Croatia and Slovenia “At War” Over South China Sea

By 10 August 2018

The sea border dispute spreads to other continents.

While it may seem that the arguments between Croatia and Slovenia over the sea border dispute have calmed down lately while Slovenia is trying to form a new government, the impression is wrong. In the background, at the diplomatic level, the conflict has seemingly expanded to other continents as well. The latest example happened in July, with a heated debate between representatives of Croatia and Slovenia in Brussels during a preparatory meeting for a summit between EU and Japan, reports Večernji List on August 10, 2018.

Slovenia insisted that the part of the document dealing with the relations in the South China Sea should include a provision that decisions of an arbitral tribunal must be respected. The reason is, of course, Slovenia’s insistence on the implementation of the arbitral tribunal decision in the sea border dispute with Croatia. However, Croatia firmly refused to accept such provision. The meeting was adjourned for a while and a compromise was found in a provision from another declaration drawn up in 2016, which was now simply copied to the new document. Croatia has succeeded in its efforts since the adopted formulation did not mention arbitration.

“Every time a maritime issue is mentioned, Croatia and Slovenia engage in a heated debate, each with its own position,” said a diplomatic source for a third country. The best example is the EU’s preparatory document for the meeting with Japan last month. The text was being discussed at the Political and Security Committee, the preparatory body of the EU Council responsible for the common foreign and security policy, with representatives of all the member states present. The fourth point of the declaration, Maritime Security in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, caused a conflict between Croatia and Slovenia, said the diplomat.

Two years ago, an international tribunal ruled against Chinese attempts to control a large part of the South China Sea, making a decision in favour of the Philippines. However, China considers the court's decision null and void. Slovenia is now trying to use the situation for the benefit of its position in the arbitral dispute with Croatia since Croatia does not recognise the arbitral decision in its sea border dispute with Slovenia. It would be significant if a declaration agreed by all EU member states would include a provision that arbitral decisions must be respected. Of course, Croatia wants to prevent any such provisions.

“When the representatives of Croatia and Slovenia started their arguments, all the other countries stayed silent. Here they go again. Honestly, we are a little tired of this bilateral dispute,” said the source.

To make things more absurd, in the end, the agreed text was not adopted anyway since Japan did not want to include any political provisions, so the sentence was removed from the final document.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Sandra Veljković).