Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Pahor Doesn't Think Milanović Will Change His Opinion on Border Arbitration

ZAGREB, January 7, 2020 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on Monday that he did not believe that Croatia's president-elect Zoran Milanović would change his opinion on the arbitration ruling on the two countries' border dispute, however, Pahor, promises to "give chance to dialogue" at the start of their relations as two presidents.

Pahor told reporters in Ljubljana that he had telephoned the newly-elected Croatian president to congratulate him on winning the election on Sunday, and also added that he accepted the invitation to attend Milanović's inauguration in Zagreb in a few weeks' time.

While Milanović served as Croatia's prime minister in 2015, Zagreb decided to withdraw from the arbitration process due to the behaviour of Slovenia's representatives that contaminated those proceeding.

However, Pahor said that the relations with Milanović as soon as he steps into office as the Croatian president should start "with open arms."

Pahor told the press in Ljubljana that he was glad to hear from Milanović that one of his priorities would be to improve the bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Nevertheless, Pahor does not believe that Milanović, whom he knows for 15 years, will change his mind on the arbitration award only because he is now the president.

Pahor also said that Slovenia would be a friend dedicated to dialogue in seeking a solution, however, he reiterated Slovenia's position on insisting on the implementation of the arbitration award on demarcation of the border between the two countries.

We should seek through dialogue a model for a consensual demarcation in accordance with the arbitration ruling and thus close the last difficult issue stemming from the breakup of the former (federal) state, Pahor said.

Also, the leader of the Slovenian Social Democrats (SD), Dejan Židan, who is the parliament speaker in Ljubljana, extended his congratulations to Milanović on the election win.

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

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Opinion of Advocate General as Step Toward Agreement with Slovenia

ZAGREB, December 12, 2019 - The opinion of the advocate general of the European Union's top court that this judicial institution has no jurisdiction over the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute is a step toward agreement between the two countries on the issue dating back to the time of Yugoslavia's break-up, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday.

Court of Justice of the European Union Advocate General Priit Pikamae said on Wednesday the Court did not have jurisdiction in Slovenia's case against Croatia, accepting arguments submitted by Croatia which argued that the case was not about EU law but international law.

Slovenia launched proceedings against Croatia alleging that its neighbour was violating articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which concern respect for the rule of law and loyal cooperation between member states.

Commenting on the opinion of the Estonian expert Pikamae, Plenković said at a meeting of his cabinet that what Croatia and Slovenia had in common was greater than the issue of border demarcation, an outstanding issue dating back to the time when they were republics in the Yugoslav federation.

"Eventually we will definitely sit at the table and seek a mutually satisfactory solution," said the premier.

The opinion presented by the independent attorney-general is a step in that direction, he added.

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

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Court of Justice Advocate General Deems Slovenia's Demands Against Croatia Unfounded

ZAGREB, December 11, 2019 - Court of Justice of the European Union Advocate General Priit Pikamae believes the Court does not have jurisdiction in Slovenia's case against Croatia over alleged infringements of EU law caused by the non-enforcement of a border arbitration award, it was said in Luxembourg on Wednesday.

The advocates general's opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice. The advocate general does not represent the interests of either the parties or the public, only giving an expert opinion on relevant legal matters in complete independence.

We cannot predict the Court's judgment based on the advocate general's opinion, Court spokesman Balazs Lehoczki told reporters. He added that the judgment could be expected in the first half of 2020, perhaps in the first quarter.

The practice to date shows that in cases before the Grand Chamber, as in Slovenia's action against Croatia, the Court follows the advocate general's opinion in about 50% of the cases.

Since Croatia contested the validity of the arbitration award and refused to be bound by it, Slovenia brought infringement proceedings under Article 259 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, moving that the Court of Justice establish that Croatia is in breach of Articles 2 and 4 of the Treaty which concern respect for the rule of law and loyal cooperation between member states.

