Croatia said on Wednesday it had moved closer to resolving an 18-year-old border dispute with Slovenia which has been blocking its European Union membership bid.
Experts from both countries said they had agreed to confine their dispute to a 6-km (4-mile) stretch of land border but had made less progress on a sea border in the Northern Adriatic. The land border is 664 km long.
Diplomats say the dispute, which the two countries have not been able to settle since Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991, must be resolved quickly if Croatia is to complete EU accession talks this year and join the 27-member bloc in 2011.
"In these 18 years, perhaps we have never come closer to reaching a proposal on how to overcome this which we could put forward to our governments," Davorin Rudolf, head of the Croatian team, told a news conference.
The countries still need to agree on what type of international arbitration would be acceptable to both.
EU-member Slovenia has for the last few months vetoed the opening and conclusion of a number of negotiating chapters in Croatia's EU entry talks because of the border row.
Rudolf said he wanted to pursue talks but his Slovenian counterpart, Miha Pogacnik, said he needed to consult his government before moving forward.
"We have discussed everything. But for some issues that need political negotiations, we shall need replies from the governments. Our legal side of the work is more or less finished," Rudolf said.
The European Commission has asked Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish president and veteran diplomat, to help mediate the conflict if both parties agree to it.
"I think Brussels has become very annoyed with this issue and they want it to end. Eventually both countries will have to agree to international mediation, after which Slovenia will lift their veto," Croatian political analyst Zeljko Trkanjec said.
Slovenia has blocked Croatia's EU accession talks over documents it says were prejudicial to the border dispute. It wants legally binding assurances from Croatia that these documents will not be used to solve the border issue.
Rudolf said the teams agreed that no documents or maps issued after the two countries became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991 would be relevant in the dispute.
Croatia preferred to see the dispute settled before the International Court of Justice in The Hague but did not rule out international mediation, he added.
Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2009, 12:32