Croatia Questions Border Agreement with Slovenia

  
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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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