Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec directly threatened Croatian tourist industry in the event that Croatia refuses to implement the decision of the arbitration tribunal which will later this year issue a verdict of a border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia. Croatia has left the proceedings and announced it will not accept the verdict, reports Novi List on January 12, 2017.
Asked in a television show what would happen in the event that the decision of the arbitral tribunal arrives on the eve of the tourist season, Minister Erjavec said that the events would “certainly harm Croatia more than Slovenia”. “I allude to those people who will travel from Austria and Germany via Slovenia to Croatia. If the issue of the recognition of the arbitration verdict is still open and the decision is not implemented, there will be difficulties and I have already said that this thing will not be easy to solve”, said the Slovenian Foreign Minister, suggesting that Slovenia would create difficulties for Austrian and German tourists during their transit through Slovenia on their way to the Croatian coast.
The scandalous announcement by the Slovenian Minister opens the possibility of imminent escalation of the Slovenian-Croatian dispute over the fate of the arbitration proceedings and the decision of the arbitration tribunal which is expected this year. Slovenia expected that, with the change of government in Croatia, there was a chance to change the decision to abandon the arbitration proceedings, but these expectations have backfired after the new government in Zagreb made it clear that the arbitration agreement was dead. Croatia offered to Slovenia another attempt to resolve the dispute bilaterally, but Slovenia did not accept it, pointing out that the arbitration was the only way to solve the dispute between the two countries.
The new situation has forced the Slovenian diplomacy to change its strategy in an attempt to rescue the compromised arbitration proceedings. This strategy now boils down to lobbying among EU member states to exert pressure on Croatia. Therefore undiplomatic moves can be expected, such as intentional sabotaging of Croatia’s tourist season, as well as new incidents in the disputed area of the Bay of Piran, given that the Slovenian minister unambiguously said that the Slovenian government would do everything to implement the arbitration verdict within six months.
“It is quite clear that these kinds of announcements and threats are a sign of weakness. This is a move of desperation, and such moves would be counterproductive to Slovenia itself”, said a senior Croatian diplomatic official, asked to comment on the threat. He added that, during the Slovenian blockade of Croatia’s accession negotiations with the European Union, there were ideas about certain countermeasures, but they were never implemented since it was clear that such retaliatory moves were counterproductive for both sides./IBNA