This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001903
STATE PASS L/ASHLEY ROACH AND OES/BOB SMITH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2013 TAGS: PREL PBTS PHSA EWWT EFIS SENV HR SUBJECT: TENSIONS MOUNT OVER CROATIAN INTENT TO DECLARE EEZ IN ADRIATIC
Classified By: Economic Officer Isabella Detwiler for reasons 1.5 b and d
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).
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 interests."
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 parties.
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. FRANK