The Definitive Guide to the Arbitrage Agreement Between Slovenia and Croatia, pt. 3

Here it is, yet another instalment of everything you wanted to know about the Arbitrage Agreement but had the smarts to wait for pengovsky 🙂 For parts 1 and 2 click here and here respectively

PM Pahor in debate with ministers Žbogar, Lukšič and Svetlik (source: Baž Samec/Delo)

Tee-minus-eleven days and the referendum campaign is raging with full force. As pengovsky writes this, the parliament is in yet another extraordinary session, debating what opposition SDS calls “new and important circumstances” regarding the Arbitrage Agreement. What Janez Janša et al. claim is that Slovenia somehow accepted unilateral declaration Croatia passed alongside its ratification of the Agreement, saying basically that the agreement means what Croatia wants it to mean.

SDS and the rest of opponents of the agreement argue that since Croatia said both Slovenia and Croatia will have notified the Swedish presidency of its unilateral declaration, Slovenia somehow agreed to Croatian interpretation of the agreement, hence PM Borut Pahor and his government committed an act of high treason.


The problem – or rather the “problem” – is that Slovenia did no such thing. Croatia’s declaration was entirely unilateral and was in no way, shape or form a part of the Arbitrage Agreement itself. Being repeatedly told that by PM Pahor predictably did not convince the opposition. If anything it only amplified cries of treason, PM’s incompetence and sell-out of this country’s vital interests. As always, on live TV. But then came the twist.

Even before the extraordinary session started Swedish ambassador to Slovenia Inger Ultvedt said that Swedish government received no joint statement other that the fact that the Arbitrage Agreement is to be signed and its signature witnessed by Swedish PM. She added that no unilateral statement was part of the Agreement itself. That, however, apparently wasn’t enough. The opposition still went on and on and on like a the proverbial Energizer bunny until the US ambassador to Slovenia Bradley Freden said the same. He went even further, saying that Croatian declaration was unilateral in every sense of the word

An then came the flip-flop. Less than two hours after US Embassy went public, Janša’s SDS sent out a press release saying that US and Swedish statements make the entire Agreement null and void, because Croatia lied about that statement being joint, when it was actually unilateral. Since international agreements are to be executed in good faith and Croatian behaviour was anything but, the Agreement cannot be executed and is therefore dead.

Let me run that by you again: Opposition loudly claims (citing Croatian sources) that Slovenia agreed to Croatian declaration about what exactly the Agreement is all about. Slovenian government denies that and points out that Slovenia passed a similar declaration which claims exactly the opposite. It adds that both declarations mean didly-squat because the Agreement itself stipulates that no unilateral actions apply to the solution of the border issue. Opposition is not convinced and calls an extraordinary session of the parliament to discuss these “important new developments”.

As the debate commences, both Sweden and the US (the former witnessing the signature of the Agreement while the latter reportedly man-handling Croatia into accepting the deal) say that Croatian declaration is entirely unilateral and as such has no effects with regard to the Agreement. At this point one would expect the opposition to cease debating as the reason for the parliamentary session no longer exists. Wrong. Instead, they call the Agreement null and void because Croatia cheated. I’d have to say.. a sphincter says what? Exactly!

Same Old Tactics of Epic Bullshit

Croatian unilateral declaration was of course only the sorriest of excuses for the opposition (SDS, SLS and SNS) to yet again hijack parliamentary Rules and Procedures and to debate ad nauseam the finer points of epic bullshit. The debate was going over all the pros and cons time and time again, each time getting more personal and more below the belt. No wonder it didn’t stop after US and Swedish statements, because the debate was never meant to address “new and important developments” but rather just to start yet another round of verbal slaughter and see who comes out on top.

But hey, you can’t blame them, can you? These tactics worked before, not in the least in the summer of 2004 when Janez Janša and his SDS went after LDS and then PM Tone Rop, and effectively won the elections. But back then LDS and its leadership were tired, paralysed and arrogant. Janša tried again in 2007, just after Danilo Türk was elected president and then again just prior to 2008 elections which he in the end lost. But this time not only did it not work, but it positively backfired. SDS’ arguments crumbled into sun dust and the final result is that opposition remains opposed, while the government argues in favour of the Agreement. And since these are exactly the same positions as in the beginning, one could say that Janez Janša just wasted a joker.


