US embassy cable - 03ZAGREB1903


Identifier: 03ZAGREB1903
Wikileaks: View 03ZAGREB1903 at
Origin: Embassy Zagreb
Created: 2003-09-02 16:03:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 001903 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2013 
Classified By: Economic Officer Isabella Detwiler for reasons 1.5 b and 
1.  (C) Relations between Croatia and Slovenia have taken 
another downward plunge over Croatia's announced intention to 
declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea. 
 The Slovenian ambassador to Croatia has apparently been 
recalled.  The Croatian MFA presented the Croatian point of 
view to the diplomatic corps in Zagreb September 2, arguing 
that Croatia was within its rights to declare an EEZ, while 
it fully intended to consult with Slovenia and other 
interested parties.  Meanwhile, the Slovenian Economic 
Counselor in Zagreb attributed the strong Slovenian reaction 
to a mixture of built-up fatigue at the lack of 
professionalism of Croatian diplomacy and concern over 
possible economic losses in fisheries and natural gas 
exploration.  End Summary. 
Greener than Thou 
2.  (SBU) Deputy Foreign Minister Simonovic passed two 
non-papers to the assembled diplomatic corps September 2 (to 
be transmitted septel.  The MFA apparently called the meeting 
in response to a similar meeting called by the MFA in 
Ljubljana the day before).  He described the Croatian 
proposal to declare an EEZ as motivated principally by a 
concern for the environment of the Adriatic and especially 
fisheries.  He described alternative proposals for fishery 
zones or ecological zones as insufficent and not clearly 
defined under international law.  Simonovic made no mention 
of exploitation of gas deposits, although in one of the 
non-papers, the GOC asserts that the 1968 Agreement between 
Italy and SFRY delimits rights concerning exploration and 
exploitation of natural resources of the sea-bed (we will 
seek clarification). 
"Irrational Escalation" 
3.  (SBU)  Simonovic denied that the GOC had refused to 
consult with the government of Slovenia on the issue, and 
instead accused the GoS of delaying consultations, then 
downgrading the level of representation at the upcoming 
September 16 meeting to a level which would not help to move 
the process forward.  He claimed Croatia had even previewed 
the EEZ concept to all the relevant parties in Athens June 
19-20 at a preparatory meeting for the EU Summit.  No 
objections were registered.  For Slovenia to be crying foul 
now was "an irrational escalation" of the issue. 
4.  (SBU) In what may be the key area of dispute, the GOC 
argued that Slovenia does not have the right to declare an 
EEZ, apparently because Slovenia's territorial seas are 
hemmed in on all sides by Italian and Croatian territorial 
waters -- an assertion that Slovenia contests, based mostly 
on historic access to the open sea.  Simonovic pooh-poohed 
the Slovenian assertion that no EEZ could be declared without 
Ljubljana's consent and without ratification of the moribund 
Croatian-Slovenian border agreement.  This agreement was 
initialed in 2001 on the Prime Minister's personal 
instructions on the Croatian side by the head of border 
commission.  However, it was repudiated formally by the 
government of Croatia after it received a hostile reception 
by the public and the parliament. 
Par for the Course for a "Banana Republic" 
5.  (C) In a previously scheduled meeting on September 2 with 
the Slovenian economic counselor in Zagreb, Riana Benko, we 
heard quite a different story.  Benko passed over a Slovenian 
non-paper on the issue (faxed to desk, L and OES).  Benko 
decried what she described as just the latest in unneighborly 
acts by Croatia.  She listed the failure of Croatia to ratify 
the border agreement with Slovenia as just one of a series of 
unfulfilled commitments.  Croatia was not acting seriously, 
she stressed, but rather like a "banana republic."  Slovenia 
was informed of important initiatives through the media, 
rather than official channels (comment: we have experienced 
the same pattern of communication ourselves). 
6.  (C) Benko made a perhaps contradictory argument that 
Slovenia recognizes that Croatia has a right to declare an 
EEZ, but it has the duty to consult first (the non-paper is 
more categorical that "the Republic of Slovenia has 
throughout advocated the view that the proclamation of an 
exclusive economic zone requires the consent by all the 
states concerned."  Benko said Slovenia was historically a 
seafaring nation, and would not have its traditional "sea" 
reduced to a "lake."  She freely admitted that Slovenia had 
interests not only in fisheries and the environment, but 
perhaps "most importantly," in possible gas deposits in the 
Northern Adriatic (Croatia's INA and Italian Agip are 
currently exploring for gas in areas somewhat to the south of 
the intersection of extensions of Croatian, Italian and 
Slovenian borders).  Benko sounded genuinely hurt by 
Croatia's perceived ingratitude for all of Slovenia's help 
with Croatia's EU accession, and noted that such help could 
be affected by Croatia's actions on the EEZ. 
7.  (C) We asked if she was heartened by the meeting of 
experts scheduled for September 16.  Benko expressed 
pessimism, because she felt the GOC had made it difficult, 
politically, to take a step back and compromise.  In its 
non-paper, the GOS states "the proposed level of heads of 
legal departments is presently sufficient.  There is no need 
for political meetings that could later be interpreted by 
Croatia as consultations with the Republic of Slovenia." 
What then did Slovenia seek?  Benko said all five countries 
involved (Italy, Slovenia, SaM, Croatia and Albania) should 
consult and come up with a way to share the resources.  We 
asked if the EU supported this approach.  Benko hesitated, 
then ventured that "one member -- Italy -- has its own 
EU Keeping Out of It, Sort of 
8.  (C) We asked a contact at the EU mission for its view on 
the brouhaha.  Martin Mayer, political advisor, noted the EU 
did not have competence in the area of EEZs, which were 
authorized by the UN in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the 
Seas.  The EU recognized the right of states to declare an 
EEZ, but felt it should be done in consultation with affected 
states.  The EU had offered to mediate if asked by both 
parties, recognizing there were no clear legal guidelines. 
Mayer hoped that an EU conference on Mediterrean fisheries in 
November would be another forum for discussion with various 
9.  (C) Although the Croatians may have dropped the 
diplomatic ball, they do seem to have a fair legal case.  The 
Croatians and Slovenians will have to work this out among 
themselves, although an EU offer to mediate may help. 

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