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A report by the German weekly Der Spiegel found the European Commission ignored its own legal service’s findings that Croatia broke the EU law by rejecting the ruling on its border dispute with Slovenia. The report has caused quite a stir in Slovenia.

Last week Die Spiegel published a report based on the documents it received which show the European Commission did not follow the recommendations of its legal service on the border dispute ruling regarding Slovenia and Croatia. The legal recommendations concluded that by refusing to enforce the arbitration ruling, Croatia violated the EU law. The Commission, however, didn’t act on it and decided to stay out of the territorial dispute.

The Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker has since come under a lot of criticism from a number of Slovenia’s politicians who accuse him of giving preference to political calculus over the rule of law, and hence setting an alarming precedent. In a response to the report, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said that “Europe stands and falls on the rule of law and democratic values.”

“If the European Commission, as one of the EU’s fundamental institutions, neglects important legal opinions in such a case, then it does not respect the consistent principle of the rule of law, which is a very dangerous precedent.”
Though Slovenia works well with the Commission, Cerar adds, this time the Commission “neglected its fundamental duty to protect European treaties and legal order”. He expressed hope that Slovenia will be heard and that “there will be a response that will go towards respecting the law”.

Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor joined the criticism, saying the decision is “a bad message for future border agreements in the Western Balkans,” STA reports.

Dejan Židan, the new Speaker of the Parliament, was most harsh, accusing Juncker of politically motivated actions which threatened the EU foundations. “It is good he’s leaving,” said Židan.

In a response to a request from Slovenia’s Press Agency, the Croatian government said the Commission’s decision not to interfere was the right one.
“The position of the Government of the Republic of Croatia is that Croatia and Slovenia, as two friendly states and members of the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union, should continue to engage in a dialogue and resolve the border issue to mutual satisfaction and in a good neighbourly spirit.”
Der Spiegel argues that Juncker refrained from involving the European Commission in the dispute because he was asked to do so personally by Plenković “who, like Juncker, is a member of the same political party”, and if the Commission sided with Slovenia, “the damage to Croatia’s image would have been huge”.

Juncker, as quoted by the weekly publication, does not want the Commission to interfere because “this would not help anyone”.

Adriatic Journal

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