Croatia draws back from arbitration agreement with Slovenia

Croatia terminates agreement that resolves border disputes with Slovenia

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Croatia is going to terminate the arbitration agreement between Slovenia that solved sea border disputes in Piran Bay because of leaking wiretaps of Slovenian officials according to disputes.

Conversations between Jernej Sekolec, a Slovenian national and independent judge in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and case representative of the Slovenian government Simona Drenik, in which they discuss how to affect the other members of the Court and how to present Slovenian arguments have surfaced.

After the revelations, both Jernej Sekolec and Simona Drenik resigned. Ronny Abraham, the president of the International Court of Justice, replaced Sekolec.

Budislav Vukas, Croatian representative in the Arbitration Court in the process of demarcation of Croatia and Slovenia on land and sea, also resigned on Thursday.

The Court called on Croatia to appoint a new arbitrator within 15 days. Otherwise the arbitrator shall be appointed by the presiding judge Gilbert Guillaume.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Tuesday "With [the appointment of Abraham] we have fulfilled our duty and removed all the obstacles for the tribunal to continue working undisturbed," the Associated Press reported.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic responded with a government statement to the Slovenian premier, saying "The credibility and integrity of the overall arbitrary proceedings was marred to the point that Croatia does not believe that the arbitrary process could be continued in this or in a similar form."

Milanovic also added "Good neighbourhood ties between our countries, allies in NATO and partners in [the] EU, continue to develop despite this incident."

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusic said that "[The decision by the Croatian government] does not annul our desire and obligation to resolve the border issue with Slovenia," adding "However, this procedure is now too compromised for Croatia to continue.”

Saying Slovenia “unlawfully added additional documents and information into the process,” Pusic called the European Union to deliver a note to the country, “That's why we feel the process is so compromised that it is impossible to continue in this way to solve the border issue between Croatia and Slovenia,” she added.

The EU-backed arbitration agreement signed between Croatia and Slovenia on Nov. 4, 2009 in Stockholm determines the course of the maritime and land boundaries between the two countries and Slovenia’s junction to the High Sea.

The agreement also regulates the use of the relevant maritime areas.

The arbitration tribunal is working to solve a long-standing dispute over 13 square kilometres in Piran Bay.

Croatia has 1,700 kilometres of coast and wants to draw the disputed water zone to its coastline based on the first sentence of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 15, which defines the boundary between neighbouring states at an equal distance from each shore.

Slovenia has 46 kilometres of coastline and prefers to base its claim on the second sentence of the same law, which says the provision does not apply if there are historical or special circumstances.

The full text of Article 15 reads as “Where the coasts of two States are opposite or adjacent to each other, neither of the two States is entitled, failing agreement between them to the contrary, to extend its territorial sea beyond the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial seas of each of the two States is measured. The above provision does not apply, however, where it is necessary by reason of historic title or other special circumstances to delimit the territorial seas of the two States in a way which is at variance therewith.”

TRTWorld and agencies