Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Slovenia Expects Croatia to Refrain from Spying

ZAGREB, April 10, 2019 - Slovenia's National Security Council, which convened on Tuesday evening to discuss "the espionage affair", called on Croatia to refrain in the future from spying activities in Slovenia.

After the three-hour meeting in Ljubljana, the council said that it had been informed of spying activities during the border arbitration process a few years ago and also condemned any attempt aimed at interfering at Slovenian media.

Lately, Slovenian media accused the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) of having wiretapped two Slovenian officials during a border arbitration process and claimed that Ivan Tolj, the head of the Styria publishing company in Croatia, attempted to prevent the publication of a reportage on a "spy affair" on behalf of the Croatian government.

Tuesday's meeting of Slovenia's National Security Council brought together Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, government ministers as well as representatives of opposition parties.

A representative of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), Božidar Breznik, told the press after the meeting that he condemned the unjustified interference with media and added that nevertheless, the Slovenian government must accept the fact that the border arbitration belonged to the past. He said that it seemed to him that convening the council was more motivated by daily political reasons than by matters concerning national security.

The Croatian government on Tuesday resolutely rejected all allegations by Ljubljana about reported attempts by Zagreb to influence the work of Slovenian media.

The Andrej Plenković cabinet dismissed allegations that Tolj attempted to prevent the publication of a reportage on a "spy affair" as its mediator.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that it is not his government's policy to influence reports by Slovenian media outlets. "The Croatian government does not have the possibility nor the ambition nor is it our policy to influence any reports in Slovenian media," he told reporters at Zagreb's airport where he was waiting to welcome Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

"The arbitration procedure was irrevocably compromised because of the conduct by the Slovenian side," Plenković said. He added that Croatia wishes "to develop good relations with Slovenia and to resolve that issue. Our policy is a policy of dialogue."

Earlier on Tuesday, SOA dismissed reports published by the Slovenian 24ur media outlet as untrue and tendentious fabrications.

Following an inquiry from Hina, SOA says that it does not comment on media speculations and, responding to the inquiry, it stated that the articles published by 24ur were untrue and tendentious fabrications.

SOA perceives this as the continuation of a campaign by certain media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina which tried to discredit SOA and Croatia by disseminating false accusations about the attempted recruiting of Islamist extremists for arms smuggling through Bosnia and Herzegovina and unlawful activities which SOA allegedly conducted against neighbouring countries.

The failure of the Croatian-Slovenian border arbitration process is a judicial scandal, not an intelligence issue, and we reject this attempt to misrepresent arguments, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's office said on Tuesday, responding to Slovenia's claims that Croatia wiretapped Slovenian officials in the process in order to compromise it.

"The fact is that Slovenia breached the arbitration agreement and thereby international law, which resulted in the failure of the arbitration. That is a judicial scandal, not an intelligence issue, and we reject this attempt to misrepresent arguments," the president's office said in response to questions from the press for a comment.

In July 2015, it was revealed that the Slovenian member of the Arbitral Tribunal, Jernej Sekolec, and Slovenia's representative before the Tribunal, Simona Drenik, had been lobbying other arbiters to hand down a verdict in Slovenia's favour, and this prompted Croatia's representative in the process, Budislav Vukas, to resign with the explanation that Croatia believed that the arbitration procedure had been irreversibly compromised to such an extent that the Arbitral Tribunal was no longer capable of impartially deciding on the matter.

Later that year, the Croatian parliament unanimously decided that Croatia should walk out of international arbitration proceedings with Slovenia after secret phone conversations between Drenik and Sekolec, in which they discussed a strategy to influence judges deciding on the arbitration dispute, were leaked.

Croatia said at the time that Slovenia had irreparably compromised the arbitration proceedings as well as the subsequent ruling, and that talks should be launched to solve the border dispute bilaterally.

