The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Vesna Pusić, sent a letter to the Arbitral Tribunal asking it to give due consideration to Slovenian statements and actions and see to it that the work on the arbitration proceedings conducted to date in accordance with the Arbitration Agreement between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia, is not compromised.
The letter is a reaction to the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia broadcasted by the Slovenian Television on 22 April 2015 concerning the arbitration proceedings.
The statement of the Slovenian Foreign Minister that reads: “According to the information that I have, which is very much unofficial, as well as on the basis of a feeling that our legal team has, being composed of the world's best renowned scholars of the law of the sea, we are somehow optimistic in a way that the Arbitral Tribunal will determine that contact with the high seas.”, is seriously compromising the on-going arbitration proceedings.
It is an unacceptable conduct by Slovenian side in contravention of the provisions of the Arbitration Agreement and an attempt to influence the work of the Arbitral Tribunal and its decision.
We recall that the Slovenian Foreign Minister has already made statements in his public appearances with the objective to – influence the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal. In January 2015, he stated for the TV channel SLO 3 that he „had talks in The Hague last year and I made it very clear there: the Arbitration Agreement determines that the Arbitral Tribunal must determine the contact with the high seas. …… And I made it very clear to the Arbitral Tribunal that if they do not fulfil this task - we in Slovenia shall consider that the Arbitral Tribunal has not executed its mandate. Because the contact with the high seas has not been determined.”
If the Slovenian Foreign Minister referred to his statement made during the hearing before the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague in June 2014, there is no such reference found in the official transcript of his statement addressed to the Arbitral Tribunal, which is presently not available to the public, but will become once the arbitration award is passed.
Croatia requested an official explanation from the Slovenian side and is expecting an unequivocal answer to the question of whether there had been some other communication between the Republic of Slovenia and the Arbitral Tribunal that the Slovenian Foreign Minister is implying when he says that he has „very unofficial information“, and when he said that he conveyed messages to the Arbitral Tribunal, although this is not mentioned on the records of his official communication with the Tribunal.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia reiterates that the arbitration proceedings is still ongoing and that the Arbitration Agreement is in force, which means that Article 10(1) of that Agreement is still applicable, pursuant to which: "Both Parties refrain from any action or statement which might intensify the dispute or jeopardize the work of the Arbitral Tribunal".
The Republic of Slovenia has been repeatedly disrespecting this provision through its statements that are in direct violation of the Arbitration Agreement, and is thereby also attempting to influence the work of the Arbitral Tribunal and its decision. Slovenia has been acting so ever since the Conclusion of the Slovenian Parliament of 4 February 2013, related to the submission of Slovenia's Memorial to the Arbitration Tribunal, stating that: "The Republic of Slovenia declares that the task of the Arbitral Tribunal is to determine territorial contact of the territorial sea of the Republic of Slovenia with the High Seas (contact of Slovenia to the High Seas)" and that Slovenia will consider any decision of the Arbitral Tribunal that would not ensure this as "a decision ultra vires (in contravention of the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal)".
Throughout the proceedings the Republic of Croatia has consistently observed all the provisions of the Arbitration Agreement and only expects the Arbitral Tribunal to do what stems from the Agreement, i.e., to determine the territorial (land and maritime) boundary issues solely by applying international law. It is precisely the application of international law in settling border disputes between States that is essential, not only for the final settlement of the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia but also for the approach to the settlement of other border disputes, particularly between the States that emerged after the dissolution of the former SFRY, and between other States in Southeastern Europe, as well as for the consistent application of international law in border disputes between States in general.