Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Borut Pahor.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Stanko GRUDEN / STA / mm

The heads of state, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia, Borut Pahor of Slovenia and Heinz Fischer of Austria began their trilateral meeting in the northern Croatian city of Varazdin on Friday morning when also the European Union leaders and Turkey were convening in Brussels in an attempt to reach a deal over the migrant crisis.

Croatia's President Grabar-Kitarovic is the host of the Varazdin meeting, which has been the third informal tripartite gathering of this kind since 2014.

Managing the migrant crisis and the closure of the Balkan route is expected to be one of the main topics of the meeting of the presidents of Croatia, Slovenia and Austria that lie on the said route.

The route through which over a million Middle Eastern refugees passed in 2015 in a bid to reach western Europe, primarily Germany and Sweden, was shut last week, and over 10,000 refugees remained stranded in no man's land between Greece and Macedonia, braving mud and inclement weather conditions.

Although the flow of migrants has been halted, Slovenia still keeps a razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia which it erected when it was faced with the spillover of the tide of refugees last year.

During her recent talks with Slovenian Parliament Speaker Milan Berglez in Zagreb, Grabar-Kitarovic said she hoped that the wire fence on the Croatian-Slovenian border would soon be removed, having in mind the outrage which that fence caused among local residents.

The Croatian-Slovenian relations are burdened by the border dispute and the latest developments in that case after the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration announced last Monday that a new oral hearing in connection with the Croatian and Slovenian land and sea border dispute would be held on March 17.

On the same day Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said that Croatia had withdrawn from the arbitration and would not attend the hearing. In the meantime, Croatia has circulated among UN member states its position on the irreversibly compromised arbitration with Slovenia, expressing its readiness to resolve the border dispute bilaterally.

Croatia expects the Arbitral Tribunal to end its work without delay, and its representatives did not attend a hearing set for Thursday, while Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said on Thursday afternoon that he was satisfied with the Slovenian case before the PCA, adding that the border arbitration process could continue even though Croatia had withdrawn from it.

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