Slovenia to hold referendum on arbitration agreement with Croatia

08:48, March 29, 2010      

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Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor announced Saturday that his country will soon hold a referendum on an agreement to allow international arbitrators to rule on a lingering border dispute with neighboring Croatia.

Pahor said that a referendum would be announced once the arbitration agreement was ratified by parliament within a month.

Earlier in the week, the Slovenian Supreme Court ruled favorably on the constitutionality of the agreement. Croatia ratified the agreement last November.

"The result of the legal referendum would be binding, meaning that the final word on the arbitration agreement would be the citizens," said Pahor.

At the heart of the issue is access to international waters off the coast of Piran Bay in the northern Adriatic Sea.

Slovenia, the only former Yugoslav republic joining the European Union, had been frustrating Croatia's EU aspirations, demanding that the border dispute be resolved prior to Croatia's accession.

"It is our collective opinion that citizens should decide on the agreement in a referendum," Pahor told Radio Television Republika Srpska (RTRS) after consulting with representatives of Slovenian political parties.

Pahor had been reportedly under increasing pressure from opposition parties to hold a referendum. He feared that an unfavorable decision could leave Slovenia, a country with 42 km of Adriatic coastline, without access to open waters.

However, a public rejection of the arbitration agreement could undermine Slovenia's credibility in international affairs, said Rajko Pirnat of Law Faculty in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia.

"Slovenia would find itself in a situation where it rejected a peaceful solution with Croatia," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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