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Oral hearing on admissibility of Slovenia’s action against Croatia for failure to fulfil obligations under EU law

An oral hearing was scheduled this afternoon at the EU Court of Justice on the admissibility of an action that Slovenia filed against Croatia for breaches of EU law resulting from its repudiation of the Arbitral Award. Two years after the Final Award was rendered, Slovenia stands firmly on its position. In accordance with Article 7 of the Arbitration Agreement, the Final Award of the Arbitral Tribunal of 29 June 2017 is binding on both parties and constitutes a definitive settlement of the border dispute.

Two years after the entry into force of the arbitral award, the Slovenian government’s position remains unchanged. | Author Matjaž Slanič

Slovenian authorities have been exercising their authority up to the border as determined by the Tribunal. The course of the maritime boundary has been precisely determined and each of the previously disputed sectors of the land boundary clearly allocated. In spite of this, Croatian infringements in Slovenian waters have continued. These include sanctioning of Slovenian fishermen, police patrolling and police escorts of Croatian fishing vessels, which all hinder the operations of Slovenian authorities.

As a result, on 13 July of last year, Slovenia filed an application against Croatia on the basis of Article 259 TFEU for failure to fulfil obligations, namely for violating articles 2 and 4 TEU on the respect for the rule of law and on sincere cooperation between Member States. According to Slovenia, Croatia has been infringing the regulation on the Common Fisheries Policy, the Schengen Borders Code, and the directive on maritime spatial planning.

The action before the Court of Justice of the EU is just one of the steps Slovenia has taken to fully implement the Arbitral Award, which was necessary to guarantee the effective implementation of EU regulations and to protect its interests.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg today convened an oral hearing on admissibility before the Grand Chamber, composed of 15 judges. The Slovenian delegation was headed by Marko Vrevc, Head of the Task Force on Borders at the Foreign Ministry. Slovenia’s arguments were presented by its Agent Maja Menard, and Counsel Jean-Marc Thouvenin. The EU Advocate General in the case is Priit Pikamäe, a former president of the Estonian Supreme Court.

Having clearly stated the cases in which Croatia infringes EU law, the Slovenian side went on to present the arguments in favour of the Court’s jurisdiction. The Opinion of the Advocate General in the case of Slovenia vs. Croatia will be given on 6 November.

The course and outcome of the proceedings before the EU Court of Justice do not affect the legal nature of the Arbitral Award, which is applicable pursuant to international law, independently of EU law.

At the time of the rendering of the Final Award, the Government undertook to pay particular attention to its implementation, especially to benefit the people living along the border who are directly affected by the Award. This was also the primary objective of the Act Regulating Certain Issues regarding the Final Award of the Arbitral Tribunal (ZUVRAS), whereby the Government allocated dedicated budgetary funds to protecting the rights of Slovenian citizens living in the area.

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