|06ZAGREB1126||2006-09-15 13:24:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Zagreb|
VZCZCXRO4583 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHVB #1126 2581324 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 151324Z SEP 06 FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6667 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001126
1. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Ambassador raised the recent
flare-up in Croatia's ongoing border dispute with Slovenia
(reftels) on September 15 with MFA State Secretary Hidajet
Biscevic, urging continued high-level communication with
Ljubljana and a measured and non-confrontational approach to
the issue. FM Grabar-Kitarovic's September 15 briefing for
Ambassadors laid out Croatia's case, sparked only minor
debate from the Slovenian Embassy representative, and
reassured those present that the highest levels of both
governments are working to smooth the situation over.
Neither the FM nor the State Secretary mentioned any new or
direct approach to their Slovene counterparts. If both sides
can keep the lid on things until after October 22 Slovenian
local elections, there will then be an opportunity to press
for arbitration in a less highly charged atmosphere. END
SUMMARY AND COMMENT.
2. (C) The brief September 13 detention and release by
Croatian police of a Slovene television crew that reportedly
illegally entered Croatia led both sides to deploy special
police to the area until early on September 15. Two days of
alarming press reports led the Ambassador to raise the issue
with MFA State Secretary Biscevic, urging continued dialog
with Ljubljana. Biscevic agreed and noted that PM Ivo
Sanader is working closely and carefully with Slovenian PM
Janez Jansa to help Jansa manage a difficult internal
political situation. He asserted that the Slovene Minister
of Environment is driving the issue on the Slovenian side of
the border as part of the political jockeying underway prior
to October 22 local elections. Biscevic emphasized that the
dispute was not a crisis. That said, it would not be
resolved quickly either.
3. (U) FM Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic briefed the diplomatic
community on the 15th to ensure EU-member embassies in
particular would hear Zagreb's side of the story, after
Slovene FM Dimitrij Rupel reported the incident to the
European Commission. The FM provided a detailed map and
overview of the work being done on the border, along with a
history of the back-and-forth between the two governments
specifically about the construction work. The area flooded
in 2005, leading the GOC to pursue the necessary construction
without Slovenian involvement. Both sides agree the border
is undetermined in this area. She stressed that the GOC
hoped to resolve these issues through a bilateral agreement.
The FM asserted that the media has misreported and "misused"
the story, and rejected any linkage of the border issue to
Croatia's EU bid.
4. (U) State Secretary Biscevic also spoke to the group,
rejecting any Croatian responsibility for recent events;
emphasizing that Croatia had made no unilateral moves;
denying that there was any political motivation on Croatia's
part; and pointing to measured Croatian responses at every
turn. The Embassy of Slovenia (DCM) reminded everyone of the
September 2 joint statement by the Prime Ministers regarding
the lack of agreement about the border in that area, and on
that basis rejected the GOC assertion that Slovenia police
were on Croatian national territory, which could not be
determined with any certainty. However, he emphasized that
Slovenia has offered all possible support to Croatia's EU
accession, which will be to the benefit of both countries.
The FM expressed her gratitude for that support.
5. (U) Particularly inflammatory for the Croatian public was
press reporting indicating that the Slovenian authorities had
felled trees to block roads in the area. This immediately
brought to mind the timber roadblocks set by ethnic Serbs
when they established the so-called Serb Republic of the
Krajina at the beginning of Croatia's war of independence.