Sumario: 4 November 2009, Stockholm - The signing of this agreement is proof of political courage and leadership from the two Prime Ministers. The Swedish Presidency congratulates the two countries on the agreement."
So said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt after Slovenia's and Croatia's Prime Ministers had resolved their border dispute by signing an arbitration agreement on Wednesday in Stockholm
Croatia's path to EU membership has long been hampered by a border dispute with its neighbour Slovenia. The conflict is over a 20 square kilometre bay, which was divided when the former Yugoslavia broke up 18 years ago. Five years ago Slovenia became a member of the EU. After Croatia also applied for membership of the European Union, Slovenia chose to apply its veto - as all EU countries have the right to do if they oppose a country's entry into the EU. Slovenia considered that Croatia had made reference to the demarcation of the border in the disputed area in some negotiation documents, without taking Slovenia's view of the matter into account.
For a year now this has put a stop to Croatia joining the EU, and the Union's other Member States have viewed the border dispute as a bilateral conflict that should be resolved between the two countries. In September 2009 Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor announced that Slovenia had lifted its block on Croatia's accession negotiations and now the final step has been taken. Borut Pahor and his Croatian colleague Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor have signed an arbitration agreement, in the presence of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, to resolve the border dispute.
"I am very pleased to congratulate my two colleagues on this agreement. I am well aware of the many difficulties and obstacles you have had to overcome in order to be here today, as well as the difficulties that may yet be ahead of you", said Fredrik Reinfeldt at a press conference after the signing.
Croatia's accession negotiations resumed
Continued EU enlargement is a priority issue for the Swedish Presidency. With the agreement in place, some issues still remain for the two countries to resolve, but Slovenia's veto has been lifted and Croatia can continue with the reforms that are required for it to become a full member of the EU.
"Today we have not just turned a page, we have opened a whole new book. Prime Minister Pahor and I have developed a close and trusting relationship of a kind that I wish all prime ministers. Now I hope that we will also receive the support of our respective parliaments and that today's agreement can give new hope to our neighbours in South Eastern Europe", said Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor.
"This is not only a historic day for Croatia, Slovenia and the EU, but for the entire international community. Today we have shown that we solve problems, we do not create them. I hope that this can inspire others to follow our example", said Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor.