Published in Nacional number 761, 2010-06-15
Experienced judge in the arbitration tribunal
Croatia's advocate for the Bay of Piran
CROATIAN GOVERNMENT will name Budislav Vukas as the Croatian representative in the five-member arbitration tribunal that will resolve the border dispute with Slovenia
SUPPORTS ARBITRATION Budislav Vukas feels that the arbitration agreement is neutral and appropriate for both Croatia and SloveniaBudislav Vukas, a well-known expert in international law, will be the Croatian representative in the arbitration tribunal that will resolve the border dispute in the Bay of Piran. Thanks to his long time participation in international legal institutions, the 72-year-old Vukas has strong support in Croatian Government, and from the Office of President Ivo Josipovic, and the formal decision to appoint him to the arbitration tribunal should be made some time in the coming few weeks, Nacional has learned from a top-ranking source in Croatian Government. Also in play were the names of Davorin Rudolf, Davor Vidas and Vladimir Ibler, but the feeling that prevailed was that Vukas was the best candidate, and one of the few legal experts who did not participate in the recent past in attacking Government over the arbitration agreement.
AND WHILE NO ONE FROM GOVERNMENT has officially contacted Vukas late last week while they wait out the deadline for appeals on the recent Slovenian referendum on the issue of international arbitration, which on Sunday, 6 June, was backed by 51.5 percent of Slovenian voters - the high-ranking state official has confirmed that his appointment is practically decided. Once all of the formal and legal preconditions have been met and the selection of the five members of the arbitration tribunal starts, with Croatia and Slovenia each choosing one, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's Government will make its official proposal to Vukas, who was, until his recent retirement, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, and was a participant of the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea that resulted in the adoption of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.
NACIONAL HAS AN UNOFFICIAL, but definite confirmation that Budislav Vukas will accept the request from Government and the Office of the President. Strategically, the choice of Vukas indicates that Croatia has opted for a conservative legal strategy in its territorial dispute with Slovenia. And while the government of Borut Pahor will very likely pick Ernest Petric, who has spent most of the past twenty years working in the diplomatic service, as "its" judge, Zagreb has opted for Vukas because of his participation in the resolution of various international disputes and because of the respect he enjoys within the arbitration tribunal.
Simply put, Vukas' mission will be to convince the remaining three judges that will be appointed by Jose Manuel Barroso and Stefan Fule on behalf of the European Commission that legal arguments show that Croatia has jurisdiction over the Bay of Piran, and by doing so to neutralise Petric, who will probably advocate the principle of lawfulness which is in Slovenia's favour. In terms of internal policy it is important that President Josipovic also supports the choice of Budislav Vukas. The do, besides, know each other well - both have for years been professors at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb and Josipovic considers him a very competent expert.
THIS IS BACKED UP by Vukas' biographical data. He graduated in 1961 and was employed at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Law until his retirement last year. He also lectured at universities in Boston, Milan, Ljubljana, Rome, Bologna and others. From 1996 to 2005 he served as the Vice-President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, which is authorised to implement the Convention on the Law of the Sea and resolve problems on land that are closely related to the seas. Vukas is also serving as an ad hoc judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the lawsuit filed by Croatia against Serbia for genocide, and in the Macedonian lawsuit against Greece's objection to the use of the name Republic of Macedonia.
WHEN CROATIA PROPOSED THAT the issue of the Bay of Piran be brought before the tribunal in Hamburg the proposal was promptly rejected by Slovenia with the explanation that Vukas has influence with the judges of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The possibility that he could become a member of the arbitration tribunal was also not welcomed these days in Slovenia as it is felt that Vukas' authority could be crucial during the resolution of the border dispute. But besides the undeniable expertise he possesses when it comes to international law issues, there is also a political reason why Croatian Government prefers Budislav Vukas. When Jadranka Kosor presented the proposed arbitration agreement in the autumn of last year Vukas was one of the few respected legal experts who said that Croatia was not giving up a part of its territory through the document. In several public statements he has advocated the position that the arbitration agreement is neutral and appropriate for both Croatia and Slovenia, and said that he feels that arbitration is a "just route."
