Slovenia supports Schengen area expansion to Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania

Dragonja border crossing between Slovenia and Croatia.
Dragonja border crossing between Slovenia and Croatia. Photo: STA

Slovenia will back the expansion of the Scengen area to Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania as the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council takes a final decision on the matter on 8 December. The government’s intention to do so was given the green light in parliament on 2 December.

However, in line with the government’s position, Slovenia also plans to attach a unilateral statement insisting on implementation of the border arbitration award declared by an arbitration tribunal in 2017 after deliberating on the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia.

The two countries agreed in 2009 to take their border dispute to binding international arbitration but Croatia later unilaterally withdrew from the arbitration process and has been refusing to recognise the arbitration award.

The parliamentary committees on EU affairs, foreign policy and home affairs discussed the government’s position on Croatia’s joining the passport-free zone behind closed doors, while the session on Bulgaria and Romania was open to the public.

Addressing reporters after the session, EU Affairs Committee chair Franc Breznik of the opposition Democrats (SDS) said the three committees upheld the government’s position on Croatia in what he called a “historic session”.

However, he would not go into details of the debate or the vote, saying it was classified. The motion on Bulgaria and Romania was carried unanimously.

The European Commission assessed in November that all three countries meet the technical conditions for membership. Their joining the passport-free zone from next year has also been backed by the European Parliament.

Croatia is expected to get the green light from the Council, while Austria and the Netherlands may block Bulgaria and Romania.

In late November, Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar said Slovenia was prepared for Croatia’s entry into the Schengen zone.

The country will ensure the security of the border through compensatory measures and will continue to cooperate with Croatian police, Bobnar said as to what Croatia’s entry would mean considering increasing numbers of migrants arriving by the Western Balkan route.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon raised controversy by declaring that Slovenia could reintroduce border checks after Croatia joined the Schengen zone, because it did not want illegal migrants becoming stuck in the country.

Fajon later toned down her statement, saying she currently saw no need for such checks.