EU Delays Croatian Accession Talks

The EU has postponed talks with Croatia due to their inability to resolve the border dispute with Slovenia. If it is not resolved quickly, Croatia may fail to achieve its goal, and not complete entry negotiations this year.

The European Union, EU, has put on the back burner an accession conference, which was planned for this Friday to be held with Croatia, after Croatian government did not manage to resolve the overhanging issue of their border with EU member Slovenia, the Czech EU presidency said on Thursday.

Slovenia also called off all meetings between the prime ministers of both nations.

Croatia’s state news agency, Hina, was told by a Zagreb government source that Slovenia “did not suggest an alternative date or give reasons for the cancellation.”

Slovenia, as an EU member state, has can use its veto power over progress in accession talks.The border disagreement between the two former Yugoslav countries has already delayed Croatia’s negotiations with the EU.

If a resolution is reached within a reasonable period of time, Croatia could loose out on joining the EU until 2010 or 2011, diplomats are saying. Zagreb cannot afford to lag behind with reforms in key areas such as the judiciary sector, agriculture and the waning shipbuilding industry.

“A new date (for the conference) is to be set subject to positive development,” the EU presidency said in a statement to Hina.

“The lack of headway in the negotiations on chapters that are ready to be opened and closed does not reflect the actual progress achieved on the ground by Croatia.”

Current and incoming EU presidencies — France, the Czech Republic and Sweden are quoted as having a “strong conviction that an agreement allowing Croatia to proceed with negotiations is now within reach”.

On Wednesday, in Brussels, Croatia and Slovenia had talks with EU officials and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who then came up with a new proposal to mediate the dispute.

Reports say, Rehn is proposing an ad-hoc arbitration commission for the border dispute, which would be based on principles of international law, which Croatia has been insisting on.

Slovenia is worried about its access to international waters — a key issue for Ljubljana in the border dispute — arbitrators would take into consideration what they decided to be a fair and equitable resolution, as expected by Ljubljana.

The dispute is raging over a tiny area of land and sea border, going back to the 1991 and the breakup of Yugoslavia, a history which has lead Slovenia to veto the majority of Croatia’s EU talks this past December.

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