Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/croatia/slovenia : Slovenes Back Border Arbitration Deal with Zagreb

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/croatia/slovenia : Slovenes Back Border Arbitration Deal with Zagreb

Article excerpt

In a national referendum, Slovenians have narrowly approved their government's border arbitration agreement with Croatia, much to the relief of Zagreb and the European Union. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso described the result of the vote, held on 6 June, as "an important step forward" and "an important signal for the region and the relations between Slovenia and Croatia".

According to preliminary results with 99.9 % of the ballots counted, 51.48% of Slovenians voted in favour of the agreement to solve the long-standing border dispute with Zagreb before the international arbitration tribunal, while 48.52% were against the deal. The outcome of the referendum formally separates Croatia's EU accession bid from the border dispute, increasing Zagreb's chances of concluding its negotiations by the end of this year and of joining the EU in 2012.

The approval of the agreement reached by Croatia and Slovenia last November paves the way for the two countries to seek binding international arbitration. Under the deal, the arbitration tribunal is supposed to determine the course of the Croatia-Slovenia border at sea and on land, Slovenia's contact with the high seas and the use of relevant maritime areas. Arbitration will be carried out simultaneously with Croatia's accession talks. It is not clear if the procedure will be wrapped up before ratification of Zagreb's accession treaty by Slovenia and the other 26 member states, which is foreseen for 2011. …

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