Namely, if opponents of the Agreement were on top in the debate then we could have called the session just a waste of time. But since polls show that a majority of those who intend to vote actually support the Agreement, then yesterday’s stalemate spells disaster for Janša and good times for those who actually wish to see this thing solved in a fair way. Not only did Delo, nation largest daily poll an impressive 52 percent in favour of the Agreement and only 24 against, but even Faculty of Applicative Social Sciencies in Nova Gorica, widely regarded as leaning towards Janša and his SDS polled 36 percent in favour and 31 against.

This goes to show that SDS is rapidly failing to turn the referendum on the Arbitrage Agreement into a referendum on Pahor’s government, whose approval ratings linger in low thirties. Having people to vote more or less on merit and much less out of anger is one of Pahor’s key goals and so far he seems to be getting his point accross. Much will of course depend on the voter turnout, which is at this time projected not to go above 35 percent. Which is criminally low but totally common for Slovenian referendums. The record holder for the lowest turnout if of course sill former PM Janez Janša whose referendum on regions in 2008 failed spectacularly with a mere 11 percent turnout.

This will have to do it for today, although we haven’t covered every subject announced in the previous chapter. However, next up will be an interesting story about some people struggling not to lose face and still others struggling with MS Word 😀

The Definitive Guide to the Arbitrage Agreement Between Slovenia and Croatia, pt. 2

Finally, with ten-or-do days to go until the referendum, the second instalment of pengovsky’s Definitive Guide to the Arbitrage Agreement Between Slovenia and Croatia :). For the first part, click here

Approximation of the Drnovšek-Račan agreement. Taken from this post

Campaigning pro and contra the Arbitrage agreement is vicious. I’m talking distilled venom of the Brazilian wandering spider here. From day one, there were direct hits below the belt, ad personam attacks, cynicism and sarcasm galore (iLike those, but still) and both sides, coalition and opposition, have embarked on an campaign trail rarely seen for a referendum vote. This will be a bitter fight that will do right down to the wire. So, what are they sayin’ and who’s got more leg to stand on?

Heading South

The case for supporting the arbitrage agreement is compelling. Slovene- Croat relations were at an all time low, just as Slovenia was headed for elections in 2008. Ever since 2001, when Croatian parliament refused to ratify the Drnovšek-Račan agreement, which was as close to a solution as the two countries ever caome, bilateral relations were heading south.

Border incidents were had a regular recurrence rate (i.e.: every time either country was in a pre-election period) and Croatia was establishing what George Bush jr. would surely have called “a new reality on the ground”, which peaked in the 2005 as then-PM Janez Janša and his foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel were apparently outfoxed by Croatian PM at the time Ivo Sanader, who somehow coaxed them into agreeing that the dispute should be solved in front of the International Court in Hague, which (so it is understood) has a tendency to solve such disputes by drawing a direct line down the middle of the disputed area, which would in this case put Slovenia exactly where it doesn’t want to be. It is still not entirely clear why Janez Janša at the time made the deal that he had made, but fact of the matter is that of all the agreements ever made, that one served Slovenian interests least.

Luckily, that was yet another deal that came to nothing, but at some point tensions along the border grew and there were several tense moments by the River Dragonja and even a police stand-off along a disputed area by the River Mura. And then, just as Slovenia ended it’s six-month presidency of the EU in 2008, Janša’s government started making noises about blocking Croatian EU negotiations until such time the border dispute is solved in a way that makes Slovenia happy. This policy was followed by the new government of Borut Pahor and as a result Slovene-Croat relations went deep-freeze.

Several rounds of negotiations were held between Slovenia and Croatia and PM Pahor was desperate to show that the dispute is not about Slovenia taking it out on Croatia, but rather that it has legitimate concerns regarding the border dispute. Slovenian position was not helped by the freshly ousted Janša, who vetoed ratification of Croatian NATO entry (a development which ran parallel to the border dispute) and a referendum on that was very nearly called.

