Tensions have been unfortunately increasing again in last days between Slovenia and Croatia. Below you can find an excerpt from The Conundrum of the Piran Bay, co-authored by Matej Avbelj and myself, which it is once again extremely actual. Let us hope somebody learns some lessons from our conclusion and also from past mistakes. Full article is available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=990183
“In the light of the conclusion that no clear answer can be given to the Piran Bay conundrum, a useful a solution might be not drawing a border at all. Since there has never been one, it may never need one. The disputes about the borders should be seen as anachronistic in a contemporary Europe that strives for an ever-closer Union between its peoples. Borders are becoming more symbolic than functional. The law and the facts are that the maritime biological conservation is under exclusive competence of the EU. Within the fisheries sector, Member States are almost entirely pre-empted.60 It follows from this that Member States have lost or in other words delegated their sovereign rights in these fields to a supranational body for their better exercise. If this is so, Slovenia and Croatia are quarrelling about something that Slovenia has already given up and Croatia has acquiesced, since it strives for as early accession to EU as possible.
The core of the dispute between the countries is thus hollow and empty. In other words there is nothing to dispute. To clarify, if the Slovenian interests are in keeping the direct contact with the high seas for the unhampered functioning of its ports, preservation of the sea for the general well-being of the local inhabitants, and the development of tourism, these objectives can be achieved by not drawing a border. The same is true for Croatia, which also wants to preserve the environment and the well-being of its local inhabitants. Above all, it wants to have a direct contact with Italy which it can have since this border undisputedly exists from the time of ex-Yugoslavia. Without drawing a border and replacing and complementing the regulatory regime in this area by the EU legal regime, which will soon bind both Slovenia and Croatia, both states will get what they want and actually what EU law dictates. The problems of the local fishermen will be solved by the EU four fundamental freedoms, and the problems of the inhabitants in the four disputed villages will be solved in the same way and additionally by the provision of the EU citizenship.
With respect to EU citizenship, the decision to award the disputed people in these four villages with a dual citizenship, as it was agreed in Drnovšek-Racan agreement, amounts to contradictio in adiecto. Under EU law it suffices to have only one citizenship of one Member State to enjoy the national and EU benefits. In essence, the solution of the Piran bay conundrum lies in the abandonment of the old statist approach by facing the new reality that is brought about by the European Union as an ideal worth following. We claim that the border disputes within the EU of today are anachronistic, since they belong to the Westphalian understanding of the world, which is being incrementally, but for sure, transcended and rendered obsolete. Slovenia and Croatia should, by having in mind their common destiny in the EU of tomorrow, rely on the agreements already reached and should just declare the waters ranging from Vrsar (Croatia) to Debeli Rtic (Slovenia) as their common waters, where common police control will be exercised, where EU exclusive policy will be implemented, and where it will not matter whether a boat is under Croatian or Slovenian flag. This kind of step forward would ease the tensions between the two nations. These tensions are completely artificial and have been used as a scapegoat for concealing problems internal to the political and economic situation of the both states. The local population, which has lived in peace since time immemorial should not be thrust in the middle of strategic political disputes, rather the culture of co-operation and mutual trust in the spirit of Europe without borders should be promoted.”