Croatian Government Paralysed by Border Dispute with Slovenia

By 4 February 2018

While Slovenia seems prepared and organised in the border dispute, Croatia is passive and paralysed.

By deciding to send Slovenian fishermen fines for illegal border crossing as revenge for a similar move by the Slovenian government, Croatia is not doing anything to solve the problem related to the border dispute or to help its fishermen. This step has no effect, except to demonstrate the powerlessness of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his entire team. About the border dispute and the border arbitration judgment which Croatia does not recognize, Croatian authorities are entirely paralysed, reports Jutarnji List on February 4, 2018.

The policy of revenge represents just an active contribution by Croatia to the deepening of the conflict with Slovenia and distancing itself from any possibility of reaching an agreement on the arbitration judgment and the demarcation of the border. What's worse, Croatian fishers who have received penalties in the amount of 500 euros for alleged illegal border crossings do not have many reasons to feel calm. For a month now, the government has been assuring them that they do not have anything to worry, without having any idea how to deal with the actions of Slovenian institution against the fishermen in the part of the Bay of Piran which Slovenia considers as its territory after the unilateral implementation of the arbitration decision.

The worst thing is that no one in the Croatian government, although Ljubljana announced its plan many months ago, did not foresee any of the Slovenian moves done after 31 December, when the country decided to start implementing the judgment. The Croatian authorities are finding temporary solutions which cannot solve the problem in the long run.

The situation is the same with the fishermen’s penalties as well. Since the Slovenian police announced on the first day of the arbitration implementation that they would fine Croatian fishers for the breach of the border, it should have been clear to Croatia that this meant something had to be done for the fishermen. But no. They were invited to the Ministry of Agriculture, where Minister Tomislav Tolušić received them, spoke with them and told them to go home. Then, Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković, aware that the problem will ultimately come to him, said that the Justice Ministry would not forward the penalties to the fishermen. It was incorrectly assumed that Slovenia would use an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in legal matters and send penalties to the Ministry. However, it went the other, far more efficient way, and delivered fines directly to fishermen, to their home addresses.

And what now? Solutions are being developed overnight, and the government has found a lawyer to represent fishers at a misdemeanour court in Slovenia. While the government is looking for lawyers, the fishermen are worried about the eight-day period in which they can file an appeal. Otherwise they will be forced to pay the penalty.

Unlike Croatia, Slovenia was not surprised by the moves of the Croatian police. Someone should explain to us how is it possible that the Slovenian authorities have predicted that the Croatian police could also punish their fishermen, so they formed a special fund from which the court fees for their fishermen will be financed, as well as possible penalties, and they have already found an attorney in Pula to represent them.

Now, appeals will be filed, which means that the fees will not be payable for another year. The government has bought some time, but what will then happen? Slovenia will have elections this year, meaning there is no chance for any Slovenian politician to be ready to compromise.

All the facts which go in favour of Croatia, that Slovenia initially blackmailed Croatia to accept the arbitration, that it acted unfairly and compromised the process, and that it is now refusing dialogue do not help. Despite Croatia’s withdrawal, the procedure was fully implemented, and the judgment was announced, the European Commission accepts its and will not support the Croatian position.

Therefore, it would be best to find a model for the Croatian authorities to accept the arbitration judgment, particularly because it is not unfavourable to Croatia at all.

Translated from Jutarnji List.