Slovenia and Croatia Falter on Krsko Agreement

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Slovenia and Croatia Falter on Krsko Agreement

Once again, the five-party ruling coalition in
Croatia is going through a deep crisis, this time over the
Croatian-Slovene agreement on the Krsko nuclear power plant.

The inability to hold a vote on the deal capped
three days of intense debate about the ownership of and
responsibility for the plant. Croatia has invested approximately
$300 to $500 million in the plant, and under the agreement, it is
expected to take over the costs of the plant’s dismantling, costs
estimated at up to $500 million.

The parliament adjourned its session on 28 June
without having achieved a quorum to vote on the ratification of the
agreement after the Social Liberal Party (HSLS) decided not to
return to the parliament for the voting. Earlier in the day, a
measure by the Croatian Party of Rights/Croatian Christian
Democratic Union (HSP/HKDU), a grouping of rightist parties, to
remove debate about the agreement from the parliamentary agenda was
narrowly defeated.

After the session was adjourned, Croatian Prime
Minister Ivica Racan told reporters that he would not be able to
say whether the coalition of five parties still existed until after
those parties meet next week.

HSLS party leader Drazen Budisa confirmed on 29
June that his party did not intend to leave either the government
or the coalition. He further maintained the ratification of the
Krsko deal could have waited as Slovenia had not approved it yet
either.

The Krsko plant–built close to the Croatian
border in Slovenia as part of a Slovene-Croat partnership–came
online in 1983 after six years of construction. It was the first
nuclear power station in the former Yugoslavia and has been plagued
by controversy since its inception. Environmental concerns over
radioactive waste disposal have been compounded by ownership
disputes since Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia more than ten years
ago.

While the debate raged in the Croatian
parliament, Slovene legislators meanwhile had to wait for a green
light from the Slovenian Constitutional Court to go ahead with the
ratification process. Officials from the Krsko municipality and 31
Slovene lawmakers on 18 June had demanded that the agreement
undergo scrutiny at the Constitutional Court.

Krsko Mayor Franci Bogovic on 18 June said that
the Constitutional Court needed to check the agreement with the
72nd article of the Slovene constitution, which states that
“everyone has the right in accordance with the law to a healthy
living environment (…) and the state shall promote a healthy
living environment.” According to Bogovic, the current agreement
violates that provision, because it stipulates that all decisions
about the plant’s radioactive waste management can be only taken
with Croatia’s approval.

“Slovenia will not be able to guarantee its
citizens a healthy living environment. Even if Slovenia finds a
solution for its part of the nuclear waste, it couldn’t implement
it because it needs Croatia’s approval,” Bogovic said.

The Constitutional Court on 27 June issued a
statement saying that not all conditions to review the treaty have
been met, dashing hopes that the agreement would be penned before 1
July, a key date for the implementation of its provisions.

The Slovene government insists that the
agreement doesn’t violate the constitution and that a delay in its
ratification will be harmful. Under the terms of the agreement,
Croatia would be supplied with half of the Krsko plant’s produced
electricity as of 1 July, and failure to implement the agreement in
time could mean that Croatia could reopen the lawsuits it had filed
against Slovenia after it stopped receiving Krsko power four years
ago.

Slovene officials have also expressed anxiety
that the country’s image could be harmed by the unsolved issue of
the plan t’s ownership, damaging relations with Croatia as well as
with the European Union.

Krsko is not the only Croatian-Slovene problem.
Fishermen from the Croatian region of Istria had been planning
protests for 2 July in Piran Bay over Zagreb’s negotiations with
Ljubljana on the definition of the border and fishing in that part
of the sea. Croatian Interior Minister Sime Lucin, however, banned
any demonstration, and Croatian parliamentary vice president
Zdravko Tomac said in Novigrad that no one had the right to stir up
tension between two friendly countries in the name of local
interests.

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