Monday

20th Feb 2017

Slovenia to block Croatia EU accession talks

Slovenia said on Wednesday (17 December) it would block further accession talks with EU candidate Croatia due to a long-running border dispute between the two countries.

Zagreb was hoping to open 10 new chapters of its accession negotiations package with the EU and close another five during an intergovernmental conference on Friday (19 December) in Brussels.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • A coastal border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia threatens the former's EU accession talks (Photo: European Commission)

But speaking ahead of the meeting, Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor said his country had reservations, arguing that documents – notably maps – Croatia had provided during its accession process could prejudge a solution of their long-running border dispute.

"Slovenia has reservations concerning seven chapters, since the documents presented by Croatia could prejudge the common border," Mr Pahor told journalists in Ljubljana.

"And concerning another four chapters, we also have substantial reservations," he said, adding that Slovenia would at this stage "only give its consent to open one chapter and close three."

Ljubljana accuses Croatia of claiming an unfair share of the Adriatic Sea close to the Slovenian city of Piran, and denying Slovenian ships direct access to international waters.

The two states have been fighting over their common border since they broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

'No blackmail'

For its part, Croatia strongly criticised the "unprecedented" decision by Slovenia.

"Croatia isn't and won't be ready nor will it ever accept blackmail and exclusivism, which have no place in the EU... We won't buy our membership of the EU with territory. This is our firm position and our friends in Slovenia must know this," Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told journalists in Zagreb, Croatian news agency Hina reported.

If the Slovenian government does not reconsider, it "will show exclusivism that is not in line with the principles of good neighbourly ties, solidarity and unity," he said, adding that the "blocking of 10 chapters ... is a move without precedent in the history of [EU] accession talks."

Vesna Pusic, chairwoman of a Croatian parliament committee for monitoring EU accession talks, warned that eventually the move could have more impact on Ljubljana than on Zagreb.

"It is a bad decision for us, but it is also a very bad decision for relations between Croatia and Slovenia ... In the long term, it will have the most harmful effects on them," she said.

Croatia has held EU candidate status since 2004 and started EU accession talks in 2005. It has so far open 21 chapters of the 35 contained in its accession package and closed four.

Last month, the European Commission said Croatia could conclude accession negotiations with the bloc by the end of next year – if it fulfills the remaining conditions – but a deadlock with neighbouring Slovenia may threaten that goal.

The western Balkan country is expected to become a full fledged EU member by 2011.

Turkey's talks threatened too?

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported earlier this week that Cyprus could slow down Turkey's accession process as well.

An EU candidate since 1999, it launched EU talks in 2005 and has since opened eight accession chapters and closed one.

It is hoping to open two more during its accession conference with the EU on Friday.

But Cypriot foreign minister Markos Kyprianou told Turkish daily Hurriyet that his country would object to the planned opening of the chapter on energy.

There has been more tension between the two countries since November, as Cyprus is accusing Turkey of having harassed its research vessels in the Mediterranean Sea no fewer than four times, hindering its oil and gas exploration activities, the newspaper writes.

For its part, Turkey has argued that the ships were on its continental shelf.

"As long as there are threats regarding the exercise of our sovereign right to exploit the natural resources within our Exclusive Economic Zone, in accordance with international law, ... it is very difficult for us to embark on discussions on the relevant chapter of the negotiations," Mr Kyprianou told Hurriyet on Monday.

Slovenia may hold referendum on Croatia EU entry

Croatia's EU entry may eventually face a referendum in Slovenia, if the year-long border dispute between the two countries is not solved soon, Slovene Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar has said. A referendum would possibly affect a protocol containing legal guarantees promised to Ireland in order to secure a second referendum by Dublin on the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

Russia courts Serbia amid EU dispute

Serbian PM Vucic cut short a trip to Brussels, the same day as Russian foreign minister said the EU was pushing Balkan countries to "antagonise" Russia.

EU in damage control on festering Turkey relations

The EU commission wants to maintain relations with Turkey, despite an EU parliament vote to suspend accession talks amid renewed threats from Ankara to scrap a migrant swap deal.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty