Croatia Questions Border Agreement with Slovenia
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan and his deputy, Drazen Budisa, last week called for a reopening of talks on the exact delineation of Slovenia’s border with Croatia, one year after a preliminary agreement was signed.
Answering questions in parliament on 12 June, Budisa said that the government would like to draw up a new position paper “given the lack of support for the border agreement that was initialed by the Slovenian and Croatian governments last year.” It was, he said, impossible to finalize an agreement, as Croatian lawmakers had failed to support the very foundations of the agreement.
A day later, on returning from the United States, Racan confirmed Budisa's statements, saying that he had asked Slovenia to enter into a new round of talks and that he would lay out his position in a letter to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek. As the two governments had, he said, proved unsuccessful in resolving all the questions as a package, the issues should now be tackled separately.
The issue of where Slovenia’s and Croatia’s borders lie has been unresolved since the collapse of Yugoslavia. Negotiations over the 670-kilometer border began immediately after but were stymied for years, as the hard line adopted by the late Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, appeared to make compromise impossible. Racan’s rise to power brought the question to the top of the political agenda, culminating in the signing of a draft agreement on 19 July last year.
Among the key issues are borders within the Piran Bay, which under the former Yugoslavia had never been set. Under the draft agreement signed last year, 80 percent of the bay would be given to Slovenia, with Croatia receiving the remainder in order to maintain the continuity of its sea border with Italy. Croatia would open up a corridor for Slovenia to ensure its access to international waters. At the time, the agreement was hailed by Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, who declared that “Slovenia has become a maritime country for the first time in its history.” However, critics in Croatia--including scholars of international law--said that the deal was unfavorable to Croatia. In fact, only Racan's Social Democratic Party (SDP) supported the agreement.
Other changes along the border, which runs to Hungary, are relatively minor. However, two other important issues have yet to be fully settled. One relates to the Krsko nuclear power plant, which is in southeastern Slovenia but was built by both countries. The Slovenian parliament has ratified the agreement, but it is currently being scrutinized by the Constitutional Court. The agreement has yet to be debated in the Croatian parliament.
A second issue relates to the savings accounts of Croatians in the now-liquidated Ljubljanska banka.
Drnovsek responded to Racan’s statement, saying that “it makes no sense to launch a new round of negotiations now that the agreement has already been initialed.” The real issue at stake now was the credibility of both governments and their ability to fulfil what has been agreed, he said. In Slovenia, almost all political parties have approved the agreement, though some nonparliamentary groups believe it amounts to a sell-off of Slovenian territory.
Drnovsek rejected the notion that the outstanding issues were insoluble. “The toughest issues--the border and the Krsko nuclear power plant--have been agreed upon at the government level, while the debt of the former Ljubljanska banka to Croatian citizens is subject to talks on the division of the former Yugoslavia and is being handled multilaterally,” he said.
On 13 June, just as the issues were resurfacing, the European Parliament published a pr ogress report on Slovenia, in which it urged the two countries to reach a final agreement. It applauded the progress made last year, singling out the draft agreement on the border and the status of the Krsko nuclear power plant.
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