Monday

22nd Jul 2019

Brussels ups pressure over Slovenia-Croatia dispute

  • Mr Rehn is urging both sides to "seize the opportunity" to reach agreement (Photo: European Commission)

Slovenia and Croatia should work on finding a solution to their year-long border dispute if Zagreb's EU membership negotiations are to stand a chance of making progress during an EU-Croatia meeting next month, the EU enlargement commissioner has said.

"It is important that in the next accession conference which is planned for March ... [it is possible] to open, maybe close, but at least open a number of chapters, so that the dynamic of the negotiations will be kept on," commissioner Olli Rehn said at a press conference in Brussels on Friday (20 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Slovenia and Croatia have been unable to agree on their common land and sea border since they both seceded from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

But a patch of the Adriatic Sea close to the Slovenian city of Piran, which Slovenia says would secure its ships direct access to international waters, is a particularly thorny issue that caused Ljubljana to block the opening or closing of 11 chapters of Croatia's 35-chapter package in December.

"It is important that we find a solution that could help solve the border issue and would allow Croatia's EU accession negotiations to continue according to the negotiating framework," Mr Rehn said.

The European Commission in January suggested forming a special mediation group to help solve the lengthy dispute, which could be chaired by former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari.

Mr Ahtisaari "would be in principle ready to take up the task and chair this group," Mr Rehn said, "but for the group to be set up, we first need an agreement of the two countries on the terms and conditions of such facilitation," he stressed.

"I sincerely wish that they [Slovenia and Croatia] would take this chance now and seize the opportunity. I expect clarity on the matter latest in the first week of March," said the commissioner.

Slovenia has already strongly spoken in favour of the group, calling it "the best" option for breaking the deadlock and finding a final solution. Croatia has also welcomed the initiative.

In terms of solving the border issue, however, Zagreb favours going the route of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, arguing it is a legal, not a political issue.

The prime ministers of the two countries will meet in the Mokrice castle in Slovenia on Tuesday to discuss the border issue – a move Mr Rehn called "a very positive step forward [that] counters the negative rhetoric in the public debate in the two countries which has increased."

Stick to the technical criteria

Croatia – an EU candidate since 2004 – is hoping to conclude EU accession talks by the end of this year, so that it can join the bloc by 2011.

"Concluding the accession negotiations by the end of this year is a tall order," Mr Rehn told EUobserver.

"If we can find a way forward on the border issue, and if Croatia works very intensively on the reforms, then the target date is within reach. But every day increases the risk that the timetable will slip," he warned.

The Slovenia–Croatia blockage is the latest in a line of disputes blocking EU candidate countries.

But commissioner Rehn denied this being a sign that new – political – criteria are being added during the accession talks with candidate or potential candidate countries.

"The framework of the EU accession negotiations is very clear, and new criteria are not being set up as we go along," Mr Rehn said.

"If the candidate countries carry out the necessary reforms, negotiations will move forward," he added.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

News in Brief

  1. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  2. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  3. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  4. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  5. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  6. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  7. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal
  8. Commission fines US chipmaker for second time

Opinion

EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us