Minister Logar urged to brief MPs over fisheries deal

Ljubljana – The opposition Social Democrats (SD) have requested the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to meet behind closed doors for Foreign Minister Anže Logar to provide explanations over Slovenia and Croatia allegedly reaching a fisheries deal.

“The question is whether this is a deal that implements the arbitration agreement or is it a resignation from the agreement,” SD MP Matjaž Nemec told reporters on Monday.

The party thus expects Logar to explain the developments. “We know Prime Minister Janez Janša has an ambition to tackle bilateral issues by the next election, that is within weeks,” said Nemec.

He raised “bad experience from the past” when he said Janša during his previous time in government closed “two inauspicious agreements”, one at Mokrice with Croatia’s then Prime Minister Zoran Milanović and another at Bled with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

The 2013 Mokrice memorandum saw Croatia agree to halt court proceedings against LB bank over Yugoslav-era savings deposits, thus removing Slovenia’s last remaining qualm about Croatia’s accession to the EU.

The informal agreement reached by Janša and Sanader in Bled in 2007 was to put the border issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The countries agreed to take their border dispute to binding international arbitration in late 2009. The arbitration tribunal declared the award in June 2017 but Croatia continues to decline to implement it.

Croatian media have recently reported the two countries have now reached agreement that would allow Slovenian fishermen to fish in Croatian waters down to Umag and Croatia’s in Slovenia’s waters all the way up to Koper.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry would neither corroborate nor deny the reports.

Zlatko Novogradec, a Slovenian fisherman from Piran, on the other hand, told the STA that the fishermen had learnt about the alleged deal from the media.

Novogradec does not support such a solution and believes Slovenia should insist on the implementation of the arbitration award, which gave Slovenia most of the Bay of Piran. He said Slovenia’s fishing fleet no longer made it feasible to fish all the way to Umag.

“Should the minister inform us the latest manoeuvres are within the arbitration agreement, we will understand such conduct as such. If not, if this is withdrawal [from the agreement], we have a big problem in home and foreign politics,” said MP Nemec.

Police data show Slovenian police handled a total of 7,842 incidents in the Slovenian waters since the arbitration award was declared, of which 1,274 last year. The latter involved 2,083 Croatian vessels, including 967 Croatian law enforcement vessels.

Since the implementation of the award by Slovenia as of 2018, Slovenian authorities have issued 1,569 fines, of which 366 in 2021. In this period, the law on foreigners changed and with it the fines for unlawful entry into Slovenia, ranging from 500 to 800 euro.