Yesterday Slovenian parliamentary committees for foreign relations and European matters voted in favour of lifting the blockade of Croatian EU negotiations. In a joint session which lasted for several hours PM Borut Pahor explained the details and the mechanics of the deal he made last Friday with Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor.
As you know, at the centre of things is a letter PM Kosor sent from Pahor’s office to Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt.There were conflicting accounts as to what was written in that letter, especially with relation to the exact wording and the effect it will have on past attempts to settle the dispute, most notably the Drnovšek-Račan agreement. Yesterday PM Pahor’s office finally released the original letter and put a stop to speculations. It is clear now. The Pahor-Kosor agreement nullifies any prievous agreements as well as unilateral actions. Therefore, there is no more Drnovšek-Račan agreement.
The important bit of the letter with the wording “documents or actions taken unilaterally” (source)
Things, however, were happening at lightning speed. Just as Kosor’s letter hit the mailboxes and caused a modest-to-severe elevation of some people’s blood pressue, a press release by Croatian foreign ministry was published (Croatian only), saying that the bottom line of the agreement indeed is that the dispute will be solved along the lines of what EU Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn proposed just before Croatia walked out of negotiations.
And last night I stumbled across Swedish PM’s reply to Jadranka Kosor (again, Croatian only), where he informs her that a special accession conference will be hels as soon as 2 October, because Slovenia informed the presidency that it has no more border-related reservations against negotiations with Croatia. Furthermore, PM Reinfeldt wrote that it is understood that the dispute will either be solved by arbitrage or by direct negotiations. And finally – and this is the most important bit – he writes that both letters (Kosor’s original letter and Reinfeldt’s reply) will become an integral part of accession documents.
Reinfeldt’s letter is of astronomical importance. It clearly states that the only way a deal will be reached is either by arbitrage or direct negotiations, which means that the International Court in the Hague (which was Croatia’s favourite venue of solving the dispute) is off the table. It was widely held that this particular court would have ruled completely in favour of Croatia, because it has little history of coming with outside-of-the-box solutions, which is clearly needed in this case. And secondly. By becoming an integral part of the negotiation documentation, both letters will also become part of the accession treaty, just as the Croatian maritime documents which started this whole thing.
So what we now have are established broad rules of the game which are not inherently bad for Slovenia nor are they inherently good for Croatia. And that is good. It is now becoming clear that both sides conceded a lot in the last few months, ehich is why the deal doesn’t seem so raw any more.