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Today I wrote a personal letter with regard to the Slovenian-Croatian border issue to Mr Tajani, Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk.

Dear President of the European Parliament Mr Antonio Tajani,

Dear President of the European Commission Mr Jean-Claude Juncker,

Dear President of the European Council Mr Donald Tusk,

I am writing to you as former Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign Affairs who has been closely engaged in the question of the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia already since 1991. Over all these years I have held various political positions which gave me the opportunity to do everything that was in my power to strengthen the relations between our two neighbouring countries. I have strongly supported Croatia on its journey towards sovereign statehood and the European Union. I feel honoured that I was award with high state honours by the Republic of Croatia for my contribution in this regard.

Six months after the binding arbitration ruling, the decision of the Court is still not been implemented. This raises great concerns not only in Slovenia. Instead of respect for international law we are witnessing new politicising on nationalistic grounds. Political will that ignores law is being expressed and threats to international peace have been made, especially in relation to calls for a civil naval invasion of Croatia against Slovenia. I do not believe civil pressure can replace what state institutions ought to do.

Since the deadline for implementation of the decision of the Court has passed half a year ago we no longer have time for additional political considerations nor for renewed politicisation – now is the time for implementation of the Court’s ruling based on international law. Moreover, this is not just about the border between Slovenia and Croatia, this is also about the Schengen Border. If the latter is not clear, we cannot defend it. Allow me to mention some key facts in this regard. Following 25 years of unsuccessful bilateral attempts, Slovenia and Croatia, with the participation of the European Commission, agreed to solve this issue by international arbitration. In the middle of the process, however, Croatia qualified some acts of the Slovenian side as controversial and on this ground and with the decision of the Sabor (Croatian parliament) decided to unilaterally withdraw from the proceedings. A crucial legal fact remains that the Court did not agree with the Croatian qualification of the Slovenian acts and consequently continued with its work. A unilateral standpoint of one of the signatories cannot have a higher validity as the Court itself. The Court proceeded without the Slovenian and the Croatian arbitrators and made its decision public on 29 June 2017. From this date on, we speak of implementation. As an advocate of international law I believe there shall not be any authority disregarding the arbitration of the Court or that would impose itself above the Court. Going back to the bilateral level and disregarding the Court as suggested by Croatia, would re-open the issue, which the two countries could not settle bilaterally for half a century. I understand how sensitive this issue is for Croatian political parties, however, the dossier shall not be taken as hostage to the Croatian internal political polarization, let alone the parties’ interests on the European level. It is not a matter of division between the right and the left, it is rather and definitely about whether the rule of law will prevail or not. The agreement itself was under the tutelage of the European Commission and as such, it is co-responsible for its implementation, being the guardian of Treaties and rule of law. Allow me to comment on the Slovenian »blockade« of Croatia, which is being referred to in a manipulative way. Croatia blocked itself when it inserted in the pre-accession documentation an arbitrarily set borderline, which was not agreed. Slovenia supported Croatia in a clear and honest manner in each and any phase of the pre- accession process and reacted only when experts of international law warned it that the unilateral action mentioned ut supra may have consequences for one of the key Slovenian national interests. Croatia has unsettled border disputes with more than just one neighbour. Let us remember that after the agreement was settled, it was regarded as a model for resolution neighbour disputes, among European politicians and legal experts.

In case the European Commission would not fix a clear stance by now, it is possible that it will face reopening the Pandora’s box in the Balkans, which would most certainly impact the European perspective on the Western Balkans. It is not the time to call for peace, but rather to heartedly call for the respect of law. Only respect of law can ensure peace. I thank you for your attention on this matter and send you my best regards and wishes for 2018.

Alojz Peterle

Member of the European Parliament,

Former Prime Minister and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Former Vice-President of the European People ́s Party