Slovenia also submits that Croatia is in breach of the regulation on the common fisheries policy, border control and maritime spatial planning.

Croatia submits that the Court of Justice has no jurisdiction to rule in the present case given that it is not really about the application and interpretation of EU law. According to Croatia, the dispute in this case refers to the interpretation and application of international law and therefore it should be resolved by applying international law and by means envisaged for the peaceful resolution of disputes, including negotiations.

"First of all, the Advocate General points out that the purpose of an action for failure to fulfil obligations is to obtain a declaration that the conduct of a Member State is in breach of EU law and to terminate that conduct. He is therefore of the view that it is necessary to examine the relationship of the arbitration agreement and the arbitration award in question with EU law and to determine whether the EU is bound by them," the Court said in a press release.

In that regard, the Advocate General notes that the EU "is bound by international conventions concluded by the EU pursuant to the provisions of the Treaties, by international conventions where the EU assumes powers previously exercised by the Member States, and by rules of customary international law when the EU exercises its powers. International conventions that do not fall within those categories are not acts of the EU and do not bind it."

"Relying on the case-law of the Court of Justice, the Advocate General points out that the territorial scope of the Treaties is an objective fact predetermined by the Member States which the EU has to accept. Consequently, the Advocate General is of the view that delimitation of national territory does not fall within the sphere of competence of the EU or, therefore, of the Court of Justice," said the press release.

"Next, the Advocate General examines Slovenia’s heads of claim. As regards the relationship between, on the one hand, the arbitration agreement and the arbitration award and, on the other hand, EU law, the Advocate General notes that it does not fall within any of the situations in which the EU is bound by international law."

As for the alleged infringement of the value of the rule of law and of the principle of sincere cooperation, "the Advocate General is of the view that those matters are merely ancillary to the issue of delimitation of the land and maritime boundaries between the two Member States concerned and that, accordingly, the Court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine those complaints. Furthermore, the Advocate General states that, according to the case-law of the Court of Justice, the principle of sincere cooperation has constituted an independent basis for obligations in cases where the EU was party to a mixed agreement or where the obligations being fulfilled arose under the EU Treaties. However, the conduct at issue does not fall within either of those two situations."

"Regarding the alleged failure to fulfil obligations in relation to the common fisheries policy, border control and maritime spatial planning, the Advocate General observes that Slovenia is relying on the premise that the boundary has been determined by the arbitration award. However, the Advocate General emphasises that the award has not been implemented in the relations between the two Member States concerned. He is therefore of the opinion that, from an EU law perspective, the boundary between those two Member States has not been established. The Advocate General infers that Slovenia is seeking, by implication, to have the arbitration award implemented, which falls outside the EU’s sphere of competence," the press release said.

The Advocate General concludes that "the alleged infringements of EU law are ancillary to the issue of determining the boundary between Croatia and Slovenia. Determining that boundary is, by its very nature, a matter of public international law in respect of which the Court does not have jurisdiction."

Court spokesman Lehoczki said that sometimes a party lodged objections to an advocate general's opinion, which the Court noted in its judgment and decided on the legal and factual elements available.

He added that sometimes, after an advocate general's opinion was published, a party might also request another hearing but that this was not customary and that in nearly all cases the Court only mentioned those arguments in the judgment and decided on the legal and factual elements available.

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

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Slovenia's Suit Against EC Over Croatian Teran Wine Starts Before EU Court

ZAGREB, December 3, 2019 - An oral hearing in a case in which Slovenia is suing the European Commission over the use of the name Teran started before the General Court of the EU in Luxembourg on Tuesday, when Croatia's representative presented the position of her country on this issue.

Slovenia's lawsuit ensued after the European Commission adopted the delegated act in May 2017, specifying the conditions under which the name of the Teran wine grape variety may appear on wine labels of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) 'Hrvatska Istra' (Croatian Istria) a Croatian wine, allowing its producers to use the name teran in the labelling of their wines under specific labelling conditions.

