Plenković’s Decisions

Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatian Government reiterated on Wednesday, July 5, at an extraordinary Government session, that he defended national interest, state territory and borders. He added, on the occasion the well known sentence, that has almost turned into a slogan, that the Arbitration Agreement on the solving of border disputes with Croatia is totally unacceptable, compromised and non-binding for Croatia. Even though it seemed that we have heard all so far, Plenković’s messages was different this time. Actually, despite the identical contents, it was, also, totally different from what we have heard over past two years. Namely, for the first time, it was not intended for Slovenia. And that was the key difference. The President’s Wednesday evening performance, first of all, addressed the European Commission in Brussels and the domestic public. All expectations that the EC President Jean–Claude Juncker would say on Tuesday, i.e. one day earlier, that the decision and the ruling of the Arbitration Court are nothing special and that, as such, they should not be taken with full political seriousness, were naive. Not only because of the very contents of the dispute on which the Arbitration Court decided, but, primarily, because of the consequences of the potential relativisation of the ruling and the international legal order. Namely, any dilemma of the European Commission regarding the ruling would represent a dangerous call to the authorities of Western Balkans to distance and withdraw from all signed international agreements that are not in accordance with their political will. Or they are actually very obliging because of their contents. And that is precisely the key difference and importance of the Croatian letter of request sent to the International Arbitration Court to reach the final judgement on disputable border issues. Namely, all previous attempts and long-lasting negotiations with Croatia were simply interrupted at one point. They were simply cancelled. Prime Minister, PhD Janez Drnovšek, who led the negotiations almost since Slovenia became independent, indeed believed that the disputable issues could be solved through negotiations only. And he was disappointed. First it was when, ahead of the finalisation of talks, they said that the talks with Croatia’s then Prime Minister PhD Nikica Valentić, as ordered by President PhD Franjo Tuđman, became futile and that they had to be terminated immediately, as such. Drnovšek was convinced then that he and Valentić had enough political strength and even more than that, that they fully trusted one another as prime ministers, so they were capable of concluding the negotiations. And they essentially did it. Negotiations with PhD Ivica Račan followed. They were also, as regards their contents, concluded and verified with paraphs, yet, Račan could not withstand strong internal opposition and the threats of downing the Government. He had to deny and recall all talks and negotiations with Slovenia. Then, Drnovšek, already in the capacity of the President of the State, tried to continue seeking solutions with Croatia’s President Stipe Mesić. He sought all sorts of compromise and offered solutions. Yet, he simply chose not to go to his last meeting with Mesić. He stayed at home.

Croatia would simply cancel all negotiations with Slovenia immediately before their conclusion and, after short breaks, propose new beginning. Therefore, the agreement on the arbitration of the then Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor was indeed a turning point. The formal agreement was possible to reach also because of the advice that the US administration and US President Barrack Obama gave to Prime Minister Kosor, telling her to keep all of her activities secret. On the contrary, it was such an estimation, influential domestic politicians prevented its signing. And there was only one reason for that, because, for the first time before the start of talks, it was required to accept and sign all necessary international liabilities guaranteeing that the state would respect the ruling. So that was not meant to be a bilateral agreement on the border issue that could be terminated without considerable damage whenever estimated that the talks were no longer necessary. That, for the first time, there would be much more than that .Therefore, I think that a part of the Croatian politicians, started seeking ways and path, the same moment when the agreement on arbitration was signed, how to terminate it even before the reaching of the verdict.

And it was precisely that part of the Croatian political scene that was addressed by Plenković on Wednesday evening, July 5.Croatian Prime Minister simply dares not realistically estimate the new conditions after the arbitration decision and the unambiguous opinion of the best connected European countries and, also, of the European Commission, that the internationally recognised ruling must be observed and implemented. The reason for that is primarily the re-actualisation of the event that took place in July 2009.It was then that, with all power and authority that he had combined in his offices, the Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader resigned. He would explain then and later that the reason for his resignation was Slovenia’s behaviour and blackmailing over the sea border issue. First book of his memoirs was promoted in Zagreb yesterday and it will be an interesting reading. Dispute of Slovenia is one of reasons why it is so. Yet, it is interesting, first of all to his successor on the position of the strongest parliamentary and ruling party and on the PM post, Andrej Plenković, who cannot neglect the fact that Sanader promotes his book of the last defender of the state interests and the territorial integrity of Croatia from the appetites of the neighbouring state. So he was the last one who knew how to negotiate with Slovenia. Of course, I do not mean that he is preparing to return to Croatian politics. Yet, he encourages warm and benevolent memory in all those who would become dissatisfied and would rebel in their parties in case of Plenković recognising new post-arbitration facts. Former Prime Minister and party leader literally sets the limitation for the new president.

Therefore, Croatian PM can only propose new bilateral talks to Slovenia. And he will probably arrive with such a proposal for his talks in Ljubljana with Slovenian Prime Minister PhD Miro Cerar next week. Yet, it will essentially be insufficient for any step forward. Prime Minister Plenković will simply have to put an end to that repeating and accept new reality. And it says only one thing and it is that only the neighbouring state must accept and implement the arbitration ruling. After this, only political talks of the two neighbouring states are possible. Everything else is déjà vu. PhD Cerar first received support for such a stance from the European Commission and leaders of all parliamentary parties. And an unprecedented German support in Slovenia-Croatia relations.

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