An international arbitration court has handed Slovenia a victory in its long-standing border dispute with Croatia, awarding it direct access to international waters in the Adriatic Sea in a decision Zagreb says it will not honor.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on June 29 ruled that Slovenia should have "uninterrupted access" to the sea in the dispute over 13 square kilometers comprising the Bay of Piran and a stretch of mainly uninhabited territory.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar called the ruling an "historic moment for Slovenia," adding that the judgment "is definitive and must be applied on both countries, Slovenia and Croatia."
However, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Zagreb will refuse to implement the ruling, despite having originally agreed to take the matter to arbitration.
"Today's arbitration decision for Croatia is a decision which is not obliging us in any way.... nor do we intend to implement its content," Plenkovic told reporters.
The two sides, both former Yugoslav republics that are now EU and NATO member states, agreed in 2009 to send the case to the court at The Hague.
However, Croatia unilaterally pulled out of the process two years ago amid a scandal over media reports revealing illegal contacts between Slovenia's government and a Slovenian member of the arbitration panel. It later said it would reject any court ruling on the matter.
In its June 29 ruling, the court ordered the establishment of a 2.5-nautical-mile wide, 10-nautical-mile long corridor from Slovenian waters through Croatian seas to international waters.
Nevertheless, the court rejected Ljubljana's claim that the entire southwestern Bay of Piran should be considered Slovenian territory.
Slovenia insisted it has a historic claim to the entire bay, while Croatia says it owns half of it.
Slovenia has just 46 kilometers of shoreline and has said its access to international waters was endangered under current conditions, forcing all of its ships to travel through Croatian waters to the high seas. Croatia has a coastline of some 1,700 kilometers,
Judge Gilbert Guillaume said the corridor would provide Slovenia with "uninterrupted and uninterruptable" access to high seas from its territorial waters.
Prior to the court's ruling, the German Embassy in Zagreb issued a statement saying the decision "must be respected."