More news about the Croatia-Slovenia border issues can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Croatia Rejects Slovenian Spying Allegations

ZAGREB, April 9, 2019 - The Croatian government on Tuesday resolutely rejected all allegations by Ljubljana about reported attempts by Zagreb to influence the work of Slovenian media. The Andrej Plenkovič cabinet dismissed allegations that Ivan Tolj, the head of the Styria publishing company in Croatia, attempted to prevent the publication of a reportage on a "spying affair" on behalf of the Croatian government.

Slovenian media accused the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) of having wiretapped two Slovenian officials during a border arbitration process and claimed that Tolj was a government mediator in a bid to halt the publication of the reportage on the spy scandal by Slovenian media outlets.

The Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) on Tuesday also dismissed reports published by the Slovenian 24ur media outlet as untrue and tendentious fabrications.

Slovenia media accused SOA of having wiretapped two Slovenian officials during a border arbitration process and claimed that Ivan Tolj, the head of the Styria publishing company in Croatia, had tried to prevent the publication of a reportage on the affair.

Following an inquiry from Hina, SOA says that it does not comment on media speculations and, responding to the inquiry, it stated that the articles published by 24ur were untrue and tendentious fabrications.

SOA perceives this as the continuation of a campaign by certain media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina which tried to discredit SOA and Croatia by disseminating false accusations about the attempted recruiting of Islamist extremists for arms smuggling through Bosnia and Herzegovina and unlawful activities which SOA allegedly conducted against neighbouring countries.

More news about relations between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Due to Spying Affair, Slovenia Recalls Ambassador in Zagreb

ZAGREB, April 9, 2019 - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has called for Tuesday afternoon an emergency session of the National Security Council over alleged activity by Croatia's Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) in Slovenia.

The Croatian ambassador to Slovenia was summoned by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry and the Slovenian ambassador to Croatia was called back to Ljubljana for consultation, the Slovenian STA news agency reported.

After Šarec earlier said that he was concerned about Croatia's conduct because SOA had allegedly wiretapped conversations between the former Slovenian arbiter in Croatian-Slovenian border arbitration proceedings, Jernej Sekolec, and Slovenian official Simona Drenik in order to discredit the arbitration process, the affair escalated on Monday following claims on the Slovenian POP TV station that Croatian government mediator Ivan Tolj, the head of the Styria publishing company in Croatia, had tried to prevent the publication of a reportage on the wiretapping affair.

This prompted the Social Democrats (SD), a member of the Slovenian coalition government, to demand an urgent session of the Slovenian National Security Council, which Šarec accepted.

It was previously reported that Croatia's Ambassador to Slovenia, Boris Grgić, was summoned by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry over the affair and that Slovenia's Ambassador to Zagreb, Smiljana Knez, was called back by Ljubljana for consultation.

Šarec's office said that the Slovenian prime minister "is concerned about an attempt by Croatian representatives to influence the reporting of POP TV about activities of the Croatian intelligence service" and that these "serious allegations" required "appropriate explanations".

Such media pressure is "unacceptable and contrary to basic principles of democracy", Šarec's office said.

POP TV on Monday published a recording which it claims shows that Ivan Tolj, Styria's representative for Croatia, tried to stop the broadcast of the TV station's report about the involvement of Croatian intelligence agents in the wiretapping of conversations between Slovenian officials and judges with the aim of compromising the border arbitration proceedings and the subsequent arbitration ruling, which Croatia does not recognise.

More news about relations between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Croatia Reacts to Slovenian Claim It Is Far from Entering Schengen

ZAGREB, April 7, 2019 - The Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Saturday that the issue of Croatia's membership of the Schengen area was too important not only for the Croatian and European security, but for Slovenian as well, underlining that Croatian and Slovenian police cooperated well at the border.

"You saw the news from Greece, namely what is happening on the so-called Balkan route which is potentially the biggest migrant route in Europe. Croatian and Slovenian police have good cooperation at the border and I am confident that Slovenian citizens appreciate what the Croatian police are doing to protect the EU external borders," Božinović said commenting on the statement by Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec that Croatia is far from Schengen area membership.

