THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An international arbitration panel on Thursday granted Slovenia unhindered access to the high seas for the first time since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as part of a ruling aimed at settling a long-running territorial dispute between Slovenia and Balkan neighbor Croatia.
It remains to be seen if the ruling can be enforced. Croatia walked out of the arbitration in 2015 and says it does not recognize the panel’s findings.
The five-judge tribunal granted Slovenia much of the Bay of Piran, off the Adriatic coasts of the two countries, and gave Slovenia a 2.5-nautical-mile wide, 10-nautical-mile long “junction” or corridor linking its territorial waters and international waters.
The panel’s president, Judge Gilbert Guillaume, said the junction allows “uninterrupted and uninterruptable” access for ships and aircraft of all nationalities between international waters and Slovenia’s territorial waters.
The ruling also established Slovenia and Croatia’s land border, but very little of that remained in dispute.
Arbitration was supposed to ease tensions between the Balkan neighbors but instead underscored sensitivities between states that emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
The two countries agreed to arbitration in 2009 in a deal that also led to Slovenia dropping its opposition to Croatia’s European Union membership.
Croatia turned its back on the arbitration following revelations that the Slovenian judge on the panel had violated its rules. The court ruled last year that the violations did not entitle Croatia to terminate arbitration or affect the panel’s power “to render a final award independently and impartially.”
The arbitration panel left open the door to more talks, saying that “the rights and obligations of Croatia and Slovenia established by this award shall subsist until they are modified by agreement between those two states.”