And then PM Sanader resigned, Jadranka Kosor succeeded him and suddenly, there was more love between Ljubljana and Zagreb then one could fit into a Dainelle Steel novel. In a relatively short period of time (and with a little help from our EU friends, most notably Commisioner Olli Rehn) an agreement was trashed out, which set forth the rules by which the dispute is to be solved. It was to become known as the Arbitrage Agreement, the Pahor-Kosor Agreement or as the Stockholm Agreement

The Shit

There are a couple of neat things regarding this particular piece of paper, linked above:

Firstly, in Article 5 it sets the date of declaration of independence as the critical date. This means that the ad-hoc arbitrage court will accept situation on the ground as it was on 25 June 1991 as reference. No unilateral decision by either country will count any more. Technically this means that whatever territorial “gains” either side may have made in the last twenty years, they became null and void and that the whole process of drawing borders in the disputed areas will begin from square one.
Secondly, there are the infamous articles 3 and 4. The former stipulates the subjects of the arbitrage, while the latter stipulates the methods used in reaching the decision. In short, it dictates combines use of international law, equity and good neighbourly relations to achieve a fair result, taking into account all relevant circumstances.

And finally, there’s the word “junction” which pengovsky already detailed in yesterday’s post. Apparently, junction doesn’t have a specific meaning in the international law. Opponents of the arbitrage agreement point to this as the main flaw of the Agreement, hence liberal applications of words like “incompetence”, “treason”, “betrayal” and what not.

But in reality this is the beauty of this document. Since there is no convention (in the sense of “common usage”) on this word, the arbitrary court can twist and turn it, to try to come up with a solution that will enable Slovenia and Croatia to both have the cake and eat it. How exactly this will be achieved remains to be seen, but the point is that by using an unconventional word, possibility for an unconventional solution opens. Had Pahor and Kosor agreed on a more conventional word (like “passage” or “direct contact”) one of the two parties would have given in by default.

International law

Opponents of the Agreement are quick to point out that according to Article 4, item (a), the court will use international law to decide the maritime border, and then proceed from that point on to see what can be done to grant Slovenia access to high seas. But, so goes their reasoning, since the border will by then have already been drawn down the middle of the Bay of Piran, there will be bupkis that could be done for Slovenia, so we will have lost. Tough shit.

However, what opponents of the Agreement fail (or refuse) to see is to understand that articles (and indeed the entire document) must be read holistically and not only item by item. Meaning that *while* border between Slovenia and Croatia will be drawn by using international law, Slovenian direct access to high seas will be decided using other methods. Not *after* not instead, but while.

Even more: the dreaded phrase “use of international law” is actually much more up Slovenia’s alley than it may seem at first glance. Namely, international law is nothing else than a body of multi-lateral conventions and bi-lateral agreements. There is no world police to enforce international law it is not an accepted and rigid code by which everyone plays, but rather an ever changing mass of legal text which can bear more or less relevance to the matter at hand.

And this is where the Agreement becomes important. The moment it is ratifies, the Agreement will become international law and will as such be used as a legal reference point in solving the dispute. And since the document widens the manoeuvring area, it may become possible to still use international law (with Agreement now a part of it) and not necessarily claim that it prescribes the maritime border be drawn down the middle of the bay.

It is a neat trick, but to understand it, one needs to realize that international law does not necessarily follow the same logic as domestic law.

A Gamble of Galactic Proportions

It would be wrong to say that the result of the Agreement is a foregone conclusion. It isn’t. But we’re closer to a solution both countries can live with than we ever were in the past, with the possible exception of Drnovšek-Račan agreement. But one thing is for certain. If a satisfactory solution is solved (and this document goes to great lengths to point out that a fair decision must be reached), then the Slovenian political right lost a big source of cheap votes.

No longer will marched “on the South border” be held, no longer will police stand-offs be a convenient way to divert public attention. And no longer will the border issue be a free-for-all political platform in that political menstrual cycle we – for the lack of a better word – call elections.

