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2003-09-02 16:03:00
Embassy Zagreb
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 001903 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2013

Classified By: Economic Officer Isabella Detwiler for reasons 1.5 b and


1. (C) Relations between Croatia and Slovenia have taken
another downward plunge over Croatia's announced intention to
declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea.
The Slovenian ambassador to Croatia has apparently been
recalled. The Croatian MFA presented the Croatian point of
view to the diplomatic corps in Zagreb September 2, arguing
that Croatia was within its rights to declare an EEZ, while
it fully intended to consult with Slovenia and other
interested parties. Meanwhile, the Slovenian Economic
Counselor in Zagreb attributed the strong Slovenian reaction
to a mixture of built-up fatigue at the lack of
professionalism of Croatian diplomacy and concern over
possible economic losses in fisheries and natural gas
exploration. End Summary.

Greener than Thou


2. (SBU) Deputy Foreign Minister Simonovic passed two
non-papers to the assembled diplomatic corps September 2 (to
be transmitted septel. The MFA apparently called the meeting
in response to a similar meeting called by the MFA in
Ljubljana the day before). He described the Croatian
proposal to declare an EEZ as motivated principally by a
concern for the environment of the Adriatic and especially
fisheries. He described alternative proposals for fishery
zones or ecological zones as insufficent and not clearly
defined under international law. Simonovic made no mention
of exploitation of gas deposits, although in one of the
non-papers, the GOC asserts that the 1968 Agreement between
Italy and SFRY delimits rights concerning exploration and
exploitation of natural resources of the sea-bed (we will
seek clarification).

"Irrational Escalation"


3. (SBU) Simonovic denied that the GOC had refused to
consult with the government of Slovenia on the issue, and
instead accused the GoS of delaying consultations, then
downgrading the level of representation at the upcoming
September 16 meeting to a level which would not help to move
the process forward. He claimed Croatia had even previewed
the EEZ concept to all the relevant parties in Athens June
19-20 at a preparatory meeting for the EU Summit. No
objections were registered. For Slovenia to be crying foul
now was "an irrational escalation" of the issue.

4. (SBU) In what may be the key area of dispute, the GOC
argued that Slovenia does not have the right to declare an
EEZ, apparently because Slovenia's territorial seas are
hemmed in on all sides by Italian and Croatian territorial
waters -- an assertion that Slovenia contests, based mostly
on historic access to the open sea. Simonovic pooh-poohed

the Slovenian assertion that no EEZ could be declared without
Ljubljana's consent and without ratification of the moribund
Croatian-Slovenian border agreement. This agreement was
initialed in 2001 on the Prime Minister's personal
instructions on the Croatian side by the head of border
commission. However, it was repudiated formally by the
government of Croatia after it received a hostile reception
by the public and the parliament.

Par for the Course for a "Banana Republic"


5. (C) In a previously scheduled meeting on September 2 with
the Slovenian economic counselor in Zagreb, Riana Benko, we
heard quite a different story. Benko passed over a Slovenian

non-paper on the issue (faxed to desk, L and OES). Benko
decried what she described as just the latest in unneighborly
acts by Croatia. She listed the failure of Croatia to ratify
the border agreement with Slovenia as just one of a series of
unfulfilled commitments. Croatia was not acting seriously,
she stressed, but rather like a "banana republic." Slovenia
was informed of important initiatives through the media,
rather than official channels (comment: we have experienced
the same pattern of communication ourselves).

6. (C) Benko made a perhaps contradictory argument that
Slovenia recognizes that Croatia has a right to declare an
EEZ, but it has the duty to consult first (the non-paper is
more categorical that "the Republic of Slovenia has
throughout advocated the view that the proclamation of an
exclusive economic zone requires the consent by all the
states concerned." Benko said Slovenia was historically a
seafaring nation, and would not have its traditional "sea"
reduced to a "lake." She freely admitted that Slovenia had
interests not only in fisheries and the environment, but
perhaps "most importantly," in possible gas deposits in the
Northern Adriatic (Croatia's INA and Italian Agip are
currently exploring for gas in areas somewhat to the south of
the intersection of extensions of Croatian, Italian and
Slovenian borders). Benko sounded genuinely hurt by
Croatia's perceived ingratitude for all of Slovenia's help
with Croatia's EU accession, and noted that such help could
be affected by Croatia's actions on the EEZ.

7. (C) We asked if she was heartened by the meeting of
experts scheduled for September 16. Benko expressed
pessimism, because she felt the GOC had made it difficult,
politically, to take a step back and compromise. In its
non-paper, the GOS states "the proposed level of heads of
legal departments is presently sufficient. There is no need
for political meetings that could later be interpreted by
Croatia as consultations with the Republic of Slovenia."
What then did Slovenia seek? Benko said all five countries
involved (Italy, Slovenia, SaM, Croatia and Albania) should
consult and come up with a way to share the resources. We
asked if the EU supported this approach. Benko hesitated,
then ventured that "one member -- Italy -- has its own

EU Keeping Out of It, Sort of


8. (C) We asked a contact at the EU mission for its view on
the brouhaha. Martin Mayer, political advisor, noted the EU
did not have competence in the area of EEZs, which were
authorized by the UN in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the
Seas. The EU recognized the right of states to declare an
EEZ, but felt it should be done in consultation with affected
states. The EU had offered to mediate if asked by both
parties, recognizing there were no clear legal guidelines.
Mayer hoped that an EU conference on Mediterrean fisheries in
November would be another forum for discussion with various



9. (C) Although the Croatians may have dropped the
diplomatic ball, they do seem to have a fair legal case. The
Croatians and Slovenians will have to work this out among
themselves, although an EU offer to mediate may help.