Slovenia : Croatia – a lose-lose game

So, we are heading towards an full-scale diplomatic war among Slovenia and Croatia. Which is a pity. If Slovenian really blocks the progress of negotiations with Croatia, this will do no good to our bilateral relations and also will not bring us closer to a solution of the dispute (background from NYT here). Let us roll-back for a moment.

First, the “conflict over the 25km on the sea” as recently described by Kouchner, has been around since the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Two bordering former republics suddenly realised that the border among them is not fixed in stone and so remains today.  I will completely ignore the arguments of both sides, these are enough to write something longer than Marx ever did. Bottom line: well used 17 years.

Secondly, in 17 years Slovenia and Croatia never managed to really isolate the problem of the border from other. It remains linked to the unsolved issue of the old Ljubljanska Banka (see short news from BIRN) and the co-ownership of the nuclear power plant in Krško. The first prohibits the Slovenian bank to operate in Croatia and gives rise to some anti-Slovenian slogans around Croatia, the second ends sometime in courts, while the nuclear waste continues to be deposited in Slovenia only. Bottom line: again, well used 17 years.

Thirdly, the issue is now being blow out of proportions. Kouchner’s comment was of course out of place and explains why Sarkozy took him on board – they’re personally compatible. Both ideologically flexible and loose cannons – first shoot and then think. But in its essence, it cannot be so complex to drag on for 17 years and not to see any progress. Mind you, both countries claim they’re modern western democracies…There are international legal experts, courts…you name it! Bottom line: 17 years passed and the only result is that the situation is getting worse.

Now, I’m not objective on the issue. I think Slovenia would have a good case if the issue is brought to arbitration or a court. Our diplomacy should have been more forceful and more decisive on the matter and should have stopped the spiraling of the dispute by advocating international arbitration. We are now entering a lose-lose situation: Slovenia losing credibility and Croatia losing time on its progress towards the EU. On the top, bilateral relations will be severely damaged for a long time.

What I’m quite happy about is that 1 million Slovenian (out of 2) go to the Croatian coast every year in the summer and have tremendous time. Shows how little people care about politics – good in this case. Hope they will do so for the next 17 years.

P.S.: I can also not refrain to add a comment on our former Foreign Minister’s performance. Dimitrij Rupel has been heading slovenian diplomacy for 10 years all together. Almost nothing to reproach on the multilateral level (EU, NATO, UN…), but bilaterally he has been a big disappointment. Slovenians have good relations and substantial relations on the state level only with Hungary. All others (Austria, Italy and Croatia) are not really what you would call “friends”.

2 thoughts on “Slovenia : Croatia – a lose-lose game

  1. Marko,

    From an EU point of view, this is one of the examples of the absurdity of the unanimity rule in its different appearances.

    Veto powers equals ‘liberum veto’, and it does not take much reading of history to see the results.

    The second EU level issue is that the legally binding assurances to Ireland will be bound up with the Croatian accession agreement, if Ireland ratifies the Lisbon Treaty.

    Expect some heavy leaning on both parties to sort out the mess.

  2. Ralf,

    Yes, most of all, I’m astonished by the length of the dispute. We had similar issues when Slovenia was negotiating and conceding to Italy…

    As for the political assurances given to Ireland. It makes me wonder how the Commission will have 1 Commissioner per member state, before the change is ratified via the accession treaty of Croatia? Legally, the Commission will need to scale down for the period, pending the Accession treaty ratification, or?

    M.

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