Even more: In Slovenia at least, removing the border issue will most definitely put at least one political party at peril. Slovene People’s Party (SLS) of Radovan Žerjav is life-threateningly dependant on continuation of the dispute. They put all of their political eggs (note that I did not use the word balls) in one basket and now it is being taken away. No more dispute, no more SLS.

The situation is only slightly better with Janez Janša’s SDS. In all honesty, the largest opposition party is not nearly as much dependant on this issue, but as it tries to dominate the political right wing, the party and its leader have moved further to the right on this issue, so solving the dispute would mean a major drawback in voter animation and a lot of resources go to waste.
Curiously enough, the only one who will probably not get hurt either way, is Zmago Jelinčič of Slovene National Party. Although the leader of nationalists is currently farting in Croatia’s general direction, he and his »post-modern« politics are just as capable of supporting Croatia and even demanding the Slovenian constitution be amended to include special rights for Croatian minority in Slovenia. Whatever brings votes 😀

On the others side of the aisle, however, the stakes are even higher. Should PM Pahor pull this off and achieve a favourable result, he would have achieved probably the only remaining “holy grail” of Slovene foreign policy and quite rightly enter the history books. Which would be all the more stunning given the fact that a lot of people did not think he’d last a year in office. Pahor was right the other day when he said that part of Janša’s opposition has to do with the fact that Janša failed, while Pahor came oh so fucking close to heaven.

The Deal

So, what decision will the court reach? No one knows and those who say they do, are either presumptuous morons or lying bastards. Probably both. However, since most of you already think of pengovsky as a moronic presumptuous lying bastard, I’ll give it a shot 🙂

Despite the fact that the Agreement gives the court ample room to manoeuvre, there is only so much it can do. The closest two countries ever came to a deal was the oft-cited Drnovšek – Račan deal (see picture above) and it seems reasonable, that the court will revisit it. However, that will likely be the starting point, rather than the end of the arbitrary process. Proponents and opponents of the agreement in Slovenia are spewing ash and sulphur at each other at the rate that would make Eyjafjallajökull blush. More on that and on the latest polls tomorrow, but in all the brouhaha one thing sort of vanished from the radar: the possibility of a condominium.

Pengovsky has a hunch that what the court will look at is the possibility of declaring the famed “Drnovšek-Račan” corridor a condominium instead of declaring it a part of the high seas (as per the above agreement). I’m not saying that it will happen, I’m just saying that it might very well happen, because there’s only so much you can do to have the cake and eat it.
By declaring the corridor a condominium, both countries would exercise full sovereignty over that particular strip of the sea. Slovenia would have sovereignty over the part of sea which has direct contact with international waters, while Croatia would at the same time maintain a direct maritime border with Italy.

Tune in tomorrow, to see how the two sides are faring ten days before the referendum, what the polls are saying and why “defenders of holy Slovene soil” have such a hard time accepting the fact that the issue might actually get resolved.

Fuck You, Kids! Why On Earth Was Yesterday Necessary?!

Student protests gone out of control in Ljubljana, Slovenia from pengovsky on Vimeo.

Some 15.000 students and pupils protested against proposed reform of student work in Slovenia. Protests started in Prešernov trg, but were then – presumably for added effect – continued in front of the Parliament. It is there where situation slipped out of control and all hell broke loose.

After some 15 minutes people started throwing everything they could get their hands on. Rocks, stick, bottles and even chairs were being hurled at cops and into the Parliament. By underage kids! Most of these brats were born after 1991!

What Ljubljana witnessed yesterday was not an outpour of crisis-fueled rage or misery. These kids go to school, do their homework, take tests and have crushes. They are not unemployed, without future or socially disenfranchised. What we’ve seen was a joyride of vandalism, alcohol induced courage and herding instinct by a generation used to getting away with anything.

And for no apparent reason other than the fact that a law is being proposed which would introduce some changes to the field in dire need of regulation. Student work in Slovenia has spiralled out of control and is far from the social corrective it once was. Even worse, most of these kids would be far better off with the new legislation, not in the least because it would allow them to start accumulating pension and welfare benefits as well as officially recognised work experience much earlier, making them much more competitive in the labour market once they graduated.