VEHEMENTLY OPPOSED TO ARBITRATION Davorin Rudolf, in spite of his expertise, was not considered as the Croatian representative to the arbitration tribunal because of his vehement attacks against the Kosor–Pahor agreement. He considers it even more unfavourable than the Racan–Drnovsek agreement of 2001, and claims that the arbitration tribunal could force Croatia to relinquish a part of its waters, underwater territory and airspace in favour of SloveniaUnlike him, Davor Vidas and Davorin Rudolf were vehement in their criticism of the agreement signed by Jadranka Kosor and Borut Pahor. Rudolf called the agreement a capitulation and said it was even less favourable for Croatia than the Racan - Drnovsek agreement of 2001. In a written statement he gave a catastrophic forecast that the "draft arbitration agreement allows for the adoption of an arbitration decision on the basis of which Croatia would in the corridor have to give up a part of its waters, underwater territory and subterranean area with all of the natural resources it contains, living and mineral, including the airspace above the corridor in favour of Slovenia," i.e. that Jadranka Kosor had agreed to a shoddy solution. Instead Davorin Rudolf proposed a firm hand policy and that Croatia persevere in the border dispute being resolved before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and not by an arbitration body.
BECAUSE OF THIS POSITION Government has seen him as given to excess and, in spite of his expertise in maritime issues, he was dropped as a candidate for the arbitration tribunal. Similar arguments were used in the case of Davor Vidas, the Director of Marine Affairs and Law of the Sea Programme at the Oslo-based Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Vidas was dropped from the list because he opposed Croatia's backing down from the implementation of its protected eco-fishing zone in an open letter addressed to politicians in 2008. In the letter he said Croatia's future was in the EU, but opposed, as he said, "abandoning the implementation of its rights at sea." In his opinion Croatia thereby significantly weakened its position in the Adriatic Sea, and in return did not receive guarantees of what it had thereby achieved on its road to membership in the European Union.
IN SPITE OF THE CONTROVERSIAL open letter of 2008, Vidas is highly regarded in the Office of the President - Josipovic values him as an expert in maritime law and wants to make him a part of the team that will assist Budislav Vukas. A formal decision will be made in this regard by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister Gordan Jandrokovic, who are competent for the resolution of the border dispute with Slovenia. Jandrokovic has not opposed the personnel proposals supported by Jadranka Kosor and Ivo Josipovic, and Vukas will soon be officially confirmed for the job.
BUT CROATIAN GOVERNMENT was somewhat surprised by the reports that Ernest Petric would be named as the Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal. Although he is a judge with their Constitutional Court and a professor of international law, Zagreb feels that there are several legal experts with greater expertise in demarcation issues in Slovenia. Petric was a professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Ljubljana, and then in the late 1980s moved on to the diplomacy and later advanced to the post of Slovenian ambassador to the United Nations in New York. It was at this time that he made the acquaintance of the current Croatian Minister of Justice, Ivan Simonovic, who also worked as a diplomat in New York in the second half of the 1990s. If Ernest Petric does become a member of the arbitration tribunal it will mean that the strategy of the Slovenian government in regard to the border dispute will be oriented above all to the use of the diplomacy, and less to legal arguments. That decision would presume that they have concluded in Slovenia that they lack sufficient legal arguments with which to prove their claim to rights in the waters of the Bay of Piran. That is why they have opted for Petric, who has a successful diplomatic career and in 2007 chaired the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and was involved as a diplomat in issues of international law and succession issues involving the successor states to the former Yugoslavia, and on demarcation issues between various countries.
ADVOCATE OF THE PROTECTED ECO-FISHING ZONE Davor Vidas, Director of Marine Affairs and Law of the Sea Programme at the Oslo-based Fridtjof Nansen Institute, opposes abandoning the implementation of the Protected Eco-Fishing ZoneSEEN FROM THE LEGAL ANGLE, Vukas has greater weight as an expert than Petric does, and that should be a factor in Croatia's favour. On the other hand, top Government officials do not believe that the arbitration tribunal will rule in a way that would meet all of either country's wishes, and it will instead likely be a combination of legal and political resolution, which will take into consideration the situation on the ground, and neither Croatia nor Slovenia will be brought into a situation in which it would feel that they have lost. Vukas' chief mission is to convince the majority of the members of the arbitration tribunal to give precedence to international law, and not to the principle of equity his adversary Ernest Petric will be lobbying for, in making its decision.
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