Slovenia, Croatia to start addressing border issue at informal level

Zagreb – Slovenian FM Tanja Fajon and her Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlić Radman confirmed their countries’ readiness to address open issues through mutual dialogue as they met in Zagreb on Wednesday. Fajon said that in this spirit, the border issue will also be addressed, starting at an informal level and with easier matters.

Fajon reiterated Slovenia’s position that the government will respect the 2017 decision of the Hague-based border arbitration tribunal and insist on its implementation.

However, in the spirit of good cooperation, the government will try to resolve some issues as quickly as possible at informal level to tackle larger issues later on.

Fajon said that she had a sincere and open discussion on the open issues with Grlić Radman. “We agreed to continue the dialogue at an informal, working level and to start working on some concrete, lighter solutions, such as rebuilding bridges that have been neglected for a long time and finding solutions to ease fishing.”

Grlić Radman said that Croatia had decided to address all of its open issues in bilateral dialogue.

“This is in a way also a challenge for Croatia and Slovenia to show to the world that they are mature countries able to find solutions to a relatively minor issue that has remained from the time of the breakup of former Yugoslavia,” he said.

Grlić Radman thanked for Slovenia’s support for Croatia’s membership of the Schengen and euro areas, as well as of the OECD, saying this will benefit both Croatia and Slovenia.

Fajon added that all the contacts between Slovenia and Croatia and the excellent economic cooperation call for close and good neighbourly cooperation, not only during the tourist season.

“I sincerely wish that Croatia joins the euro zone next year, as this will make life easier for people. I want to help Croatia join the Schengen Area as soon as possible and that we lift internal controls at our borders.”

The two ministers agreed that there is a lot of room to further strengthen cooperation, as well as for new initiatives and proposals.

“I’m confident we’ll successfully cooperate and take advantage of the opportunities we have as good neighbours and partners within the EU and NATO,” said Grlić Radman.

Fajon also informed her counterpart that the government planned to remove the fence along the border with Croatia, which was set up after the 2015/2016 migration crisis, which she believes will increase trust between the two countries.

However, she also said that as Croatia joins the Schengen Area, she would like the southern Schengen border to be as secured as possible.

The ministers also exchanged views on EU topics and security challenges, and looked for opportunities for cooperation in energy.

Fajon reiterated Slovenia’s interest in receiving liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the terminal on Croatia’s Krk island and in building gas pipelines between the two countries.

Grlić Radman said that due to the war in Ukraine, Croatia decided to expand the Krk LNG terminal’s capacity, which would also enable it to supply gas to its neighbours.

The ministers agreed that the two countries’ positions on the most important foreign policy issues are very similar, including their interest to encourage the Western Balkans’ integration into the EU, their stability and economic development.

The pair also discussed trilateral cooperation with Italy in the northern Adriatic Sea, which will be expanded to internal affairs from the current focus on connectivity, blue economy and environmental protection.

Fajon also met today Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović. In addition to bilateral relations, the talks with Milanović touched on the situation in South-east Europe, in particular Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As the Croatian president’s office said, Milanović reiterated his position on the upcoming elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina to Fajon, noting that it was necessary to ensure legitimate representation of all three constitutive nations in the country.

Milanović expressed his satisfaction with Slovenia’s support for Bosnia-Herzegovina to receive the status of an EU candidate country, which the Croatian president also advocates himself.

Fajon and Milanović also talked about the security crisis caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine and discussed Croatia’s accession to the eurozone and the Schengen Area, where the Croatian president expects Slovenia’s support.