A majority of Slovenians have voted in favor of an agreement between their government and Croatia to allow international arbitration over a long-running border dispute.
International arbitration would rule on a sliver of coastal land
Following a referendum on the matter, a majority of Slovenians have thrown their support behind a government agreement with neighboring Croatia to let international negotiators solve their long-running border dispute.
Both countries' parliaments had already approved the agreement, but Slovenia decided to put it to a popular vote as well. Around 51.5 percent of Slovenians voted in favor of the deal, according to figures released by the national electoral commission.
The dispute is over a demarcation line in the Adriatic Sea left unmarked after both countries seceded from the former Yugoslavia. They also both claim four border villages.
Vote positive for Croatia's EU hopes
Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his center-left coalition have said that resolving the dispute via arbitration would give Slovenia direct access to international shipping waters. Pahor's opponents claim the arbitration could dismiss Slovenia's claims altogether.
The 'yes' vote is a considerable boost for Croatia in its bid to join the 27-nation European Union in 2012. Slovenia blocked Croatia's EU application process for most of 2009 until the two governments reached a deal last September.
The Pahor government has made ending the border dispute its main foreign policy goal.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso praised the vote in a statement on Monday, saying he looked forward "to a final settlement of the dispute," and that the referendum represented "an important signal for the region and the relations between Slovenia and Croatia."
Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004, the only former Yugoslav state so far to have done so.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler