Croatia Against Future Border Arbitrations

By 18 February 2018

ZAGREB, February 18, 2018 - Border disputes between southeast European countries which cannot be solved bilaterally, should be forwarded to an international court rather than going to arbitration, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said in Munich on Saturday where she was attending an international security conference.

The EU has recently outlined its latest strategy for the Western Balkans, and the document reads that "where border disputes are not resolved bilaterally, parties should submit them unconditionally to binding, final international arbitration, the rulings of which should be fully applied and respected by both parties before accession and taken into account in preparation of Accession Treaties."

Addressing the Munich conference, the European Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the bad experience from the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute was a reason why western Balkan aspirants would be asked to solve their border rows before joining the Union.

Minister Pejčinović Burić recalls that Croatia's borders with Serbia and with Bosnia and Herzegovina have not yet been delimited and Zagreb wants to resolve the border demarcation independently from the processes of its neighbours' accession to the European Union.

If there is good will, the solution can be achieved bilaterally. Where a bilateral agreement is not possible, the best option is, according to our experience, to refer the case to permanent international courts: the International Court of Justice in The Hague or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, she said. The minister explained that permanent courts have more experience.

Croatia and Slovenia went to arbitration over their border dispute, and the arbitration award delivered last June in this case was not accepted by Croatia after Slovenia's representative and arbiter compromised the procedure. Slovenia, however, insists on the implementation of the award.

Pejčinović Burić said that the negotiations which Ljubljana and Zagreb had conducted about this border demarcation for 25 years did not set a good example to other countries, however Croatia "is willing to bring the issue to a completion" and the solution is "in the offing". "We are very close to a possible solution, and this requires the openness of both parties," she said.