Suit on Slovenia-Croatia Border Sputters at Top EU Court

(CN) — Finding that a decades-running dispute over Slovenia and Croatia’s borders falls under international rather than EU law, the bloc’s highest court announced Friday that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

Croatia and Slovenia have been unable to resolve their border squabble since simultaneously proclaiming independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991.

View of Piran Bay from Strunjan, Slovenia. (Pexels photo by Mitja Juraja via CNS)

After Croatia refused to implement a 2017 international arbitration ruling in the standoff, Slovenia took the matter to the European Court of Justice. The Grand Chamber of that Luxembourg-based court ended the case Friday, however, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Though a copy of the ruling is not available in English, the court did urge both countries in a press release “to strive sincerely to bring about a definitive legal solution to the dispute consistent with international law.”

Slovenia, for its part, has said it will not renegotiate and that the arbitration decision must be implemented to preserve its access to international waters.

The 2017 ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague allocated Slovenia more than two-thirds of the disputed Piran Bay.

Croatia, whose coast stretches for 1,054 miles, wanted the maritime border to be drawn down the middle of the bay, to the detriment of Slovenia, which has just 28 miles of coastline

The countries had six months to implement the decision from the EU-backed arbitration court, and have fining each other’s fishermen in the intervening years.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic tweeted the court’s decision was a “victory for Croatia’s arguments”.

He called on Slovenia to enter a “dialogue and bilateral talks to reach a lasting solution … acceptable for both sides.”

Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Miro Cerar — who was prime minister at the time the case was filed — said he regretted that the Court of Justice “lacked the courage” to make a ruling.

Center-right opposition leader Janez Jansa — who could form a new government after Prime Minister Marjan Sarec resigned this week — tweeted about the ruling as well, blasting the previous government for “uselessly wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money.”

Slovenia had gone to court after seeking help from the European Commission, but Brussels offered only to mediate as the countries worked between themselves for a solution.

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