Slovenia insists on the revocation of that delegated act.

Croatia's representative Gordana Vidović Mesarek said today that the delegated act actually rectified the injustice which had been done to Croatian wine producers in Istria.

The European Commission has authorized Croatia to use the protected name Teran for its wine, although it is protected as Slovenian. The EC has allowed the use of the name Teran on the wine label with the PDO 'Hrvatska Istra' (Croatian Istria).

In recent years, Slovenian winemakers and the Ministry of Agriculture strongly lobbied in Brussels to ensure that the European Commission withdraws the proposal that the wine produced in Istria from the Teran grape variety can be sold under the label "Croatian Istria - Teran".

Before Croatia's accession to the EU, Slovenia protected Teran as its own product at EU level, meaning that no one but Slovenian winemakers were allowed to sell wine under that name.

Croatia complained against this, saying that Slovenia did not have the right to protect the name because the wine produced in the Slovenian part of the region of Istria under that name was made from the Refosco grape variety, while in the Croatian part of Istria it was made from the Teran grape variety.

In this case before the General Court, Croatia is not a party and its representative only presented Zagreb's position on this matter.

Slovenia's representative said that the current solution could delude buyers who think that the wine is from Slovenia while they buy Croatian wines under that name.

More wine news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Croatia: Slovenia's Parliament Confirms Arbitration Was Compromised

ZAGREB, November 26, 2019 - The international community knows that the arbitration proceedings in the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute was compromised and now that has been confirmed in Slovenia's parliament, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said in Brussels on Monday.

"The arbitration proceedings have been compromised and the international community is aware of that fact and that fact has now been confirmed in Slovenia's parliament. Who else needs to confirm that the arbitration proceedings were compromised if even the country that claims it wasn't, no longer thinks so," Grlić Radman said commenting on a report by a parliamentary commission for the oversight of Slovenian secret services.

The report actually admits that the Slovenian secret service SOVA had from the very start of the border arbitration process provided support to Slovenian diplomats in their attempts to lobby for the Slovenian side.

Grlić Radman reiterated Croatia's stance regarding the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute, saying that this is a bilateral matter that needs to be resolved by the two countries.

"There is no point in trying to prove whether the decision by the compromised arbitration is valid or not. Slovenia's side is unnecessarily exhausting itself by trying to prove that the arbitration award is valid. It is unnecessarily wasting time instead of sitting down at the table and start resolving outstanding issues," Grlić Radman said.

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

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Slovenian Police Disarm Paramilitary Unit on Croatian Border

ZAGREB, November 24, 2019 - Slovenian police on Thursday disarmed several persons, members of the so-called Štajerska Guard, led by the controversial far-right politician Andrej Šiško, who in recent weeks had been patrolling parts of the Slovenian border with Croatia on weekends, looking for illegal migrants.

The POP TV broadcaster said the members of the Štajerska Guard were disarmed on Saturday morning, when they gathered in a hunting lodge near the village of Pobočje.

The news was also confirmed by Anton Stubljar of the Novo Mesto police station, in charge of that section of the border.

"The police spotted an armed group of people wearing camouflage uniforms. They checked the identity of 41 persons and seized weapons from seven. (The guard members) claim the weapons are not real ones but replicas so the weapons will be analysed," said Stubljar.

If the weapons prove to be real, police will file a criminal report.

The Slovenian government wants to restrain illegal activities by the Štajerska Guard by changing some laws to ban the wearing of uniforms resembling military or police uniforms and the possession of weapons in the area close to the border, as such powers belong only to the police and army.

The Slovenian national security council recently held a meeting on the controversial village guards, which some consider to be paramilitary organisations, and the government has also announced the adoption of legislative changes to curb their activities and bring them into line with the law.