Asked if Slovenia can make Croatia's joining the Schengen area conditional on some sort of an agreement concerning the two countries' arbitration issue, Božinović said there two issues were unrelated.

"This is an important security issue for both Croatia and Slovenia. I am talking about the migrant crisis and the EU. All EU member states, notably those still on that route, such as Germany and Austria, highly appreciate what the Croatian police are doing and I am confident that all stakeholders are aware of that."

Slovenian Prime Minister Šarec said on Saturday that Croatia was still far from membership of the Schengen area, without ruling out a possibility for his government to tie Slovenia's support to Croatia's membership to the unresolved border dispute.

More news about Croatia and the Schengen issue can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Croatia Disputes Slovenian Foreign Minister's Border Claims

ZAGREB, March 30, 2019 - The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry said on Saturday that it was surprised by "incorrect and legally unfounded allegations" Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar made in a statement for the media last Wednesday when he said that a few days earlier, a Croatian police boat had entered deep into Slovenia's territorial waters in Savudrija Bay, justifying it by saying that their navigation system had broken down.

Cerar said that Slovenia would send Croatia a strongly-worded diplomatic note because the Croatian police boat illegally crossed the border at sea and entered Slovenian territorial waters.

According to the Slovenian police, the Croatian police boat sailed "2.5 kilometres deep into Slovenian territorial waters" and "1.3 kilometres beyond the middle line in Savudrija Bay and returned to the Croatian side after a warning from the Slovenian police."

Cerar said the Croatian police's justifying their movement by saying that their navigation system had broken down was not acceptable.

The Croatian ministry said on Saturday that it entirely dismissed the allegations, adding that the events of last Sunday were about "routine daily navigation and conduct of police control in Croatia's territorial waters in and outside Savudrija Bay, and about the unlawful navigation of a Slovenian police boat in Croatia's territorial waters."

The ministry confirmed receipt of the diplomatic note, noting that it "makes no mention, much less provides arguments for the said event or the Slovenian Foreign Minister's statement."

"The note is a response to an earlier note by the Croatian side and it repeats general, legally unfounded allegations about reported breaches, to which the Ministry will respond," the Croatian ministry said, adding that there was no reason for raising tension or making untrue statements and recalling that on a number of occasions it had invited the Slovenian side to resume bilateral talks with Croatia on defining the joint state border.

More news about the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

“It's Not Commission's Role to Solve Croatia-Slovenia Border Row”

ZAGREB, February 26, 2019 - Frans Timmermans, the current vice-president of the European Commission and the lead candidate of the Party of European Socialists (PES) for the next EC president, told the Slovenian news agency STA on Tuesday that the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute was a bilateral issue and that the Commission was "crystal clear" in its response to that case.

This Dutch politician and diplomat said in the interview that the Slovenia-Croatia border row was a bilateral issue and that the arbitration award on the matter should be implemented.

The Commission was crystal clear about that and I can't see why someone does not want to understand that, Timmermans was quoted as saying before his official visit to Ljubljana on Thursday.

He went on to say that the parties to the case cannot absolve themselves from the responsibility for the matter and shift it to the Commission.

Last year, the Commission refused to join Slovenia's complaint against Croatia which is accused by Ljubljana of violating European law by refusing to implement the arbitration ruling.

Zagreb refuses to implement the arbitration award, insisting that the arbitration process was compromised by Slovenia.

Timmermans also criticised the current European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani, for his recent controversial statement at a memorial ceremony for Italians killed in the aftermath of the Second World War by Yugoslav partisans.

Tajani's statement about "Italian Istria and Dalmatia" has provoked public outcry in Slovenia and Croatia, after which he sent letters of apology to top officials in Ljubljana and Zagreb. Tajani, an official of the Italian party Forza Italia and a member of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament, insists that his comment was "in no way a territorial claim".

