Slovenia and Croatia in fishing waters row as court deadline looms

Ljubljana (AFP) –


Slovenia is threatening from Saturday to fine fishermen from neighbouring Croatia who continue to throw nets in a small bay on the Adriatic after an international arbitration ruling in Ljubljana's favour.

The picture-postcard setting of Piran Bay belies its setting as one of one of the most bitter border disputes between European Union countries.

At the end of June, Slovenia was allocated more than two-thirds of the bay, of which Croatia claims half. Zagreb however refuses to recognise the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague following a dispute lasting 25 years.

The court gave both parties six months to implement its decision, but on the eve of the deadline at midnight on Friday, the two former Yugoslav republics have failed to reach a compromise.

From Saturday, "the Slovenian police will be allowed to fine all Croatian fishermen who enter its territory without the required permissions", a government source told AFP.

Since its court victory, the Slovenian coastguard has issued warnings to fishermen from Croatia, and throughout the summer the neighbours have engaged in spats around the maritime border.

"As of December 30, Slovenia will begin to implement arbitration," Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said on Wednesday, adding there would be no incidents "as long as Croatia respects the frontier" fixed by the judgment.

His Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic called on Ljubljana on Thursday to "avoid any unilateral initiative", saying he was "ready for a constructive dialogue".