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

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Border Dispute with Slovenia Should Be Settled Bilaterally

ZAGREB, November 24, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday that it was completely clear that the Slovenian state apparatus had been used to influence the outcome of international arbitration proceedings in the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute and that the dispute could be settled only bilaterally.

Grabar-Kitarović made the statement in a comment on a report by a Slovenian commission which shows that Slovenian state institutions had covered up unlawful communication between an arbitration agent and an arbitral judge.

"Slovenia has finally admitted its involvement in the scandalous activities that resulted in the failure of the arbitration proceedings. It is now entirely clear that the Slovenian state apparatus was used to influence the outcome of the arbitration proceedings. Arbitration is long dead, and the dispute can be resolved only bilaterally," Grabar-Kitarović said on Twitter.

The Večernji List daily of Saturday said that the report in question showed that by using intelligence services, the Slovenian state had participated in the covering up of communication between Slovenian arbitration agent Simona Drenik and arbitral judge Jernej Sekolec, with the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA starting to prepare for arbitration in early 2009 while the arbitration agreement was signed in the autumn that year.

The daily says that the report by the Slovenian parliamentary commission for the oversight of intelligence services proves beyond doubt that the Slovenian side had used the state apparatus and its secret services for the purpose of arbitration fraud.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman believes that this paves the way to settling the border dispute bilaterally.

"... the Slovenian side has really admitted its own mistake and responsibility. I believe that that is a good way to return to the negotiating table and start negotiations because this is a bilateral issue," Grlić Radman told reporters in Zagreb on Saturday.

"As regards Croatia, good will has always existed. I believe that together with our Slovenian neighbours and friends we will find an appropriate solution," the minister said.

The Croatian parliament in late July 2015 adopted a unanimous decision to withdraw from the border arbitration agreement the two countries had signed in 2009 after Slovenia irreparably compromised the proceedings, and it proposed launching talks on an alternative way to settle the dispute.

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

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Plenković Hopeful Border Dispute with Slovenia Won't Affect Croatia's Schengen Bid

ZAGREB, November 2, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview which the Euronews television news network broadcast on Friday that he believed that Slovenia would not block Croatia's accession to the passport-free Schengen Area over their border dispute, adding that the dispute was irrelevant in that context.

"First of all, the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia is an open issue that we have on the agenda for the last 30 years. Had this been a condition for any of the two countries to join the EU or to join the Schengen, then Slovenia would not have entered either, in either of the two inner cycles."

"Our firm belief is that Schengen membership for Croatia should be completely separated from a bilateral border issue between the two countries. For us it is the Savudrija Bay, for them, it is the Piran Bay. At the end of the day, we can find a solution," Plenković said in his response to the reporter's question whether due to "the open dispute with Slovenia over the Gulf of Piran" the Slovenian side might even veto Croatia's way to the Schengen Zone if there is no solution.

Plenković expressed confidence that the two countries can find a solution. "What we are saying towards our Slovenian neighbours 'we have an open issue, there are ways to solve it, peaceful ways, good neighbourly relations and a solution that can be acceptable for both sides, unrelated with our Schengen ambitions."

Upon the reporter's remark that Croatia recently got a green light from the European Commission for the Schengen Zone and that the decision came "as a surprise to many because lately, Europe seems to be closing in rather than opening up," the premier said that "first of all, the decision of the college of the European Commission, of Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission in Strasbourg last week is actually a fruit of four years hard work by Croatia, by fulfilling the criteria which are structured in eight different chapters of the so-called Schengen acquis."

"In every (all) of these chapters, we have managed to elevate the readiness of Croatia to be part of Schengen. So this was a very thorough technical evaluation by the Commission services."

In response to the reporter's comment that Croatia has a long coastline, including 1,300 kilometres of border with non-EU countries which prompted her to ask Plenković if Croatia considered any special measures to protect its borders, he answered "Not only considered, but we have put them in place."

