SEPTEMBER 29 2009 15:27h
Pahor said that ‘exit’ to the open sea ‘was and remains the priority’ for Slovenia. However, there is a small problem: international law.
Slovenian territorial connection with the open sea, no matter whether it is called the “exit”, “contact” (touch) or "socket", would be a direct violation of international law or implies renunciation of the Croatian part of the territorial sea, international law expert Dr. Davor Vidas said for Hina.
He said this in response to yesterday's statements made by the Slovenian prime minister Borut Pahor, who said that ‘exit’ to the open sea ‘was, and remains, the priority’ for Slovenia.
Vidas believes that Slovenia's request for territorial connection is actually addressed in one of the basic rules of international law.
Croatian nternational law expert clarifies that Slovenia has a right of access to the open sea, but not access to the territorial sea which, which, according to international law, is achieved through the possession of a territorial waters below the width of 12 nautical miles.
Controversial border issues
- Croatia and Slovenia still need to resolve the Piran Bay border issue, but this is not the main reason why Slovenia cannot approach the open sea. This question needs to be regulated separately and cannot be implemented without the full participation of Italy - Vidas said.
According to Vidas, two key geographical points need to be taken into consideration in reviewing validity of Slovenia’s request for the territorial connection with the open sea. The first is the position of point 5 from the Osim contract and, secondly, the starting point of any line of Slovenia’s territorial waters obtained by the solution to Piran border dispute.
- Among the key points is the fact that, in any possible solution to the Piran border dispute, including, hypothetically, if the entire Piran bay goes to Slovenia, distance still remains greater than 12 nautical miles - he explains.
Vidas also notes that the rule of more than 12 nautical miles of territorial sea is the result of the interests of great powers, primarily the U.S. and, formerly, the Soviet Union, and the consensus reached at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. This conference ultimately led to the UN Law Convention from 1982 which now obliges all member states of the EU.
Violation of international law
- According to the point 5 of the Osim contract, Slovenia cannot be territorially connected to the open sea without violating the international law. That is, the only way that this can happen is if Croatia decides to give up a territorial sea north of point 5. But even if this happens, Croatia would not be able to change this directly, but would have to do it in the agreement with the international community. That basically, means that Croatian territorial waters would have to be transformed into open sea, which of course, would lead to Croatia’s loss of coastal territory.
Condominium in the same part of the sea would also lead to denial of Croatia’s territorial sea and it would grant Slovenia the acquisition of rights for which there is no basis in international law.
- However, it is important to know that, regardless of the transformation of the part of Croatian territorial sea into the open sea or acceptance of the condominium, this does not solve a problem of approach of Slovenian vessels to the open sea. Their only access route would still go through the Croatian territorial sea, or the other side of the Osim border, that is, through the territorial waters of Italy - said Vidas.
This sailing solution was confirmed by the International Maritime Organization in 2004 where Croatia, Italy and Slovenia all agreed to abide the agreement. Therefore, any further regulation of the Slovenian approach to the open sea should be resolved between the three countries, not just two.