Asked by STA if Tajani's speech was reason enough for his resignation, as demanded by Social Democrats in Slovenia and Croatia, Timmermans said he would not insist on his resignation but criticised Tajani for instrumentalising the past in his speech. History should be left to historians, Timmermans said.

On 23 February, three months ahead of European Parliament elections, European Socialists held a congress in Madrid, at which they confirmed Timmermans as their candidate for president of the European Commission and presented the programme with which they will compete with the Conservatives and the Eurosceptics.

A delegation of Croatia's Social Democratic Party, led by its president Davor Bernardić, attended the Madrid congress.

More news on the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Slovenian President to Run Half Marathon in Croatia

“Let the upcoming days of the Split Half Marathon be a demonstration of the victory of spirit, the victory of the will, the victory of communion and ultimately the victory of the sports,” said Mayor of Split Andro Krstulović Opara at the presentation of the 19th Split Half Marathon at the Gripe Sport Centre, which will see the perticipation of Slovenian President Borut Pahor among others, reports Lokalni.hr on February 23, 2019.

The half marathon will include as many as 2,500 runners, the citizens’ race will draw about 400 participants, while the whole event will be supported by more than 15,000 visitors from Croatia and abroad. Among the politicians who have send their application for the participation in the half marathon is Prefect of Međimurje County Matija Posavec, while the Split Mayor himself will run in a five-kilometre race called the Slobodna Dalmacija Trophy.

The participation of Slovenian President Borut Pahor in the half marathon has also been confirmed. His arrival to Split comes in the period marked by strained relations between the two countries due to the border dispute in the Bay of Piran.

Event organiser Kristijan Sindik added that the Split half marathon event, will be held on Saturday, will include the “Children's Mile” race, attended by elementary and high school students from Split and surrounding areas. He reiterated that next year Split would host, instead of the half marathon, a proper marathon on a 42.2-kilometre-long course.

This year, the START 2019 sports, recreation and fitness fair accompanies the races for the first time, featuring sports, fitness and aerobics equipment.

Split Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara, Split-Dalmatia County Prefect Blaženko Boban and head of the Split Tourist Association Alija Vukšić emphasized that the Split half marathon is an extremely important event for the tourist preseason in the town because participants of the race return to their countries with “positive impressions, affirming Split as a desirable tourist destination.”

More news about relations between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Politics section.

Translated from Lokalni.hr.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Slovenia Disappointed with Lack of EU Support in Dispute with Croatia

ZAGREB, February 22, 2019 - The European Union missed an ideal opportunity to emphasise the rule of law principle by siding with Slovenia in its border dispute with Croatia, Slovenian President Borut Pahor said at the end of his two day visit to Brussels on Thursday.

During his visit, Pahor met with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the Council of the EU Donald Tusk.

Speaking to the press after their meeting on Wednesday, Juncker declined to comment on the Slovenian-Croatian border dispute and the Commission's role, saying there was nothing new. He confirmed that they had discussed the arbitration dispute on Pahor's initiative.

Pahor said on Thursday that Juncker had told him that the Commission had an option but not a duty to join the Slovenian lawsuit against Croatia over its failure to implement the arbitration ruling.

Slovenia claims that Croatia's refusal to implement the arbitration ruling is in violation of EU law. Ljubljana expected that the Commission would support its position last year, but that did not happen.

Pahor said it was still possible for the Commission to state its position on the arbitration dispute while the case was before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Asked if he had received any guarantees from the Commission about that possibility, Pahor said that one should be very cautious in expressing one's expectations from the Commission.

More news about Slovenia’s border dispute with Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

New Lake Emerging on Border between Croatia and Slovenia

The preparatory works for the refurbishment of the barrier on the River Sutla have finally started. Once the dam is built, a new lake, the Vonar Lake, will emerge on the border between Croatia and Slovenia, reports Poslovni.hr on February 20, 2019.