While I can understand that the above can be a bit much for a 17-year-old to grasp, I can not understand what makes that same kid pick up a stone and hurl it against a building he never even entered. OK, so you’re seventeen and you hate authority. You hate teachers, you hate cops, you even hate the fucking janitor of your building because he represents a system that you’re suppose to fit in.

But while object flew above my head and into robocops’ shields, pengovsky tried to find some logical explanation for all the brutality and rage. And I could find none. They’re not being forced into anything. Funding of school meals is to be altered a bit, but hey, do you really need to fuck up the parliament because state subsidy for your meal drops from 0.8 to 0.6 euro? Do you have to go after robocops with a stick because you’re not allowed to work more than178 hours per month? Do you dig up granite cubes and hurl them through a window because the hourly wage for student work will now start at 4 euro?

Yesterday looked just like any other protest we’ve seen on TV lately. And I suspect that is part of the problem. These kids are great at aping things. They’re great at aping whatever subculture they belong to. They’re great at repeating one liners and moves they’ve seen others do. Pengovsky was, for example, repeatedly told to “stop filming” and then threatened with having his balls broken if he didn’t turn the camera off. Palm-to-the-camera move included. But ideas you cannot ape. You either have them and believe in them or you don’t. And they don’t.

Yesterday made no sense. Not to me and I suspect not to those kids either. But they did it anyway. Because they felt they could. And that they’ll – yet again – get away with it.

I wasn’t angry yesterday. I was just sad.

The Definitive Guide to the Arbitrage Agreement Between Slovenia and Croatia, pt. 1

Since this is the hot topic in Slovenia at the moment, as well as since pengovsky was slacking lately, it is only fair to give you the low-down on the whole shebang and brings you up do speed on the issue. In (at least) two-part series 🙂


Croatia, as seen from Slovenia. The 200 metres in between constitute the disputed area.

The story so far

As you know, Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor signed the co-called Stockholm agreement, which ended months of Slovenian blockade of Croatian EU accession negotiations. The agreement itself sent sparks flying on both sides of the border, with Croatian and Slovenian opposition accusing their respective governments of selling out national interests to the other side.

After some serious political wrestling south of the border, Croatian parliament ratified the agreement with a required two-thirds majority upon which the ball was in Slovenian court and things started slowing down. First, the government of Borut Pahor, weakened by a series of more or less serious scandals and – combined with mounting burden of the economic crisis – becoming increasingly unpopular and painted as incompetent asked the Constitutional to rule on the constitutionality of the issue. The Court took its time, but in the end reached an overwhelming 8-1 decision saying that the agreement itself does not violate the constitution, as it sets forth a mechanism to decide on the maritime (and other disputed areas) of the border.

As the Arbitrage Agreement is “only” a bilateral agreement between two countries and not yet the actual decision on the border, Slovenian parliament ratified it with an ordinary majority. Naturally, this was done over vocal protest of the opposition, which claimed that a 2/3 majority is needed, given the sensitivity of the issue. But parliamentary Rules and Procedures are clear on the issue and a vote on the agreement was split down the coalition/opposition line.

Following the ratification, the government decided to call a referendum on the issue. Truth be told, the coalition at first mulled a preliminary (and non-binding) referendum which would have to take place prior to the vote in the parliament, but following a strong support by the Constitutional Court it backed down on its word, realizing that a consecutive (and legally binding) referendum would be called regardless. If not by the government, then by the opposition. After all it only needs 30 MP votes to demand a referendum. In the end 87 out of 90 MPs voted for holding a referendum on the issue. Well, actually there are 89 MPs at the moment, as Srečko Prijatelj of SNS is still in detention pending criminal charges 😀

And so the referendum is to be held on Sunday 6 June. Should it pass, the parliament would only have to find that the law on ratification of the Agreement was supported and that the agreement is ratified.