"Croatia has very much invested in the capabilities of our police force. We have 6,500 police officers fully trained and equipped to guard the external EU border, which is the Schengen border. We have not opted either for walls or barricades or barb wires, unlike some other countries, because we felt first of all that the relationship that we have with Bosnia- Herzegovina, in particular, was not the adequate way to guard the border. So we are cooperating between the police services of Croatia, of Bosnia- Herzegovina, of Croatia and Serbian Croatian Montenegro."

Plenković also dismissed accusations levelled by some NGOs say about "police violence against immigrants".

The premier says: "We have always respected the Croatian law, we have respected the highest standards, but we are also protecting our border. Any allegation that we have heard, it has been investigated. So far when it comes to the behaviour of our policemen we can only praise their efforts for guarding not only the Croatian border but also guarding the border of all the other EU member states which are behind us."

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

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Croatia Confident Slovenia Will Support Its Schengen Entry

ZAGREB, October 26, 2019 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Friday he expected Slovenia to make a "wise decision" and support Croatia's Schengen entry which, he added, was also in the interest of Slovenia's authorities because it meant the EU's external border would move and become Croatia's responsibility.

"Slovenia will certainly act wisely and intelligently," he told reporters in Split in the wake of messages from Slovenia after the European Commission assessed that Croatia met the technical conditions to join the Schengen area of free travel.

He said Croatia met a score of difficult conditions to deserve that assessment, adding that Slovenia could benefit the most as protecting the EU's external border was its responsibility now. "Croatia's Schengen entry will help Slovenians the most," he said, adding that he was sure the majority of Slovenians thought the same.

Asked if during its Council of the EU presidency in the first half of 2020 Croatia would again raise the issue of enlargement to southeast Europe despite opposition from some member states, Grlić Radman said it would, but noted that it was a process which primarily depended on meeting the requirements.

"We regret the decision of some countries which didn't support launching the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania because we strongly pushed for launching the negotiation process," he said, adding that he hoped the topic would be on the agenda of an EU summit in Zagreb next year and that some policy chapters in the accession negotiations with aspirants Serbia and Montenegro would be closed by then.

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

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Slovenia Criticises EC Decision on Croatia's Schengen Preparedness

ZAGREB, October 23, 2019 - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Tuesday the European Commission's decision that Croatia met the technical conditions to join the Schengen Area was political, and insisted that Croatia implement the arbitration ruling on its border dispute with Slovenia.

"We regret that the European Commission decided on such an important matter, the assessment of Croatia's preparedness to join Schengen, just before the end of its term and that it adopted a political decision," Šarec said, according to a press release from his office.

"We expect Croatia to meet all the conditions for joining Schengen, technical and legal ones, including respect for the rule of law," he said, alluding to what Slovenian authorities consider respect for the rule of law, including the implementation of the border arbitration ruling.

Croatia does not recognise the ruling, maintaining that Slovenia irrevocably compromised the arbitration procedure.

Croatian members of the European Parliament Tonino Picula and Karlo Ressler on Tuesday welcomed the European Commission's green light for Croatia to join Schengen, while Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon said it was an "unacceptable decision" by the outgoing Juncker Commission.

"That's good news for the Schengen Area which found itself over the past seven, eight years under attack of various circumstances which have weakened its purpose, which is to ensure free movement for European citizens and encourage more European cooperation and commitment to the European project," Picula (Social Democratic Party) told Croatian reporters in Strasbourg.

"The Commission has shown on Croatia's example that Schengen is one of the biggest European integration achievements," he said. He does not believe the political decision on Croatia's Schengen accession will be made soon and notes that "Croatia will have to keep working."

Fajon was disappointed by the Commission's decision. "We would very much like to see Croatia join Schengen, but only after it has met all the conditions. It seems that's not the reality. Reports by nongovernmental organisations reveal what happens on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina," she told Croatian and Slovenian reporters.

"This is an unacceptable decision by (Commission President) Jean-Claude Juncker," she added.

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

Page 4 of 22