Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn urged Slovenia and Croatia on Thursday to accept the European Union’s mediation in their border row, warning it was the only way to end their 18-year-old feud.
“I expect from both countries a positive response,” Rehn told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of European liberal and democrat parties taking place in Bled, a lake resort in northern Slovenia.
The EU-sponsored mediation process was “the only real viable way further under the current circumstances,” he added.
Rehn asked in January Nobel peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari to help Slovenia and Croatia resolve the dispute that has been dragging on ever since the two former Yugoslav republics declared independence in 1991.
The dispute worsened last December when Slovenia, which is already a member of the European Union, blocked Croatia’s EU accession talks until an agreement on the way to solve their border dispute was reached.
Ljubljana has “accepted in principle” Rehn’s proposal while Zagreb has announced a response by next Monday while underlining its contention that the dispute should be solved by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Rehn urged Zagreb to respond positively and urged both governments not to set “such impossible conditions which would essentially imply a rejection of our initiative.”
“I can’t see why one or another country would a-priori reject this kind of EU facilitation which aimes simply at solving the border issue and unblocking Croatia’s accession negotiations,” Rehn said.
Croatia hopes to conclude EU talks by the end of the year to become EU’s 28th member state.