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Cablegate: Apparent Domestic Consensus On Plan for Croatia-Slovenia

VZCZCXRO0964
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHVB #0792 2391501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271501Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8064
INFO RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA 6407
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000792

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SI HR
SUBJECT: APPARENT DOMESTIC CONSENSUS ON PLAN FOR CROATIA-SLOVENIA
DISPUTES

Ref: A) LJUBLJANA 342; B) ZAGREB 122

1. SUMMARY: In what was portrayed as a breakthrough in its
long-standing border dispute with its northern neighbor, Croatian PM
Ivo Sanader joined Slovenian PM Janez Jansa after a meeting at Lake
Bled on August 26 to announce bilateral agreement to refer the
dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for
resolution. Prior to meeting with his Slovenian counterpart,
Croatian PM Sanader sought and received the backing of opposition
parties in the Croatian parliament. This denouement comes after
years of false starts and what have come to be regular contretemps
between two neighbors that otherwise enjoy strong bilateral
relations. Under the terms of the deal, only the maritime boundary
and disputed points on the land border will be referred to the ICJ,
effectively de-linking other contentious issues, such as Croatian
deposits in the defunct Ljubljanska Banka and disagreements over
disposal of nuclear waste from the jointly-owned reactor in Krsko,
Slovenia. End Summary.

2. Croatian PM Sanader and Slovenian PM Jansa reached a deal on
August 26 to refer the border dispute between the two countries to
the ICJ in The Hague. This agreement comes after years of heated
rhetoric and failed attempts to find a solution. The main issue
concerns the maritime boundary, which was never established between
the two former Yugoslav republics. However, there are also several
contested points along the land border, sovereignty over which both
sides claim with the aid of historical documents and maps.

3. Sanader, clearly cognizant of the failed attempt by his
predecessor to reach an agreement in 2003, obtained consensus on the
Croatian position from opposition leaders in the parliament prior to
his meeting with Jansa. With campaigns for the November
parliamentary elections already under way in Croatia, keeping such a
sensitive issue out of the political arena was crucial for Sanader's
ability to present a credible position.

4. As the terms of the deal have been reported, only the border
disputes between the two countries will be referred to the ICJ.
Other open issues, such as the losses incurred by Croatian
depositors of the now-defunct Ljubljanska Banka and the disposal of
radioactive waste from the jointly-owned nuclear power plant in
Krsko, Slovenia, will continue to be the subject of bilateral
negotiations.

5. COMMENT: As an EU candidate country facing the prospect of a
Slovenian presidency of the EU in the first half of 2008, Croatia
has felt acute pressure to resolve its border issues with Slovenia
for fear that its accession negotiations could suffer. Although
this agreement should ease those fears, the Government says it still
plans to implement a decision to create a protected fishing zone on
the Croatian side of the Adriatic as of January 1, 2008, a move that
has caused friction with Italy as well as Slovenia. Croatia
believes that this issue has resulted in a hold being placed on the
opening of the "Fisheries" chapter of its EU accession negotiations,
but appears to be following a strategy of trying to handle each of
its bilateral disputes with Slovenia separately. END COMMENT.

WALKER

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