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Perpetually Losing Against Croatia – The Left-Wing Governments Screwed Up Completely

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which ruled in the case of the fishermen’s complaint against Croatia for issuing fines for fishing in the Gulf of Piran that the appeal was not admissible before the Strasbourg Court, did not come as a surprise to the fishermen. We spoke to Dr Ernest Petrič and MEP Dr Milan Zver about the matter. Both agree that the blame for this lies on the Slovenian side.

Slovenian fishermen were not surprised by the ECHR decision, because “there has never been a successful case against Croatia before,” Robert Radulovič, one of the fishermen, told the Slovenian Press Agency (STA). We asked international relations expert Dr Ernest Petrič and Member of the European Parliament Dr Milan Zver for their comments on the ECHR decision. Both agree that the blame for this lies with Slovenia, and MEP Zver highlighted the “poor strategy, poor preparation and weak personnel that should have represented Slovenian interests.”

“The left governments in Slovenia are always trying to create some kind of conflict, including at the legal level, in court with Croatia, and we always lose, mainly because we lack some strategic thinking and preparation, and there are clearly not enough competent people available to represent Slovenian interests. This was also evident in the arbitration itself, where we dug our own grave by cheating in the procedural part,” Zver explained.

They screwed it up

Petrič also claims that “we screwed up,” referring to the choice of the arbitrator itself. Namely, it was Petrič who should have been the arbitrator, as he was nominated by the then-Prime Minister Borut Pahor, but because then-President of the Republic Danilo Türk was against it, we got Jernej Sekolc as the arbitrator instead, who knew very little about international law, especially international maritime law. Even in Croatia, they were surprised at this choice. Petrič said: “It was clear to me at the time that there would be problems. If you are going to do something so important, which was of cardinal importance for Slovenian national interests at the time, then you have to have at least some idea about what you will be doing. You will ask questions – and he was asking Mrs Drenik questions, who is a young expert in international law. And this questioning then led to the Croatians getting a chance, a niche, to get out of this.”

This is an indicator that the arbitration ruling is null and void for all

“What is happening is a very good indicator that this arbitration ruling is null and void for others, and now it is clear that they do not recognise the other court either, and that is why we are losing,” MEP Zver stressed. According to the mainstream media, government representatives claim to be surprised by the Court’s decision, while our interlocutors are not surprised at all. MEP Zver recalled that relations with Croatia have always been good when a centre-right government has been in power, while “the left-wing governments are always looking for some kind of rift,” because, as he further pointed out, “Our leftists have always been more pro-Belgrade and pro-Moscow than pro-European, and this reflex remains in every leftist government.” He pointed to Dr Janez Drnovšek as an exception, who took a step forward with his agreement with former Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan.

Dr Petrič: We have to settle for a decision we can live with

The state has promised to help fishermen, but nothing is changing for fishermen on the ground. For them, the continuation of criminal prosecutions, proceedings and very high fines, which are expected to reach a total of 3.4 million euros, remains the hard reality. When asked whether the state would pay the fine, Vasilka Sancin said she did not know, but both fishermen and Petrič say that if the fines were paid, the state would recognise the border as running through half of the bay, but it is clear that Slovenia has the dominant part. Petrič believes that we have missed a historic opportunity to settle the biggest issue in our relations and that we should settle for a decision “we can live with,” and he thinks that reopening the inter-state dispute is pointless, especially in light of all the crises that are engulfing the rest of the world and that are affecting us as well.

MEP Zver: the fault does not lie with other courts, it is ours

MEP Zver believes that many things could have been settled by reaching an agreement between countries, without the courts and with the money saved that would have been wasted on big law firms. MEP Zver also pointed out that he finds it incredible that the left-wing government is constantly trying to create judicial conflicts.

Zver also rejects the claims of Vasilka Sancin, who said on Radio-Television Slovenia’s show “Odmevi” (“Echoes”) that the problem lies in the “dramatic lack of international law experts at the ECHR.” Zver believes that the blame for this cannot be placed on the Strasbourg Court, because it is not them who are “understaffed, but we who are weak in holding Slovenian interests at bay.” He stressed that it is not even appropriate to say something like what Sancin said. “She cannot just humiliate the European Court at this level – the problem is on our side, namely, that we entered into this unprepared.”

Tanja Brkić

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