Croatia Sends Response to Slovenian Complaint on Border Arbitration Implementation

By 18 April 2018

ZAGREB, April 18, 2018 - Croatia has sent a written response to the European Commission following a complaint by Slovenia that it is in breach of EU law because it does not recognise the border arbitration ruling, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić said in an interview with the HRT public broadcaster on Tuesday evening. "We have had until today to send our response and we have done so. I think we presented valid arguments in response to their letter," she said.

Croatia agreed the response to the Slovenian complaint at the closed part of a government meeting on Tuesday. The European Commission had invited Croatia to respond by April 17 to the letter in which Slovenia sought the Commission's opinion on its view that, by refusing to implement the border arbitration ruling, Croatia was in breach of EU law.

Pejčinović Burić said she could not discuss details of the Croatian response because it was a confidential document for now. "We have provided valid arguments for each point and the conclusion is that Croatia is not in breach of EU law," she said.

Slovenia launched the procedure before the European Commission in accordance with Article 259 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, claiming that Croatia, by refusing to recognise and implement the arbitration ruling of June 29, 2017, violated EU law. In that way, it formally launched a three-month process with the Commission during which the two parties are to exchange written submissions and hold an oral hearing.

The Commission has set May 2 as a date for the oral hearing. According to Pejčinović Burić, it is customary that such meetings are attended by experts, and Croatia has not decided yet who will go to this hearing in Brussels.

Asked if Croatia was under pressure from Brussels to comply with the arbitration ruling, the minister said that the Commission "understands very well that this is a bilateral issue, and they have invited us, Croatia and Slovenia, for bilateral talks as two EU members."

"We still think that is the right way to go," she said. "In other words, there is no pressure. Of course, the EU, the European institutions, would like the two countries to solve this issue, but there is no pressure because there are other countries in Europe that have open bilateral issues and they live with them normally, dealing with them over time." She said that Croatia and Slovenia could do that too, but had to show a readiness for that.

Asked if the oral hearing would bring about reconciliation or Slovenia would indeed file a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice, Pejčinović Burić said that Slovenia had in a way opted for that course of action because it had bound its future governments to take the matter to the Court of Justice unless the Commission did so.

"That is not a good way. We believe that the first-instance procedure provides that the Commission, as a relevant and neutral institution, should give a competent answer. Slovenia has actually brought into question this role and this process which is envisaged by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. All things are pointing in that direction, given that the actors are still the same. Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec insists on this, so it seems that the matter will go before the Court," Pejčinović Burić said, expressing hope that this would not happen. She said that Croatia would continue calling for dialogue.