Croatia warns Slovenia over veto of its EU talks

18th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor said that Ljubljana would oppose the opening of new negotiating chapters with Croatia.

ZAGREB - Croatia urged Slovenia on Wednesday to reconsider its decision to veto new talks for Zagreb to join the European Union over a border dispute, as some officials warned it would worsen ties and come back to haunt Ljubljana.

"Croatia expects... that Slovenia will reconsider its decision on blocking 10 negotiating chapters in the process of Croatia's EU accession," Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told journalists in Zagreb.

"I'm not a big optimist when I say that, but I think that it would be good if they did that," he added.

He was referring to earlier statement by Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor that Ljubljana would oppose the opening of new negotiating chapters with Croatia at an EU Intergovernmental conference in Brussels Friday.

"If this doesn't happen, the Slovene government will show exclusivism that is not in line with the principles of good neighbourly ties, solidarity and unity," Sanader said, adding that the "blocking of 10 chapters... is a move without precedent in the history of the (EU) accession talks."

Over the last few months, Slovenia had warned Croatia not to present documents to Brussels ahead of the opening of new chapters that included maps and references to the common sea and land border, which the two countries dispute.

To avoid blocking Croatia's accession, Ljubljana proposed that Zagreb sign a paper giving strong guarantees that none of the documents presented during the accession talks could prejudge a solution of the border dispute.

"Croatia has done everything to guarantee Slovenia that no documents in the accession process would prejudge the final solution of the border issue between Croatia and Slovenia," Sanader said.

But, he stressed Croatia "won't be buying membership in the EU with our territory. It is our firm attitude which our friends Slovenes should be aware of."

Sanader thanked the French EU presidency for its "great help", adding that "Croatia was determined to end the negotiating process by the end of next year."

Earlier Wednesday Vesna Pusic, chairwoman of a Croatian parliament committee for monitoring EU accession talks, warned that the veto would worsen bilateral ties and come back to haunt Ljubljana.

"It is a bad decision for us, but it is also a very bad decision for relations between Croatia and Slovenia," Pusic said.

"In the long term, it will have the most harmful effects on them," Pusic warned.

"Croatia will sooner or later enter the EU regardless of this. I was hoping that the two countries would work together on the stabilisation of this region... but due to deteriorated relations it will be difficult," she added.

Croatian opposition leader Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democrats echoed Pusic's view.

"This has nothing to do with the chapters, but with Slovenia's right to put up obstacles. In this way, Slovenia deteriorates our bilateral ties," Milanovic said.

Croatia, which began talks to join the 27-member bloc in October 2005, has opened 21 of the mandatory 35 policy negotiating chapters required for membership.


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