EU Urges Slovenia and Croatia to Settle Row

The European Union urged both Slovenia and Croatia to find the solution to the border dispute, which would unblock Zagreb’s attempts to meet deadlines for EU accession.

“We underline the urgency attached to this issue since the whole time-line is at stake and there are implications not only for Croatia but for the wider region”, Czech Vice Prime Minister Alexander Vondra, told journalists in Luxembourg.

EU Foreign Ministers discussed the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia, which consequently has caused a stalemate in the process of Croatia’s accession into the EU. This is also the first time that a bilateral issue is being discussed at such a high level in the EU.

Croatia aims to conclude accession talks with Brussels by the end of 2009. While the target was feasible, even for the European Commission, Slovenia, an EU member blocked the opening of final chapters with Zagreb, instead demanding the resolution of a border dispute, before Croatia could proceed in the accession process.

Enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, is managing the issue and has offered a proposal to both parties. On Monday, he briefed EU Foreign Ministers about the process but warned that Ljubljana and Zagreb must act quickly.

“Unfortunately negotiations are blocked because of a border dispute – a bilateral issue that has become European problem”, Rehn said in Luxembourg.

Olli Rehn proposed last week a compromise that would see the two countries nominate five judges tasked with solving the problem. Croatia and many EU member states welcomed the proposal. Ministers of the EU have allegedly backed Rehn’s proposal and asked both countries to respond to the proposal as quickly as possible. The Enlargement Commissioner justifies the pressure for a quick response, with the possibility of still maintaining the timeline for Croatia’s accession negotiations.

“Now as we have the goal in sight, I trust both countries will keep up the momentum and complete the last round of negotiations to reach the goal, so that we may not miss the target”, Rehn said.

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