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Croatian-Slovenian border

hf/pfd, afp/dpaMay 5, 2009

Croatia has taken another step towards EU membership by accepting a proposed arbitration body to settle a longstanding border row with Slovenia.

Croatian border police checks ID cards of Croatian passengers driving from Croatia to European Union at Bregana border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia.
An 18-year-old border dispute has become a stumbling block for Croatia's EU-membership bidImage: AP

Croatian President Stipe Mesic announced that his country would allow an international arbitration panel to determine its land and sea border with Slovenia, a proposal put forward by European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

“We have harmonized our views...we are accepting the new proposal,” Mesic said, after meeting with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, cabinet ministers and the heads of the main political parties.

Croatia and Slovenia have disagreed on the border at the coastal town of Piran and access to the Adriatic Sea since the two countries declared their independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

The dispute has led Slovenia to block Croatia's bid to join the EU, demanding that it be resolved before accession talks can resume. Commissioner Rehn suggested a panel of five arbitrators chosen by Zagreb and Ljubljana after the two countries failed to agree on terms for an EU mediation effort by Finnish Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari.

Croatia hopes to complete its accession talks by the end of the year, which would put it on track to become the bloc's 28th member in 2010 or 2011.