Croatia-Slovenia Border Dispute in News

IAS Prelims 2023

Border disputes between Slovenia and Croatia have existed since the two countries’ independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. The most notable border issue revolves around the boundary in the Gulf of Piran. Both nations have agreed to international arbitration.

Croatia insists on depriving Slovenia of direct access to neutral waters, and in turn Slovenia believes that it is necessary to create a special corridor.

Recently, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on June 29, 2017 ruled that Slovenia should have “uninterrupted access” to the sea in the dispute over 13 square kilometers comprising the Bay of Piran and a stretch of mainly uninhabited territory.

The court unanimously decided that more than three-quarters of these waters should belong to Slovenia, against Croatia’s stand that they divided in half.

The judges showed a map which states that the maritime border is a continuation of the Odoric canal, which is a mouth of the river Dragonja, situated in Slovenian territory.

Court of Arbitration’s decision is final and binding, but Croatia, which withdrew from the proceedings in 2015, said it would ignore the ruling.

The dispute centres on a 19 sq km sliver of sea in the Bay of Piran that has been claimed by both sides since the break-up of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The squabble over the small sliver of territory has long had outsize political significance and held up Croatia’s accession to the EU for years.

Slovenia has just 46 kilometers of shoreline and has said its access to international waters was endangered under current conditions, forcing all of its ships to travel through Croatian waters to the high seas. Croatia has a coastline of some 1,700 kilometers.

The main disagreement concerns Slovenia’s access to the high seas, with Croatia claiming the stretch of ocean that separates its neighbour from international waters.

After numerous failed attempts to find a bilateral solution, both sides resolved in 2009 to allow an arbitration tribunal to rule on the issue. The deal was included in Croatia’s 2013 EU accession agreement.

The tribunal ruled that Slovenia should be granted a 10 nautical mile corridor giving it direct access to international waters and that the country should be given about three quarters of the Bay of Piran.

The Gulf of Piran or Piran Bay is located in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, and is a part of the southernmost tip of the Gulf of Trieste.