The Slovenia Times

Slovenia and Croatia sideline border dispute

Croatia, Zagreb
Prime Minister Robert Golob is received by Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Slovenia and Croatia have sidelined a border dispute that had loomed over bilateral relations for years in favour of a focus on areas where they can cooperate. Paying his first official visit to Zagreb on 14 July, Prime Minister Robert Golob said Slovenia remained firmly committed to the result of border arbitration but the issue would be taken off the daily political agenda.

"I believe that by looking to the future, by looking for projects that can help the people on both sides of the border, we will also defuse issues that were unresolvable in the past" and resolve them at some point in the future, Golob said.

"The arbitration award must be implemented, but there is no time pressure. The important thing is to take this issue, which has had such a poisonous effect on relations between the two countries, off the day-to-day political agenda," he said.

The two countries initiated an arbitration procedure to resolve a decades-long border dispute in 2009. The final award was delivered in 2017.

Slovenia has accepted and implemented it, whereas Croatia unilaterally withdrew from the procedure citing improper contacts between the Slovenian team and an arbiter. It has since pushed for a bilateral solution to the dispute.

For a while the issue loomed large in bilateral relations, but starting with the previous Slovenian government it has been increasingly pushed to the sidelines.

"In a spirit of friendship, sometimes a solution can be found even when you don't expect it, when you engage in a respectful and cultured manner," Golob added.

While Croatia sticks to its position on the arbitration award, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said it understood Slovenia's stance.

He said that at the expert level the topic was being discussed from two different perspectives and solutions were being sought that "would perhaps be seen by Slovenia as the implementation of the arbitration agreement and by Croatia as the search for a different solution".

According to the two prime ministers, the two countries will now focus even more on joint activities. Plans include working together in the international arena.

As part of the meeting, the two countries signed a solidarity agreement under which they will help each other in the event of serious supply disruptions.

Golob and Plenković also discussed Croatia's potential involvement in Slovenian plans to build a second unit at the Krško nuclear power station, which the two countries co-own.

An agreement on cross-border cooperation in emergency medical assistance and hospital treatment was signed as well. It will allow people living in the northern part of Croatian Istria to access services at the hospital in Izola, Slovenia.

In addition to energy and economic cooperation, migration was high on the agenda.

Golob has faced criticism recently for saying that agents of Frontex, the EU's border agency, should be deployed to the Croatian-Bosnian border, but he said his comment may have been misunderstood.

He underlined that the EU had to start looking outward and form agreements with origin and transit countries if it wanted to become effective at migrations management, noting that Frontex would demonstrate its full value if it were controlling the entire Western Balkan illegal migrations route.

Golob welcomed the decision to deploy six Frontex experts to Croatia and stressed that Frontex should be involved more across the entire Western Balkan route when it comes to illegal migration.

Plenković welcomed the observers as well and added that Croatia had one of the largest border police forces in the EU. "The border is protected by 6,700 police officers ... The entire Frontex has 11,000 police officers."


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