Gilbert Guillame, President of the Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague, will announce the ruling on the territorial dispute between Croatia and Slovenia at sea and land this afternoon, but Croatia's representatives will not be in court, according to the July 2015 parliamentary decision on withdrawal from arbitration due to “serious violations of the arbitration procedure,” reports Poslovni.hr on June 29, 2017.
In late July 2015, the Parliament passed a decision to withdraw from the arbitration agreement signed by two countries in 2009 and proposed to Slovenia to start negotiations on an alternative dispute resolution.
Croatia said at the time that the arbitration process had been irretrievably compromised after it was discovered that Jernej Sekolec, the Slovenian member at the Arbitral Tribunal, and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry official Simona Drenik were in collusion regarding the submission of Slovenian arguments and lobbying other arbitration judges. Sekolec and Drenik subsequently resigned. Croatia left the arbitration, referring to Article 60 of the Vienna Convention, which permits the dissolution of an international agreement.
Croatia will not respond to the invitation to be present at the announcement of the decision of the arbitral tribunal. “We will not be sitting there; we will not be present. It will be a day like every other day, and we do not intend to pay particular attention to that decision”, confirmed Croatian diplomatic sources. This decision, they say, “will not have any effect on us and Croatia will not act according to it.”
The Croatian government and opposition are united in the view that the arbitration agreement for Croatia does not exist and that it is necessary to find another peaceful way of resolving the territorial dispute related to the border. They also call for the avoidance of any unilateral moves.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the arbitration had been irretrievably interrupted and that the issue of borders should be resolved differently. “The arbitration has been compromised and contaminated, and we have left it according to the unanimous decision of the Parliament. We have made a notification, and we do not participate in the proceedings”, said the Prime Minister. He also pointed out that “Croatia does not want any unilateral actions after the arbitral tribunal announces its decision.”
Slovenian Prime Minister Cerar lobbied during a recent EU summit for support for his position that the decision of the arbitral tribunal on the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia must be respected.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in a recent interview for Slovenian media that the arbitration procedure with Slovenia no longer mattered and that nothing special would happen today. “Croatia will neither accept nor reject the outcome of the arbitration since it does not exist for us,” the President said.
Newly-appointed Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić also believes that the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal will not bring any dramatic result because Croatia's position is clear, stressing that she believes that Slovenia will not try to block Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area due to the arbitration dispute. “Croatia and Slovenia are two neighbouring countries, responsible members of the EU and NATO, and in that context, we have many more interests and topics which connect us. It obliges us to work together and seek bilateral agreements,” said Pejčinović Burić.
Croatia, which entered the arbitration process under the pressure of the Slovenian blockade of its accession negotiations with the European Union a decade ago, was initially satisfied with the signed arbitration agreement since it defined that the issue would be solved on the basis of the international law. However, on several occasions, it had to warn the court about inappropriate statements made by Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, who said to the media that the decision would be in favour of Slovenia.
Croatian legal experts agree that Slovenia has deliberately and malevolently breached the arbitration agreement so that its purpose could no longer be realised, and that Croatia has made its decisions in accordance with the available instruments of international law. By leaving the arbitration, Croatia has used a legitimate measure to protect its own interests, and the arbitration decision itself has no legal effect for Croatia.
There is no mechanism of coercion for implementation of arbitration decisions, and any threat of force, let alone the use of force, would be unacceptable and would represent most grave violation of international law. The parties in the proceedings are left to enforce the court's decision voluntarily.
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, tensions are growing ahead of the today’s announcement of the arbitration decision.