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Statement of Prime Minister Miro Cerar following the issue of the final award in the arbitration between Slovenia and Croatia regarding the maritime and land border



My fellow citizens,


The Arbitral Tribunal today decided on the course of the border between the Republic of Slovenia and Republic of Croatia on land and sea. This is a decision of the utmost importance for Slovenia, so today I awaited its announcement together with my ministers. The only persons absent are the Foreign Minister, who is in The Hague for the announcement of the arbitration ruling, and certain ministers whom I sent together with colleagues from my office and the Government to the people living in those border areas most affected by the ruling.


• The Arbitral Tribunal is made up of highly distinguished independent experts in international law. The Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling is final and legally binding on both Slovenia and Croatia. 


• Now the historic moment has come for Slovenia to receive the ruling in unity. As Prime Minister I shall make an express commitment to this, even though I am well aware that not all our expectations regarding the ruling have been fully satisfied.


• The unresolved issue of the border has for too long burdened relations between our two countries. It is now vital for those living along the border to get clear answers to the questions that affect their everyday life.


It has been a difficult wait for the Tribunal’s ruling. Slovenia and Croatia have attempted to resolve the border issue ever since independence, but without success. For this reason our two countries agreed to resolve the dispute with the assistance of a third party – in other words with the assistance of an independent court of arbitration.


• As you will recall, Slovenia and Croatia signed the Arbitration Agreement in 2009 in Stockholm following the intervention of the European Commission, and in the presence of the then EU Council Presidency. The Agreement, ratified by the National Assembly, gained the support of the majority of Slovenian citizens in a referendum. 


• The Arbitral Tribunal conducted a close and in-depth examination of all the arguments and objections from Croatia regarding the illicit communication between Slovenia’s agent and the Slovenian arbitrator, which Croatia cited as the basis for its attempt to withdraw from the arbitration procedure. Last summer, following a thorough examination of these circumstances, in a special ruling the Arbitral Tribunal found that the Agreement was still valid and that the Tribunal would continue with its work. And today the Arbitral Tribunal concluded its work with a Final Award. 


• The Chairman of the Arbitral Tribunal today publicly announced the ruling. The ruling is extensive and complex, so in the coming days we must first examine it closely and thoroughly. Only after we understand the ruling in detail, and therefore when we know precisely how the Arbitral Tribunal determined the course of the border in previously disputed areas, will we be able to take the next steps. 


• On behalf of the Government, today I have already briefed the President of Slovenia and the competent National Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs on the essential points of the ruling.


• The Final Award is a result of a long process of weighing up arguments presented by both sides to the Tribunal in proceedings lasting several years. I should like to summarise briefly the preliminary findings regarding the substance of the ruling which we have been able to piece together in this short time: 



Maritime border 


Bay of Piran

The Tribunal awarded three quarters of the Bay of Piran to Slovenia, specifically from the River Dragonja to a point that is three quarters of the distance from the Madona headland and one quarter of the distance from the Savudrija headland. The Bay of Piran retains the status of inland marine waters.


Maritime border/access

In Croatian territorial waters the Tribunal has established a special access area or “junction area”. This area is approximately 2.5 nautical miles wide, and has a surface area of just over 100 square kilometres. In this area it has determined a regime that significantly changes the status of this part of the sea and establishes a special access area in which Slovenia has the inalienable right of transit and navigation for all aircraft and vessels travelling to and from Slovenia. The Tribunal also explained that access means the physical location of a connection between Slovenian territorial waters and the area beyond the territorial waters of Croatia and Italy. We will obtain a detailed interpretation from international lawyers, but my assessment is that Slovenia does have access to the open seas, via this access area. The Republic of Croatia may not take from us or limit this access. 


Mura

Slovenia has been awarded the settlement of Brezovec in part and Mirišče in its entirety. The border is to run south of the road below the settlement. Slovenia has gained no embankments in this area. The Tribunal determined the border from the land register.


Razkrižje

The Tribunal determined the border at Razkrižje from the land register, so Slovenia was not awarded the nine requested buildings. 


Gorjanci

Slovenia has been awarded the cadastral municipality of Sekuliči in its entirety, together with the village of Drage. The peak of Trdinov vrh and its military installation are awarded to Croatia.


Brezovica by Metlika

The Tribunal did not accommodate the Slovenian arguments for a simplification of the border in this area. The border remains as in the land register, and we will be able to tell you more in the coming days.  


Tomšič parcels

These parcels are awarded in full to Slovenia.


Dragonja

The border runs along the River Dragonja. This thereby awards to Croatia the villages of Bužini, Škodelin and Mlini/Škrilje. 


• I should at this point explain in broad terms how we will act from now on in light of the arbitration ruling: 


In accordance with the arbitration ruling we will first call on the Republic of Croatia to pursue joint implementation. To this end I will today be calling the Croatian Prime Minister, Mr Andrej Plenković, and inviting him to take part in a joint dialogue regarding implementation of the ruling. We will shortly also be sending the Croatian side a formal call for dialogue regarding fulfilment and implementation of the ruling within a reasonable time frame, along with specific proposals for meeting at the highest level. 

• I expect Croatia to respond to this and for us to be able to agree on joint further steps regarding implementation. We have six months to prepare for implementation of the ruling. And we will resolve any possible complications with our neighbouring country in an amicable and responsible manner, in accordance with the principle of observing good neighbourly relations. 


• Independently of the Final Award and the dialogue on implementation, Slovenia will continue its excellent cooperation with Croatia in all areas. And Slovenia will take no action that might serve to exacerbate relations between our two countries and their citizens.


I wish to assure our citizens, especially those along the border, that we will clarify the meaning of the Tribunal ruling as soon as possible. Today, as I have said, individual ministers and expert teams will be present in certain border areas. In the coming days I too will also be meeting with people and mayors in the border areas. Together we will seek solutions whereby in the new and specific cases presented to them, we can ease people’s living situation as much as possible and to the greatest extent possible ensure the rights they have enjoyed to date. 


• One of the very next steps that Slovenia will take is the gradual amendment of laws and other legal documents that will enable implementation of the ruling. 


• By adhering to the arbitration ruling Slovenia will enhance its international standing as a country that respects international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. We have been keeping the international community systematically and continuously informed regarding the substance and circumstances surrounding the Arbitration Tribunal ruling, both on the diplomatic and highest political levels.


The Government is well-prepared for the ruling. Our guiding principle for future action will be a gradual, legal, proportionate and patient approach. 


• In the coming days we will clarify in detail what the Arbitration Tribunal’s Final Award will involve.


• Finally, may I add to this first summary of the arbitration ruling, that as Prime Minister I will strive to the utmost extent, in respecting and implementing the arbitration ruling, for us to establish dialogue and find a common language with the representatives of the Republic of Croatia, specifically for the benefit of our continued good neighbourly relations and for the benefit of all our people and future generations, whom we must relieve of the burden of the previously unresolved border issue. 


• The arbitration ruling serves to establish a foundation for hope that Slovenia and Croatia, both friendly countries and both Member States of the EU and allies in NATO, will be able to work constructively and cooperatively towards the final demarcation of our mutual border in accordance with the adopted ruling. At the same time it also offers an opportunity in this way, through dialogue, for the representatives of our two countries to increase mutual confidence and the confidence of our citizens in the future of our common coexistence. 

Statement of Prime Minister Miro Cerar
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