Slovenes voted on June 6th to allow an arbitration process determine the status of disputed land and maritime borders that have caused almost two decades of friction with Croatia. The arbitration plan was passed with 51.5 percent of the vote.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated the people of Slovenia on the ratification of the Border Arbitration Agreement with Croatia. "By cementing this agreement," said Secretary Clinton in a written statement, "the people of Slovenia have helped move the region closer to full European integration."
EU leaders hailed the outcome of the referendum as advancing European values of neighborly relations and cooperation. It is "an important step forward" for Slovenia and Croatia and an "important signal for the region," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.
Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on the same day in June 1991. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. The border dispute was among a number of issues that caused the Slovenes to block Croatia’s bid to join the EU.
Signing the border arbitration agreement created a climate of cooperation that allowed the two countries to resolve disagreements and led to Slovenia lifting its block. Slovenia’s ratification of the agreement allows both countries to continue their cooperation on regional integration.
The United States commends the governments and people of Croatia and Slovenia for cooperating to advance the cause of European integration and agreeing to arbitration in the spirit of good relations. "We believe," said Secretary Clinton, "that the arbitration agreement is good for Slovenia, good for Croatia and good for the entire region."