Emotions running high over Slovene-Croatian fishing-zone borders

There's renewed tension between Slovenia and Croatia over their disputed border. The issue of where the border should be remains unresolved since both countries gained independence from the former Yugoslavia. A key point is the maritime border and fishing rights in the Bay of Piran - where there've been a number of incidents between fishermen from the two neighbours. And last week, emotions ran high once more.

The Slovenian cabinet last week adopted a decree on the Slovenian fishing area that includes the whole of the disputed Bay of Piran. According to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, the decree is a direct response to the decision taken by Croatia last month to extend the borders of its fishing zone to the middle of the Bay. Slovenia's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel:

"This decree is a direct response to the Croatian move of the 15 December last year to extend the borders of its fishing zone to the middle of the Bay and as is known the regulation reached into Slovenian territorial waters."

The Slovenian Foreign ministry called the Croatian move the "latest in a series of one-sided measures with which Croatia is trying to predetermine a final solution on the border between the countries. The ministry said it expected Croatia to respect the state on the ground from June 1991, when the two countries declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. The Slovenian Foreign Ministry said the decree was temporary. Foreign Minister Rupel:

"Our decree is temporary until the two countries implement the SOPS (Agreement between the Republic of Slovenia and Croatia on Border Traffic and Cooperation) fishing provisions. And you know that Croatia and the European Union are negotiating on the realization of regulations to bring to effect the SOPS fishing provisions and of course this solution is temporary until we reach a border deal between Slovenia and Croatia."

The Croatian Foreign Ministry however addressed a note of protest to Slovenia, calling the Slovenian decree unacceptable, legally unfounded and invalid. The Ministry said that it was unacceptable that Slovenia wanted to get control of the entire Bay of Piran.

Slovenian opposition Liberal Democrat politician and international law expert Marko Pavliha said that the government decree is based on shaky foundations. He also called on the government and the Foreign Ministry to focus on settling open issues with Croatia.

Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa:

"Our wish is that this issue be solved, we do not want that the EU acquires an additional unsolved problem with the accession of Croatia to the EU. This is why the manoeuvring room, which has increased partly since the start of Croatia's negotiating talks for EU accession has to be used to the fullest."