This area already had a lake in the 1980s, but the project ultimately failed because of the lack of sewage treatment facilities. However, this time no such problems are expected. The access to the Vonar Lake will be possible from four municipalities, from Podčetrtek and Rogaška Slatina on the Slovenian side, and from Hum na Sutli and Zagorska Sela on the Croatian side. The lake will expand to a maximum of 100 hectares or one square kilometre, which is one third smaller than the famous Bled Lake in Slovenia, whose surface area is 1.45 square kilometres.

"With the Vonar Lake project, we will be protected from the flooding of the Sutla River, which will enable us to develop additional tourist facilities. Once the lake is filled, Podčetrtek and Rogaška Slatina will be able to record up to a million overnight stays, which will enable a better life for people on both sides of the border," says Mayor of Podčetrtek Peter Misja. In the municipality of Podčetrtek, tourists annually realise about 370,000 overnights, and in Rogaška Slatina about 250,000.

Before the emergence of the new lake, which is expected to occur in 2020 or 2021, a lot of work will have to be done, and renovation of the dam is just the first step. The barrier which is being restored is 40 years old. In the 1980s, the area next to the Sutla river already had a lake, which was considerably larger, covering as much as 190 hectares. But the water was of poor quality, so the stench spread in the area and the lake was emptied in 1988. Now there are sewage treatment devices available, such as the one which already exists in Hum on Sutli.

The renovation of the 12-metre high barrier is being managed by the Slovenian Waters Directorate and the Croatian Waters public company, as part of the European FRISCO 2.1 project, which will reduce the risk of flooding from the Sutla River on both sides of the river. At the Slovenian tender, the Nivo Eko company was selected as the contractor, and Croatia will soon choose its own contractor.

Last week, Nivo Eko started preparatory works. The total value of the barrier renovation is 1.67 million euro, of which 85% is provided by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund, within the European Regional Cooperation INTERREG VA initiative.

Translated from Poslovni.hr.

More news about the cooperation between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Slovenia Maintains Position on Border Arbitration with Croatia

ZAGREB, December 29, 2018 - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told the Dnevnik daily of Saturday that his government's position on the border arbitration with Croatia could not be different from the position of the previous government led by Miro Cerar, who is now Foreign Minister.

"The arbitration ruling has been made public, Slovenia has its position on it and cannot change it," Šarec said in a pre-New Year interview with the Ljubljana-based newspaper.

Recalling that Slovenia had sued Croatia with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU over its noncompliance with the arbitration ruling, alleging that Croatia was thus violating EU law, Šarec said that Ljubljana was waiting for the court to make a ruling and for Croatia to respond to Slovenia's proposal for the establishment of a joint border demarcation commission to implement the arbitration ruling. "We are still waiting for a response to our proposal," he said.

In 2015 Croatia decided, following a unanimous decision of its parliament to that effect, to walk out of border arbitration proceedings, after secret communication between former Slovene arbiter Jernej Sekolec and Slovenian Foreign Ministry official Simona Drenik was leaked, showing that they had worked on a strategy to exert influence on the arbiters and their decision, thus contaminating and compromising the arbitration process.

Croatia therefore does not consider the subsequent arbitration ruling as binding, and has notified Slovenia of its position, offering bilateral talks on the border dispute, which Ljubljana does not accept.

Asked about his communication with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Šarec said that he respected him and that their discussions at sessions of the European Council were normal but that due to the principled position on the arbitration issue, he had not invited Plenković to visit Slovenia because he was waiting for Croatia to change its position on the arbitration issue, whereas Slovenia could not change its position about the implementation of the arbitration ruling being binding.

Commenting on Cerar's recent visit to Washington, seen as an attempt by Slovenia to establish balance in its relationship with great powers, Šarec described it as good.

"We are being criticised for being pro-Russian but I don't think that's the case. Our relations with the Russian Federation are just as they should be. There was a certain deficit in relations with the United States, but it is also true that those relations are now more problematic also at EU level, due to the new leadership in the White House," he said in the interview, among other things.

More news on the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in our Politics section.

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