THE PIRAN BAY MARITIME CONFLICT: HISTORICAL CONTEXT The delegation of Slovenia recognizes thatnatural resources significantly undercurrent hostility between nations,particularly when their ownership is contested. Natural resources havehistorically acted as a catalyst for conflict, andunfortunately, continue to do so in the present day.
This case study brieflyoutlines the maritime border dispute rising from the geopolitical significanceof the Piran Bay, which fuels friction between the nations of Slovenia andCroatia. The land divisions between the nations, preceding their declarationsof independence, existed. Albeit administrative in nature, they were eventuallydeemed to be definite state borders upon the establishment of two new nations,independent from the former Yugoslavia1. However, unlike the landborders, sea borders amongst the Yugoslav republics were not presenthistorically, and thus the Piran Bay and its right of possession has beencontested. Having recognized the complexity of theissue, then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and Slovenian Prime MinisterBorut Pahor signed an arbitration agreement 2 in November 2009with the arbitration process starting in The Hague in June 2014. The PermanentCourt of Arbitration’s verdict of the process, which is legally binding in nature,was made public in June 2017 and has been resisted by Croatia, which withdrewfrom the process entirely. This unduly causes pressure on Slovenia, both interms of its people as well as in terms of foreign policy.
SOCIOPOLITICALCLAIMS: 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 153 that states:’Wherethe coasts of two States are opposite or adjacent to each other, neither of thetwo States is entitled, failing agreement between them to the contrary, toextend its territorial sea beyond the median line every point of which isequidistant from the nearest points on the baselines from which the breadth of theterritorial seas of each of the two States is measured. The above provisiondoes not apply, however, where it is necessary by reason of historic title orother special circumstances to delimit the territorial seas of the two Statesin a way which is at variance therewith.’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:Sloveniarecognizes sovereignty over the whole of the Piran BaySloveniadraws attention to the fact that it has historically practiced juridiction over the Piran Bay; its authority over thearea has been in exercise since the Osimo Accords in 1975,6 and as a result,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 a result, Slovenia recognizes that due toits economic and police control in the Bay area prior to and post itsindependence, it holds the right to continue exercising its jurisdiction. Theequidistant 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:”theconsent of the state to be bound by a treaty may be expressed by signature,exchange of instruments constituting the treaty, ratification, acceptance,approval or accession, or by any other means if so agreed.
“9Therefore,it becomes evident that this is a ‘special circumstance; and hence anequidistant approach is not applicable.TheHistorical 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.11PopulationDensityThepopulation 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 LOOKINGINTO THE FUTURE: POSSIBLE SOLUTIONSSloveniarecognizes three possible verdicts to resolve the matter at hand:1.
Due to Croatia’s rejection of thearbitrary ruling in 2017, Slovenia recommends there to be open dialogue betweenboth nations through meetings and conferences. Slovenia hopes that this willlead to favorable relations in which any underlying hostility is eliminated.This will enable negotiations that will hopefully refer back to the 2001agreement of Drnvosek Racan; in which Slovenia keeps access to high seas andCroatia keeps its territorial contact with Italy. 2. Croatia rejected the ruling beforeviewing it, therefore, Slovenia would be willing to reject the arbitrary rulingas well in the case that Croatia forms a new ruling that functions as morefavorable to Slovenia than the original one. In the new verdict Croatiaformulates to bring to the table, Slovenia is willing to compromise on twogrounds.
Firstly, Slovenia is willing to compromise the disputed territory inthe Dragonja River valley which is predominantly populated with Slovenians.Secondly, Slovenia is willing to give Croatia territorial contact with Italy. Bothof these compromises are made in order to receive access to internationalwaters in exchange. Furthermore, Slovenia suggests referring to the ‘Osimoborder’ in the process of mapping the maritime border.
3. Suggests the adoption of a more complexapproach where the maritime borders between Croatia and Slovenia areeliminated. The solution caters to a more globalized world in which borders arebecoming more symbolic than functional. In terms of the conflict in the fishingsector, member states have almost delegated all their sovereign rights tobodies such as the EU which ensure the better exercise of such practices. As aresult, the continuous conflict becomes hollow and empty.
Withinthis world, Slovenia has the ability to achieve its goals which include:• Unhampered functioning of its ports• Preservation of the sea for thegeneral wellbeing of the local inhabitants • The development of tourism The same is true for Croatia whichachieves:• Preservation of its environment • High living standards for its localinhabitants • Direct contact with Italy Furthermore,there will be an adoption of the EU’s four fundamental freedoms to solve theproblems faced by local fishermen and the EU citizenship will be granted toindividuals living within the disputed territory. Therefore, this happens to bea peaceful and affective solution.