LB Bank Solution "Precondition" for Croatia's EU Membership
Erjavec said he personally wished Croatia to join the EU as soon as possible. "But the precondition is that we solve the LB issue question in line with commitments given by Croatia when it closed Chapter 4."
He was referring to Croatia's commitment as part of accession talks with the EU that the LB issue would be tackled as a matter of succession to the former Yugoslavia.
Erjavec reiterated the that LB was a direct consequence of the breakup of former Yugoslavia. "This is a typical issue that belongs into the succession."
Slovenia is making the ratification of Croatia's EU accession treaty conditional on the LB issue to avoid a situation when Slovenian parliament could reject the treaty, Erjavec explained.
"We need to remember that the Slovenian parliament needs a two-thirds majority (to pass the treaty)."
The foreign minister welcomes the "step forward" which Croatia and Slovenia made in Dubrovnik, when an agreement was made that each country would appoint an expert to come up with solutions to the LB issue.
He is hopeful that the dialogue turns out to be successful. "I'm certain both sides can find a suitable solution," Erjavec said, hopeful that Croatia would respect its Chapter 4 commitments.
Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić meanwhile reiterated today that the bank issue needed to be decoupled from the countries' "European partnership".
Pusić is "deeply convinced" that a long-term partnership is in the interest of both countries and that the LB issue needs to be dealt with separately.
"We are yet to see whether we can recognise our interests and realise them, but [Croatia] will do everything it can for this to happen," the Croatian foreign minister said.
The recent exchange comes after Erjavec said in an interview published by the daily Večer on Saturday that there was a "real possibility" of Slovenia rejecting Croatia's EU treaty in parliament if Croatia refuses to address the LB issue within the accession framework.
The statement was quickly seized by the Croatia media. Several major dailies have run stories criticising Slovenia's "blockade" of Croatia's EU membership.
The issue of LB savings deposits dates back to the 1990s. Hundreds of thousands of LB customers across Yugoslavia had been unable to withdraw their savings deposits after the LB and its Yugoslavian subsidiaries went bankrupt following the collapse of the common state.
In Croatia, some 132,000 savers claim over EUR 178m from the bank including interest. But on the other hand, Croatian companies are estimated to owe the bank over EUR 800m.