THE briefly outlines the maritime border dispute rising from

THE PIRAN BAY
MARITIME CONFLICT: HISTORICAL CONTEXT

 

The delegation of
Slovenia recognizes that natural resources significantly undercurrent hostility
between nations, particularly when their ownership is contested. Natural
resources have historically acted as a catalyst for conflict,
and unfortunately, continue to do so in the present day. This case study
briefly outlines the maritime border dispute rising from the geopolitical
significance of the Piran Bay, which fuels friction between the nations of
Slovenia and Croatia. The land divisions between the nations, preceding their
declarations of independence, existed. Albeit administrative in nature, they
were eventually deemed to be definite state borders upon the establishment of
two new nations, independent from the former Yugoslavia1. However,
unlike the land borders, sea borders amongst the Yugoslav republics were not
present historically, and thus the Piran Bay and its right of possession has
been contested.

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Having recognized
the complexity of the issue, then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and
Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor signed an arbitration agreement 2
in November 2009 with the arbitration process starting in The Hague in June
2014. The Permanent Court 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 withdrew from the process
entirely. This unduly causes pressure on Slovenia, both in terms of its people
as well as in terms of foreign policy.

 

 

SOCIOPOLITICAL CLAIMS: SLOVENIA’S POLICY POSITION

The
disputed Piran Bay has two conflicting desired verdicts which both refer to the
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 153
that states:

‘Where the coasts of two States are opposite or
adjacent to each other, neither of the two States is entitled, failing
agreement between them to the contrary, to extend its territorial sea beyond
the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on
the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial seas of each of the two
States is measured. The above provision does not apply, however, where it is
necessary by reason of historic title or other special circumstances to delimit
the territorial seas of the two States in a way which is at variance
therewith.’

In
accordance to the first sentence of the UNCLOS, Croatia appeals (as outlined in
the Position of the Republic of Croatia in the Delimitation of the Piran Bay
and Connected Issues of the Dragonja River Area) for the maritime border to be
mapped in correspondence to the principle of equidistance; this means that
Croatia ideally favors for a border in the middle of the Piran Bay. However,
Slovenia recognizes the latter section of the UNCLOS, stating that the
equidistance proposition is simply not applicable in this case because the
Slovenia-Croatia conflict is a ‘special circumstance’ 45.
Slovenia stands by its claim for the four following reason:

Slovenia recognizes sovereignty over the whole of the
Piran Bay

Slovenia
draws attention to the fact that it has historically practiced juridiction over
the Piran Bay; its authority over the area 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 federation
as well as after its independence. In addition to this, the legal evidence of
its jurisdiction can be found in the ‘Instruction of the Police Directorate of
the Republic of Slovenia’.78 As a
result, Slovenia recognizes that due to its economic and police control in the
Bay area prior to and post its independence, it holds the right to continue
exercising its jurisdiction.

The equidistant approach is not applicable

Slovenia
yields that the Croatia-Slovenia conflict is a special circumstance, which is
why the former part of article 15 in the UNCLOS is not applicable. Slovenia
reinforces that the conflict is a special circumstance because if the
equidistant approach comes into force, then Slovenia will have no access to
international waters, while Croatia’s key demand is to maintain maritime
borders with Italy.45 Slovenia proposes that both of these
demands can be met by following the latter section of article 15 in UNCLOS and
adopting the principle of equity instead.

Such
a resolution did come in to play on 20th July 2001 through the
Drnvosek 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 maritime
borders with Italy and Slovenia would get its corridor to international waters.10
Despite the agreement being signed, the Croatian population contested it,
causing the solution to never come into practice. However, Slovenia believes
that the agreement was iron bond due to it being signed by both parties as per
Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which states that:

“the consent 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.”9

Therefore,
it becomes evident that this is a ‘special circumstance; and hence an
equidistant approach is not applicable.

The Historical important of the Piran Bay to Slovenia

The UNCLOS states that “reason of historic title” is
justified to enact the principle of equity. Historical documents from the
Catholic Church reveal that the Savudrija Peninsula always belonged to the
bishopric of Koper which is presently within Slovenian territory. This confirms
that the Piran Bay is a historical bay belonging to Slovenia.11

Population Density

The
population density on the Slovenian side of the Piran Bay is heavily populated;
around 800,000 people reside within that area. Thus, the Slovenian control over
the whole Piran Bay is justified, in order for Slovenia to best serve its
people.11

 

LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Slovenia
recognizes three possible verdicts to resolve the matter at hand:

1.     
Due to Croatia’s
rejection of the arbitrary ruling in 2017, Slovenia recommends there to be open
dialogue between both nations through meetings and conferences. Slovenia hopes
that this will lead to favorable relations in which any underlying hostility is
eliminated. This will enable negotiations that will hopefully refer back to the
2001 agreement of Drnvosek Racan; in which Slovenia keeps access to high seas
and Croatia keeps its territorial contact with Italy.

2.     
Croatia rejected
the ruling before viewing it, therefore, Slovenia would be willing to reject
the arbitrary ruling as well in the case that Croatia forms a new ruling that
functions as more favorable to Slovenia than the original one. In the new
verdict Croatia formulates to bring to the table, Slovenia is willing to compromise
on two grounds. Firstly, Slovenia is willing to compromise the disputed
territory in the Dragonja River valley which is predominantly populated with
Slovenians. Secondly, Slovenia is willing to give Croatia territorial contact
with Italy. Both of these compromises are made in order to receive access to
international waters in exchange. Furthermore, Slovenia suggests referring to
the ‘Osimo border’ in the process of mapping the maritime border.

3.     
Suggests the
adoption of a more complex approach where the maritime borders between Croatia
and Slovenia are eliminated. The solution caters to a more globalized world in
which borders are becoming more symbolic than functional. In terms of the
conflict in the fishing sector, member states have almost delegated all their
sovereign rights to bodies such as the EU which ensure the better exercise of
such practices. As a result, the continuous conflict becomes hollow and empty.

Within this world, Slovenia has the
ability to achieve its goals which include:

•      
Unhampered
functioning of its ports

•      
Preservation of
the sea for the general wellbeing of the local inhabitants

•      
The development of
tourism

             The same is true for Croatia which
achieves:

•      
Preservation of
its environment

•      
High living
standards for its local inhabitants

•      
Direct contact
with Italy

Furthermore, there will be an adoption of
the EU’s four fundamental freedoms to solve the problems faced by local
fishermen and the EU citizenship will be granted to individuals living within
the disputed territory. Therefore, this happens to be a peaceful and affective
solution.

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