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Slovenia denies blocking Croatia's EU accession talks

03 November 2008, 18:38 CET

(LJUBLJANA) - Slovenia, in dispute with Croatia over border issues, denied Monday blocking Zagreb's accession to the European Union, blaming Croatia itself for the slow process made in membership talks.

"There is no blocking of the talks with Croatia and Slovenia is not to be blamed for it," the Slovenian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Indeed, it was Zagreb that was "negotiating at a slow pace (with the EU) owing to the difficulties it has in meeting the requirements of the organisation it wants to join," the statement said.

Ljubljana accused Zagreb of attempting to use its EU membership talks to impose a fait accompli on the various border issues the two countries have been arguing about since 1991.

Documentation that Croatia had presented to Brussels reflected Zagreb's position on the common sea and land border that has been the object of a dispute between the two former Yugoslav states since they declared independence in 1991.

Last week, Croatia's chief EU negotiator Vladimir Drobnjak accused Slovenia of blocking Zagreb from taking a new step towards joining the bloc, and insisted that bilateral issues be kept out of negotiations.

"Croatia has no intention whatsoever of bringing bilateral issues into the accession process and we expect nothing less from the relevant EU member states," Drobnjak said after a meeting with EU officials in Brussels last week.

Reacting to the charges, the foreign ministry in Ljubljana said Monday that "no EU member state would allow an accession candidate to negotiate membership applying solutions that are harmful for current members."

At last week's meeting with the Croatian negotiators, Slovenia refused to back the opening of chapters covering regional policy; justice, freedom and security issues; the environment; and the free circulation of capital.

As a result, the meeting was only able to close an already-negotiated chapter on external relations.

Slovenia and Croatia, which are geographic neighbours and former Yugoslav republics, have not been able to completely draw their land and sea borders since their independence in 1991.

Since Croatia began negotiations on joining the European Union in October 2005, it has opened 21 chapters, of which four are now closed. Technical negotiations are expected to be wrapped up by the end of 2009.

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