THE PIRAN BAYMARITIME CONFLICT: HISTORICAL CONTEXT The delegation ofSlovenia recognizes that natural resources significantly undercurrent hostilitybetween nations, particularly when their ownership is contested. Naturalresources have historically acted as a catalyst for conflict,and unfortunately, continue to do so in the present day. This case studybriefly outlines the maritime border dispute rising from the geopoliticalsignificance of the Piran Bay, which fuels friction between the nations ofSlovenia and Croatia. The land divisions between the nations, preceding theirdeclarations of independence, existed. Albeit administrative in nature, theywere eventually deemed to be definite state borders upon the establishment oftwo new nations, independent from the former Yugoslavia1.
However,unlike the land borders, sea borders amongst the Yugoslav republics were notpresent historically, and thus the Piran Bay and its right of possession hasbeen contested. Having recognizedthe complexity of the issue, then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor andSlovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor signed an arbitration agreement 2in November 2009 with the arbitration process starting in The Hague in June2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s verdict of the process, which islegally binding in nature, was made publicin June 2017 and has been resisted by Croatia, which withdrew from the processentirely. This unduly causes pressure on Slovenia, both in terms of its peopleas well as in terms of foreign policy.
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SOCIOPOLITICAL CLAIMS: SLOVENIA’S POLICY POSITIONThedisputed Piran Bay has two conflicting desired verdicts which both refer to theUnited Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 153that states:Inaccordance to the first sentence of the UNCLOS, Croatia appeals (as outlined inthe Position of the Republic of Croatia in the Delimitation of the Piran Bayand Connected Issues of the Dragonja River Area) for the maritime border to bemapped in correspondence to the principle of equidistance; this means thatCroatia ideally favors for a border in the middle of the Piran Bay. However,Slovenia recognizes the latter section of the UNCLOS, stating that theequidistance proposition is simply not applicable in this case because theSlovenia-Croatia conflict is a ‘special circumstance’ 45.Slovenia stands by its claim for the four following reason:Slovenia recognizes sovereignty over the whole of thePiran BaySloveniadraws attention to the fact that it has historically practiced juridiction overthe Piran Bay; its authority over the area has been in exercise since the OsimoAccords in 1975,6 and as aresult,it is evident that Slovenia has administrated the area in the former federationas well as after its independence. In addition to this, the legal evidence ofits jurisdiction can be found in the ‘Instruction of the Police Directorate ofthe Republic of Slovenia’.78 As aresult, Slovenia recognizes that due to its economic and police control in theBay area prior to and post its independence, it holds the right to continueexercising its jurisdiction. The equidistant approach is not applicable Sloveniayields that the Croatia-Slovenia conflict is a special circumstance, which iswhy the former part of article 15 in the UNCLOS is not applicable.
Sloveniareinforces that the conflict is a special circumstance because if theequidistant approach comes into force, then Slovenia will have no access tointernational waters, while Croatia’s key demand is to maintain maritimeborders with Italy.45 Slovenia proposes that both of thesedemands can be met by following the latter section of article 15 in UNCLOS andadopting the principle of equity instead.Sucha resolution did come in to play on 20th July 2001 through theDrnvosek Racan agreement between the prime ministers of Croatia and Slovenia.In the signed agreement, Croatia would get 1/3 of the gulf as well as maritimeborders with Italy and Slovenia would get its corridor to international waters.10Despite the agreement being signed, the Croatian population contested it,causing the solution to never come into practice. However, Slovenia believesthat the agreement was iron bond due to it being signed by both parties as perArticle 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which states that:Therefore,it becomes evident that this is a ‘special circumstance; and hence anequidistant approach is not applicable.The Historical important of the Piran Bay to Slovenia The UNCLOS states that “reason of historic title” isjustified to enact the principle of equity. Historical documents from theCatholic Church reveal that the Savudrija Peninsula always belonged to thebishopric of Koper which is presently within Slovenian territory.
This confirmsthat the Piran Bay is a historical bay belonging to Slovenia.11Population DensityThepopulation density on the Slovenian side of the Piran Bay is heavily populated;around 800,000 people reside within that area. Thus, the Slovenian control overthe whole Piran Bay is justified, in order for Slovenia to best serve itspeople.11 LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: POSSIBLE SOLUTIONSSloveniarecognizes three possible verdicts to resolve the matter at hand:1.
Due to Croatia’srejection of the arbitrary ruling in 2017, Slovenia recommends there to be opendialogue between both nations through meetings and conferences. Slovenia hopesthat this will lead to favorable relations in which any underlying hostility iseliminated. This will enable negotiations that will hopefully refer back to the2001 agreement of Drnvosek Racan; in which Slovenia keeps access to high seasand Croatia keeps its territorial contact with Italy.
2. Croatia rejectedthe ruling before viewing it, therefore, Slovenia would be willing to rejectthe arbitrary ruling as well in the case that Croatia forms a new ruling thatfunctions as more favorable to Slovenia than the original one. In the newverdict Croatia formulates to bring to the table, Slovenia is willing to compromiseon two grounds.
Firstly, Slovenia is willing to compromise the disputedterritory in the Dragonja River valley which is predominantly populated withSlovenians. Secondly, Slovenia is willing to give Croatia territorial contactwith Italy. Both of these compromises are made in order to receive access tointernational waters in exchange. Furthermore, Slovenia suggests referring tothe ‘Osimo border’ in the process of mapping the maritime border.
3. Suggests theadoption of a more complex approach where the maritime borders between Croatiaand Slovenia are eliminated. The solution caters to a more globalized world inwhich borders are becoming more symbolic than functional. In terms of theconflict in the fishing sector, member states have almost delegated all theirsovereign rights to bodies such as the EU which ensure the better exercise ofsuch practices. As a result, the continuous conflict becomes hollow and empty. Within this world, Slovenia has theability to achieve its goals which include:• Unhamperedfunctioning of its ports• Preservation ofthe sea for the general wellbeing of the local inhabitants • The development oftourism The same is true for Croatia whichachieves:• Preservation ofits environment • High livingstandards for its local inhabitants • Direct contactwith Italy Furthermore, there will be an adoption ofthe EU’s four fundamental freedoms to solve the problems faced by localfishermen and the EU citizenship will be granted to individuals living withinthe disputed territory.
Therefore, this happens to be a peaceful and affectivesolution.