But the result of the referendum is far from being a foregone conclusion. Initial polls showed a marked support in favour of the agreement, which has been dropping slowly even since. This more or less corresponded with occurrence of another phenomenon: a huge increase in density of English language specialists per square metre in this country.

It all boiled down to one word: junction. Article 3, item b of the agreement says that one of the tasks of the ad-hoc arbitrage court is to decide junction of Slovene terrotirial waters to high seas. As the court will use an English version of the agreement as its roadmap, it should be next to irrelevant as to how exactly “junction” translates into either Slovenian or Croatian. Of course, it isn’t irrelevant and soon everybody and his brother was in the business of explaining the meaning of the word “junction” to everyone else, who naturally had their own competing theories.

But the bottom line is this: while the government and its supporters claim that “junction” means physical contact of Slovene territorial waters with the high sears, the opposition sees it differently and points out that there is no mention of “physical” contact and interprets the text as pre-empting any form of a direct contact with the high seas and limits Slovenia to a right of passage only.

High Treason, Historical Injustice and Greater Slovenia

In Slovenia opposition to the arbitrage agreement ranges from legal interpretations of the text, which invariably claim that the ad-hoc court will rule in favour of Croatia, i.e. will draw the border down the middle of the Bay of Piran, effectively limiting Slovenia to its insignificant pond of Adriatic Sea. But to prevent things to get too boring and scholarly, accusations of high treason, betrayal of national interests and collaboration with the occupator are being thrown in the supporters’ general direction.

The general claim – as demonstrated by SDS leader and former PM Janez Janša the other day – goes along the lines of Slovenia being constantly pushed around by foreign powers. After 1918, the argument goes, Slovenia lost parts of Carynthia. After 1945 we lost Trieste. After 1954, when the question of Free Trieste Territory was being settled, we lost Savudrija and parts of Istria. And now, we are willingly giving up what little we have left.

What the fuck!?

Exactly. Not only is the above sentiment historically incorrect, it also creates an unhealthy aura of Slovenia having territorial claims against its neighbours. And while one is always tempted to poke Italians with cries of “Trst je naš!” (Trieste is ours!), especially during football matches, it is beyond imagimation that Slovenia would try to “right the historical wrongs”, either by making demands against Austria and Italy, or by taking it out on Croatia.

You see, Slovenia never had Austrian Carynthia. It also never had Trieste and it never had Savudrija, much less entire Northern Istria. What it did have, was police jurisdiction over entire Bay of Piran, as well as spatial planning jurisdiction over four hamlets located on the disputed area around The River Dragonja estuary, at the mouth of the Bay of Piran. So, invoking 19th century rhetoric serves little purpose but to spread hate speech, historical fallacies not unlike those which fuelled the Balkan wars.

So, what’s the beef, for real?

Simple, actually. Slovenia claims to have access to high seas, both on the grounds that it is a seafaring nation as well as the fact that it had such access while it was a sovereign part of Yugoslavia. On the other hand, Croatia claims that it had always had a maritime border with Italy, since it had it as a part of Yugoslavia.

And since both countries draw continuity from the former federal state, they are technically both entitled to their claims, especially since there were no maritime borders between the republics of former Yugoslavia. But the geography of the Bay of Piran is such that using conventional approaches one of the parties in the dispute inevitably loses. Thus, an unorthodox solution is needed.

To find out what exactly was on the table, how we got here, why Arbitrage Agreement is better than many would have you believe and why others will rather gnaw their arm off then see it become a reality, tune in tomorrow 😀

I’m All Out Of Gum

Contrary to some reports, is still operational. I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum. But since real life still does take priority over this blog, the deluge of posts y’all have been used to slowed down to a trickle. But things will eventually get back to normal. At any rate, there’s lots to write about. Campaigning for referendum on the arbitrage agreement has barely begun and yet punches below the belt are already thick on the ground. Then there’s “malo delo” (no, Camille, I haven’t forgotten 😀 ), some overall analysis is overdue as well, not to mention the post on the city so nice they had to name it twice.

But I guess you’ll have to put up mostly with nudity this week. Poor you. :mrgreen:

P.S.: thanks to cookie for a great movie quote.