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Cablegate: Croatia Eu Negotiations Hit a Slovenian-Made Bump

VZCZCXRO0306
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0762 3051452
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311452Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8740
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000762

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL HR SI EUC
SUBJECT: CROATIA EU NEGOTIATIONS HIT A SLOVENIAN-MADE BUMP
IN THE ROAD

REF: ZAGREB 000734

1. (U) The French EU Presidency and the EU Commission hosted
a meeting on October 30 in Brussels regarding Croatia's EU
negotiations, at which Croatia was only able to provisionally
close one negotiating chapter, "External Relations."
According to both Croatian and EU sources in Zagreb, Slovenia
blocked an EU consensus on the opening of four additional
chapters -- "regional policy", "environment", "free
circulation of capital", and "justice, freedom, and security"
-- as well as the provisional closure of "trans-european
networks" chapter.

2. (U) Slovenian officials claimed that because its new
government had not been officially formed and its newly
constituted European Affairs Parliamentary Committee -- whose
guidance informs Slovenia's actions in this regard -- had not
yet convened, the outgoing caretaker government was unable to
green-light the opening and closing of additional chapters.
However, at least one Slovenia diplomat publicly acknowledged
that Slovenia may have significant reservations about
allowing Croatia to move forward on chapters that, in their
view, bear on the ongoing bilateral border dispute (reftel).
Slovenia, in the past, has indicated that it would block all
chapters in which Croatia's negotiating position include
reference to an exclusive Croatian ecological zone in the
Adriatic or contain any references that could pre-judge the
border dispute, even as Croatian negotiators insist that they
have carefully avoided any such references in formulating
their negotiating positions.

3. (SBU) Croatian officials have publicly sought to play down
this development, urging that bilateral issues be excluded
from Croatia's EU negotiations, but arguing that Croatia's
negotiations were going well. The Croatia delegation
stressed that they were sparing no effort to complete
negotiations and working to quickly meet all benchmarks
specified by the EU. The Croatians are hoping to receive a
"roadmap" by the EU Commission in November that specifies a
rough timeframe for the conclusion of accession negotiations
by the end of 2009. According to Croatian media reports,
early drafts of the upcoming progress report regarding
Croatia's progress toward EU membership are promising that
such a roadmap will be forthcoming.

COMMENT
-------

4. (SBU) The chapters in question are not the most difficult
for Croatia in terms of the legislative effort needed to
complete them. Croatian officials say that even if there is
a several month delay in the formal opening of these
chapters, they can still be concluded before more challenging
chapters, such as competition policy, are likely to be
complete. Therefore, yesterday's events alone should not
derail the Croatian goal of wrapping up negotiations next
year. However, Croatian MFA officials have privately
expressed to us their anger and frustration with the outgoing
Slovenian government's decision to block progress on these
chapters. Croatian officials fervently hope the new
Slovenian government will abandon the former government's
approach of what both Croatian and EU contacts in Zagreb
portray as an effort to use the EU process to put pressure on
Croatia to resolve the border dispute. END COMMENT
Bradtke

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