Magazine article Europe-East

Czech Presidency : Prague Reluctant to Take Initiative in Diffusing Croat-Slovene Row

Magazine article Europe-East

Czech Presidency : Prague Reluctant to Take Initiative in Diffusing Croat-Slovene Row

Article excerpt

Prague is determined to bring Croatia's accession talks forward during its six-month Presidency by helping to solve its border dispute with Slovenia, but believes that first the two countries have to explicitly ask for its assistance, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said. Addressing the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, on 20 January, Schwarzenberg underlined that the prolonged border dispute between the two countries is a bilateral issue, which has to be solved by the countries concerned rather than by the EU.

"We do our best to ensure Croatia's accession to the EU. But its own bilateral problems have to be solved by Croatia. We can help, but only if Croatia and Slovenia express their wish for it," Schwarzenberg said. His comment came after Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini has urged the Czech EU Presidency to embark on a diplomatic offensive to facilitate an agreement between Zagreb and Ljubljana. Similar calls were also voiced by MEPs at a separate debate on Croatia held on the same day in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Upon taking over the reins of the EU from France, on 1 January, the Czech Republic declared that accelerating the accession talks with Croatia, in view of concluding them by the end of 2009, will be one of Prague's most important priorities. To this end, Mirek Topolanek's government declared its readiness to facilitate direct talks between the two countries. To date, however, Prague has not convened any meeting.

GAZA

Turning to the current situation in Gaza after a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was agreed on 18 January, Schwarzenberg said that Prague's priority "at the moment is to strengthen the achieved cessation of hostilities as a precondition for alleviating the catastrophic humanitarian situation [in Gaza] and to return to a political process". …

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