New Approaches to Solving Complex Sovereignty and Delimitation Disputes at Sea: Arbitration between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia

Discussion with Vasilka Sancin, Associate Professor of International Law and Vice Dean for Quality Assurance, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Law in Slovenia.

​After more than a quarter of a century since their independence, Slovenia and Croatia are still in a process of finalizing their land and maritime border, at the same time constituting one of external borders of the Schengen Area, and although both states are now European Union members, Slovenia is a part of the Schengen system, and Croatia is not.

After many years and several unsuccessful attempts of trying to reach a mutually acceptable solution through bilateral negotiations and resort to third-party diplomatic procedures, Slovenia and Croatia in 2009, with the facilitation of the European Union, signed the Arbitration Agreement, submitting their dispute to an ad hoc arbitration. The arbitral proceedings took an unexpected turn in the summer of 2015, when the Serbian and Croatian press accused the Slovenia-appointed arbitrator to have held ex parte communications with Slovenia’s agent. As a consequence, the Slovenia-appointed arbitrator and, soon thereafter, also the Croatia-appointed arbitrator, resigned as arbitrators.

The Tribunal was reconstituted with appointments of new members and continued its work. Croatia, however, disregarding the Tribunal’s finding in its 2016 Partial Award that it had not only the authority but also the duty to settle the land and maritime dispute which was submitted to it, maintains that the Arbitration agreement has been terminated. The Arbitral Tribunal rendered its Final Award on 29 June 2017, using, among others, a specific mandate given to it by the parties and finding an innovative approach towards resolving one of the most contentious issues for politics and general public of both States, i.e. determination of the Junction Area, connecting Slovenia to the High Sea. The Award still awaits its full implementation, as Croatia continues to reject its validity and Slovenia is considering possible responses, including initiating proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, due to Croatia’s infringements of the EU law emanating from noncompliance with the final and binding award.

About the Speaker

Vasilka Sancin PhD, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Law - Associate Professor of International Law, Vice Dean for Quality Assurance, Head of Department of International Law and Director of the Institute for International Law and International Relations; President of the Slovene Branch of International Law Association (ILA); Spring 2018: Visiting Professor at the UCLA School of Law

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