Slovenia agrees breakthrough in Croatia’s EU talks

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The border dispute that has poisoned relations between Croatia and Slovenia should not constitute an obstacle for proceeding with Croatia’s EU accession negotiations, the prime ministers of the two countries announced today (11 September).

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and her Slovene counterpart Borut Pahor announced the news after holding talks in Ljubljana, the Croatian agency HINA reported. 

They two leaders also announced that they would pursue talks for solving the dispute, based on a European Commission proposal. 

Pahor said the negotiations on the settlement of the border dispute would resume with EU mediation, from the point at which they were interrupted on June 15, when Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn’s latest proposal was on the table. 

The Slovenian prime minister added that his government would propose to the parliament that Croatia’s accession talks be unblocked. If the proposal was endorsed in parliament, accession negotiations would resume as soon as possible, he added. 

Pahor said the two countries would invite Sweden to organise an accession conference as soon as possible, so that the blockade could be lifted and the negotiations on the settlement of the border row simultaneously resumed. 

Late last year, Slovenia blocked the opening of nine new negotiation chapters with Croatia, and prevented five more from being closed down. 

For her part, Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said the Swedish EU Presidency had been notified that no document, position, written or oral statement in the Croatian negotiating process prejudges a solution to the Croatian-Slovene border demarcation issue. 

Over the last period, Slovenia was claiming that Croatia had provided documents to the Commission which “prejudged” the border dispute. In the process of negotiations, Croatia agreed that should the legal services ever consider this to be the case, Zagreb would be ready to withdraw them (EURACTIV 19/06/09). 

Positions

"We are extremely pleased that this agreement has been reached between the two sides in the spirit of good neighbourly relations," said Joseph DaulChairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament. "The Croatian accession negotiations, which are of paramount importance for Croatia and the region, can now continue at the pace originally envisaged."

"I am certain that Croatia will continue to perform well in adopting EU standards and I am looking forward to this House eventually putting a signature on Croatian accession", he said.

Background

During the French EU Presidency, Slovenia blocked the opening of negotiating chapters with Zagreb due to an unresolved border dispute (EURACTIV 18/12/08). Overall nine negotiation chapters were blocked from for opening and five from closing. 

The Czech Presidency failed to make any progress in the negotiations. In the meantime, hopes have died for Croatia's objective of wrapping up accession talks by the end of the year with the aim of joining the bloc in 2010. 

The border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia concerns small pockets of land along the Adriatic coast, which could prove important if accompanied by exclusive access rights to deep-sea zones. 

A huge mediation effort from the Union (EURACTIV 15/06/09) was abandoned last June. The Swedish EU Presidency marked a toughening in the EU's mediation efforts, as Sweden stated that it would not engage in solving bilateral problems, including the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute (EURACTIV 23/06/09). 

Further Reading

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