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Cablegate: Croatia Fears Politicking Over Croatia-Slovenia

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A




1. (SBU) As rhetoric on border questions between Slovenia and
Croatia escalates before the October 3 Slovenian
parliamentary election, Croatia calls for arbitration and
rejects as blackmail recent Slovenian threats to use the EU
card. The potential for violence is small, but each side will
continue to claim jurisdiction over the same small wedges of
sea and land.

2. (U) There are three intertwined issues: the maritime
boundary, the land border (probably more important as a
bargaining chip in the maritime border dispute), and
Croatia's declaration of a fishing and environmental zone due
to go into effect October 3 (see septel). Croatian and
Slovenian leaders have for weeks exchanged insults and
accusations blurring the distinction among these issues.

3. (SBU) Though pre-election politicking can explain harsh
statements and provocative stunts by both sides, the serious
issues of Slovenia's self-image as a maritime nation and
Croatia's inferiority complex vis-a-vis Slovenia have kept
the boundary issue alive since independence and will continue
to do so even after Slovenia's October 3 election. Before it
received official EU candidate status, the GoC had to
backtrack on the fishing and environmental protection zone.
However, the GoC is not strong enough to weather any further
bilateral compromise on the border issue. The GoC hopes to
resolve the boundary issue through arbitration before its EU
entry, but the fact remains that a "no" vote by any EU member
can delay or derail Croatia's EU aspirations. END SUMMARY

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4. (SBU) Croatia bases its maritime boundary case on its
reading of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, which the MFA
legal department claims establishes guidelines for delimiting
territorial seas in bays based on "equidistance." (Comment:
UNCLOS also allows for exceptions based on historical title
or special circumstance.) Despairing of a negotiated solution
that would meet its political needs, the GoC notes in all
public statements its strong preference for binding

5. (SBU) Controversy surrounds a 2001 agreement between
Croatia and Slovenia (always referred to by Croatian
authorities as a "draft" document), which was initialed by
then-PM Racan's representative but repudiated by Parliament
and never signed. The GoC maintains the agreement has no
legal force. The document, which was never published but
apparently grants Slovenia a corridor through the Adriatic in
order to give it "contact" with the open sea, caused a
national uproar and nearly brought down Racan's government.
The Croatian MFA has expressed frustration at GoS insistence
in keeping the 2001 document alive.


6. (U) Increased tension over the maritime boundary has
deepened divisions over the land border. Stunts and
provocations by both sides -- police interdictions of fishing
vessels, protests at border crossings, and most recently the
September 22 arrest of several Slovenian parliamentarians by
Croatian police for refusing to provide identity papers while
crossing an international border -- kept the controversy in
the headlines throughout August and September (ref c).

7. (SBU) On the land border issue, the GoC cites the opinion
of the Badinter Commission, a group of legal experts
established by the EU in the early 1990s to determine borders
within the former Yugoslavia. According to the Badinter
Commission, in the absence of agreement otherwise, the
international borders of the new states should be the same as
the internal borders of the Yugoslav Republics. This
"Badinter principle" is noted in both the Croatian and
Slovenian declarations of independence. Thus, the GoC
considers the land border question closed. (NOTE: The
Badinter group did not address the maritime boundary, as
there were no internal maritime borders in the former

8. (SBU) The MFA asserts that the repudiated 2001 initialed
agreement made only small administrative changes to the land
border, on an equal land swap basis with Slovenia. Slovenian
press reports characterize these as major land concessions,

but if that was the case, it was not sufficient to appease
the Croatian parliament.


9. (SBU) These maritime boundary and land border problems
have intensified at an inopportune time, just before
Croatia,s Fishing and Environmental Protection Zone (FEPZ)
in the northern Adriatic enters into force October 3. As a
political concession to Italy and Slovenia in the run-up to a
decision on Croatian EU candidate status, the Zone will not
apply to EU member states (reftels A and C). The latest
chapter in a muddled history on Adriatic fishing rights,
including a 1996 bilateral non-interdiction agreement for
Slovenian and Croatian fishermen, the FEPZ will give Croatia
authority to interdict only non-EU flag vessels fishing in
the zone. Since the bilateral non-interdiction agreement
expired with Slovenia's EU accession in May 2004, Slovenian
police have begun stopping Croatian flagged fishing vessels
(reftel B) and Croatian police have responded by escorting
Croatian fishermen operating near the equidistance boundary.


10. (SBU) While much of recent Slovenian rhetoric seems to
be political electioneering, this is a long-festering dispute
that matters deeply to both countries. According to the MFA
and EC delegation contacts, EU accession will not solve the
maritime boundary question because the EU has no competency
over territorial seas. Croatian officials fear Slovenia will
block Croatia,s EU entry, but anything other than
international arbitration will be impossible for the GoC to
sell to its public.

11. (U) Embassy Ljubljana has seen this cable.


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