croatia sign the Brijuni Declaration at their first joint meeting, pledging to avoid incidents on the border and to respect the state on the ground as on 25 June 1991.

4 October 2005 - The Slovenian National Assembly passes a law declaring a Slovenian ecological zone and epicontinental belt in the Adriatic which includes a provision that says the demarcation still needs to be agreed at bilateral level.

5 January 2006 - Slovenia declares the whole of the Bay of Piran as its fishing area.

31 August 2006 - In one of the gravest escalations, Slovenia deploys members of a special police force to the area near the Slovenian border village of Hotiza on the north bank of the Mura river in the north-east of the country after Croatia has begun building an embankment and a road towards the Slovenian settlement Brezovec-part or Mirišče without having obtained consent from Slovenia.

June 2007 - Former Slovenian Prime Minister Tone Rop tells a reporter off the record that, prior to the 2004 election, the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA had intercepted the then opposition leader Janez Janša and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader as they were plotting border incidents in the Bay of Piran. Due to the revelations, Rop is later fined by court for disclosure of secret data but later acquitted by a higher court.

26 August 2007 - The Slovenian and Croatian prime ministers, Janez Janša and Ivo Sanader, reach an informal agreement in principle at their meeting in Slovenia's Bled to put the border issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

4 November 2009 - Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor sign an arbitration agreement in Stockholm, Sweden, under the auspices of the Swedish EU presidency. The treaty sets forth that an arbitration tribunal shall determine the land and sea border, Slovenia's junction with high seas and a regime for the use of maritime zones.

22 July 2015 - The Croatian newspaper Večernji List publishes a recording of phone conversations between Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal Jernej Sekolec and Slovenian agent in the case Simona Drenik discussing details of the tribunal's confidential deliberations. The scandal prompts the pair to step down and Croatia withdraws from the arbitration process although the tribunal later decides it will resume its work.

29 June 2017 - The arbitration tribunal declares its final decision on the border, awarding Slovenia the bulk of the Bay of Piran, as well as a belt extending 2.5 nautical miles in width that represents Slovenia's junction with the open seas. The border on land largely follows the demarcation of cadastral municipalities.

3 April 2019 - The news web site 24ur.com reports that arbiter Sekolec and agent Drenik were tapped by the Croatian Intelligence Service (SOA) through its operative Davor Franić. The commercial broadcaster POP TV later reveals that the Croatian government had attempted to prevent the publication of the revelations by means of a go-between. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec responds on 9 April by calling a session of the national Security Council and the Foreign Ministry summons the Croatian ambassador to Slovenia and the Slovenian ambassador to Croatia for talks in Ljubljana.

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