Croatia-Slovenia Border Spat May Not Be Solved at EU Court

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s top court doesn’t have jurisdiction to resolve a dispute between Croatia and Slovenia over the border at Piran Bay in the northern Adriatic, an adviser to the bloc’s top tribunal said.

The EU Court of Justice doesn’t have the powers “to rule on an international boundary dispute that falls outside the scope of EU law,” Advocate General Priit Pikamaee of the Luxembourg-based tribunal said in a non-binding opinion on Wednesday. The final decision will follow in several months.

The border disagreement, which started when the two countries gained independence in 1991, has soured bilateral relations between the two EU member states. As a result of the spat, Slovenia could block Croatia’s goal to join the Schengen area of border-free travel in Europe.

The dispute ended up at the bloc’s top court last year after Slovenia sought to force Croatia to comply with an international arbitration ruling on the dispute.

The international arbitration panel in The Hague had ruled that Slovenia should have access to the high seas via Croatian waters. While the ruling gave Slovenia control over two-thirds of the bay, Croatia insists the border should be in the middle.

‘Plan A’

”Something has to be clear. The border between Slovenia and Croatia has been defined with finality by the arbitration court,” Miro Cerar, Slovenia’s foreign minister, said at a press conference. Asked if the state has a plan if the EU court upholds the opinion, he said that “there is no need for a plan B, because there is a very clear plan A.”

Croatia has been advocating bilateral talks since abandoning the arbitration in 2015 over a phone-tapping scandal that involved a Slovenian judge on the panel and a government official.

“Arbitration is dead. Slovenia itself has acknowledged its scandalous actions that led to the collapse of the arbitration process,” tweeted the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. The court’s opinion “confirmed” the “Croatian position: EU Court of Justice has no jurisdiction to decide on a border dispute that is not related to EU law,” she wrote.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.