The Slovene government has used its annual diplomatic event - the Bled Strategic Forum - to conduct a diplomatic offensive aimed at forcing Croatia to accept the result of the recent arbitration ruling on the two countries' border dispute.
This year's international Strategic Forum in the Slovenian town of Bled entitled "New Reality" was supposed to address changes in the European economy and diplomacy, as well as challenges related to globalization and digitalization, however the event has been dominated by Slovenia's border dispute with Croatia.
This dispute has been going on for years. After numerous failed attempts to find a bilateral solution, both sides agreed in 2009 to allow an arbitration tribunal to rule on the issue and this deal was included in Croatia's 2013 EU accession agreement. In July of 2015 a Croatian daily newspaper published transcripts and audio recordings, confirming that a Slovenian judge on the arbitration panel, Jernej Sekolec and Simona Drenik, a representative from the Slovenian government had colluded in putting pressure on the other judges in the arbitration panel to rule in Slovenia's favour, and had helped the Slovenian side by revealing secret communications, something which was strictly forbidden under the 2009 arbitration agreement. In the aftermath of this scandal, Sekolec and Drenik resigned and Croatia left the process.
The arbitration tribunal conducted its own internal investigation concluding that no leak of information had occurred and Slovenia appointed Ronny Abraham, the president of the International Court of Justice, as their replacement on the arbitration panel, but he, after only 8 days in office, decided to resign. In July of 2016, the arbitration court's panel did rule that Slovenia had violated the arbitration agreement, but not to a degree that would prevent it from completing its mandate and in June 2016, a ruling was published which Croatia refuses to accept.
Speaking to journalists in Bled today, Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said that respect for international law certainly was one of the most important issues for the Republic of Croatia and that infact Slovenia was the one who hadn't respected it when it compromised the internal workings of the arbitration court and that out of respect for international law, it hasn't been possible for Croatia to remain within the arbitration process.
Slovenia's Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec announced at a press conference today that he would not meet with his Croatian counterpart, as long as Croatia maintained its position and also expressed his opposition to Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar's planned visit to Croatia. Calling Croatia's behaviour scandalous, Erjavec called on the EU to take steps against it.
And the European Commission is clearly calling for the implementation of the arbitration ruling. Last night in Bled, Deputy Head of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans said that Brussels would insist on its implementation, while the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini has said that she thinks it is very important to stick to the rules and so the arbitration ruling must be respected.
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