miro cerar.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ STA/Tamino Petelinsek/ ua

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Friday that the decision by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague to suspend proceedings in the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia until it studied the legal implications of Croatia's decision to withdraw from the arbitration process did not mean that the arbiters would not continue their work and pass a ruling.

"The process has been temporarily suspended because of the well-known scandal and the arbiters now have to study the arguments of both parties, first of all Slovenia," Cerar told the press in Brussels. He said that he believed that the arbitration would continue and result in a binding judgment.

Croatia decided to withdraw from the arbitration after in July 2015 a Zagreb daily published transcripts of audio recordings revealing that the Slovenian member of the Arbitral Tribunal and a Slovenian government official had secretly discussed the case and lobbied other judges to ensure that the outcome of the arbitration was in Slovenia's favour. Zagreb claims that the arbitration process was thus irreversibly compromised.

On the other hand, the tribunal's decision to suspend proceedings has caused negative reactions among Slovenian opposition parties, some of which have said that the visit to Ljubljana by Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac, scheduled for next week at Slovenia's invitation, should be cancelled.

Jozef Horvat, a parliamentary deputy of the Christian Democrat Nova Slovenija party and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, proposed that Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec postpone the visit indefinitely. Horvat said that Slovenia should inform the Arbitral Tribunal of the letter which Croatia had circulated among UN members notifying them of its withdrawal from the arbitration because in his opinion it was in violation of Article 10 of the Arbitration Agreement, which Ljubljana insists is still in force.

The article says that both parties should refrain from making any statements or moves that might escalate the dispute or change the present situation, so as not to bring the arbitration into question.

"It is quite inappropriate of Croatian Minister Kovac to be announcing negotiations on the border issue when Slovenia's position is that the proceedings before the Arbitral Tribunal are still in progress," Horvat said, as quoted by STA news agency.

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