Croatia PM sees Slovenia lifting EU veto 'in time'
Last month Slovenia blocked the progress of neighbouring Croatia's EU accession talks by imposing a veto on opening.
Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said on Friday he believed a veto blocking the progress of Croatia's European Union accession talks would be lifted in time for Zagreb to wrap up the talks by the end of this year.
"Of course, Slovenia's veto slowed us down... However, I believe the issue will be resolved in the next weeks and months and that we will be able to complete accession talks this year," state news agency Hina quoted Sanader as saying.
Last month Slovenia blocked the progress of neighbouring Croatia's EU accession talks by imposing a veto on opening and concluding a number of negotiating chapters.
Zagreb has so far opened 22 chapters and concluded seven out of a total 35 negotiating areas.
Slovenia's veto is due to a 17-year-old border dispute over slivers of land and a stretch of sea border that the two countries have not been able to settle since the collapse of former Yugoslavia.
While the border dispute is not part of the EU accession talks, Slovenia says it remains an obstacle for completing talks in certain policy areas, such as fisheries.
Ljubljana says Croatia's early stance in accession talks prejudges the outcome of the border dispute. Zagreb denies this and insists that the dispute be resolved through international arbitration.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini will arrive in Zagreb next Monday to discuss how Italy, a neighbour to both Croatia and Slovenia, can help find a way out of the deadlock.
Many local analysts believe that if the Slovenian veto is not lifted quickly, Croatia will struggle to complete the accession talks this year.
Judiciary reform, intensifying the fight against organised crime and restructuring an ailing shipbuilding industry are among the main tasks Croatia has to fulfil this year in order to meet EU membership criteria.
Reuters Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2009, 13:17