Van Rompuy hails ‘maturity’ of Croatia-Slovenia relation

Ljubljanska Banka.jpg

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said today (11 March) that the constructive approach to solve the Ljubljanska Banka issue between Slovenia and  Croatia was a “sign of maturity” and an example for the whole Western Balkan region. 

In a statement, Van Rompuy congratulated the two countries for signing an agreement aimed at finding a solution to a dispute over money owed by a Slovenian bank to Croatian depositors. The dispute dates back to before the 1991 breakup of Yugoslavia.

Croatia hopes to join the European Union in July 2013 (see background) but can only do so after all current members, including Slovenia, ratify its membership accord.

On 8 March, it was reported that an agreement had been signed in Zagreb by Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusi? and Slovenian State Secretary Tone Kajzer.

Under the agreement, Zagreb agreed to suspend all legal proceedings against the Slovene bank in return for Ljubljana's commitment to ratify Croatia's accession treaty. Outgoing Slovenian Prime Minsiter Janez Janša said the Slovene parliament would be able to ratify the accession treaty "within 30 days" after signing the deal on Ljubljanska Banka.

Janša resigned on 27 February over a graft case. The leader of the opposition Positive Slovenia Alenka Bratušek is expected to become the country's first female prime minister today.

“Politics is about confronting changes, and European politics is about confronting them together. By choosing the path of dialogue, tenacity and compromise, you have been able to turn the page as Member States of our Union,” Van Rompuy said in a letter sent to the Prime Ministers of Slovenia and Croatia.

Van Rompuy also praised Croatia and Slovenia for having been able to solve the maritime sea border issue. “The way you handle [these issues] serves as an example for the whole region,” Van Rompuy stated.

In January 2012, the then Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor and Croatian Prime Minister  Zoran Milanovi? agreed to appoint judges to arbitrate their border dispute, and accept whatever judgement the panel reached, without the possibility of appeal. The arbitration proceedings are expected to last for several years.

Croatia signed its accession treaty on 9 December 2011 in a surrealistic atmosphere of uncertainty over the fate of the European Union. But as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, the event showed that even under the difficult circumstances, the EU had lost "none of its attractiveness". [more]

The former Yugoslav Republic is expected to become a full EU member as of 1 July 2013. On 22 January, two-thirds of Croatians voted in favour of joining the European Union in a referendum.

After the collapse of former Yugoslavia, Ljubljanska Banka (LB) had refused to compensate holders of foreign exchange deposits at its branches in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Skopje. In response, Zagreb had denied Slovenia's Ljubljanska bank access to the Croatian market as long as savers from the former Yugoslavia, now Croatian citizens, had not been refunded.

The Council of Europe appealed in 2004 for Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to set up a collective fund to compensate depositors. It also offered to help.

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