Zagreb is the capital of Bosnia

Croatia

Marie-Janine Calic

To person

Dr. phil., born 1962; Professor for East and Southeast European History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Department of History, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, 80539 Munich. [email protected]

Of all the countries in the so-called Western Balkans, Croatia has made the greatest progress. Within a few years, a post-conflict society became an EU accession state. But can Croatia also draw a line under its Yugoslav past? Croatia will continue to depend heavily on the stability of its neighbors in the future. Many specific problems that arose from the disintegration of Yugoslavia have not yet been finally resolved. In addition, there is the not yet processed history of the multi-ethnic state and the aftermath of the war of disintegration. Out of their own interest, the Croatians want good relations with their neighbors, but not too close, and certainly not renewed political-institutional ties. For years there were fears that there might be some kind of new edition of the Yugoslav or a new Southeast European state association - and possibly as an alternative to EU membership. Croatia therefore endeavored to maintain a constructive but distanced relationship with the countries in the region. Last but not least, good neighborly relations were seen as an important condition in the EU accession process. But because the other Western Balkan countries are also working towards membership in the European Union and want to leave the past behind them as soon as possible, relations between states have normalized. Only the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo remains tense. Regional cooperation has made good progress, for example through free trade agreements and joint infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, there are still bilateral problems to be solved for Croatia. They mainly affect the neighbors Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Slovenia

There were three major conflicts with Slovenia, which declared independence on the same day as Croatia. The most protracted problem since 1991 has been the demarcation of the state border. It only succeeded after years of expert negotiations and some details have not yet been finalized. [1]

A violent dispute broke out over the sea border in the Gulf of Piran, which was never demarcated during the Yugoslav era. Slovenia laid claim to the entire bay, while Croatia placed the border in the middle according to the international principle of equidistance. Since under this regulation the Croatian and Italian maritime borders would cross directly off the coast, it would have meant that Slovenia would not have had direct access to international waters. The government in Ljubljana accused the Croatians of unlawful claims to Slovenian territory. The dispute went so far that the Slovenian government vetoed the continuation of EU negotiations with Croatia in 2008. [2]

In addition to symbolic politics, the main focus was on fishing rights for deep-sea areas and the economic development opportunities of the Slovenian Adriatic port of Koper, which competes strongly with the Croatian port of Rijeka. [3] In the face of mutual accusations of guilt and strong emotional mobilization, the conflict also took on domestic political dimensions. Croatia was bitter that a single member state could block the entire rapprochement and accession process. So it was in the Union's interest to find a way out of the border dispute. Through their mediation, the opposing parties signed an agreement on November 4, 2009, through which the negotiating blockade could be overcome. They agreed on a five-member European arbitral tribunal that will determine the final borderline once the accession negotiations have been concluded. [4]

Slovenia also used its veto power in another dispute to assert its interests against Croatia. This time it was about the "disappeared" savings deposits of Croatian citizens at the Slovenian Ljubljanska Banka after the break-up of Yugoslavia. About 132,000 Croatian currency savers had lost their deposits when the credit institution went bankrupt in the late 1980s. Slovenia and Croatia have been arguing for years who has to pay for the loss: Slovenia as the owner of the bank or the republics including Croatia as part of the succession negotiations between the successor states of Yugoslavia. Ever since the European Court of Human Rights sentenced Slovenia to reimburse the savings deposits at the bank's foreign branches, the dispute between Croatia and Slovenia over the legal force of the judgment has simmered. Slovenia threatened to delay the ratification of the accession treaty with Croatia if no agreement emerged in the dispute over Ljubljanska Banka. A compromise was not found until the beginning of February 2013. [5]

A third point of contention appears less politically explosive: that of the Krško nuclear power plant, which was built in Yugoslav times and is located on Slovenian territory about 20 kilometers from the border with Croatia. The reactor, which went into operation in 1981, is owned equally by the two republics, but there are constant disputes over the allocation of costs and use. Unlike in the case of borders and savings, however, in this case Slovenia never threatened to block Croatia's accession to the EU.