Slovenia, Croatia to Meet Next Month to Clear EU Entry Hurdle

The premiers of Croatia and Slovenia will meet next month to finalize an accord on a 270 million-euro ($360 million) bank dispute that will clear the last hurdle for Croatia’s entry into the European Union.

Janez Jansa and his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanovic will meet March 10, Slovenia’s Cabinet said in an e-mailed statement today. Jansa named Tone Kajzer, a junior minister, to prepare details of an agreement. The two sides last met on Feb. 6 to resolve the dispute dating back to the split-up of Yugoslav bank assets. Croatia wants to join the EU in July.

The meeting will focus on solving the issue of deposits, “as well as on advantages and opportunities that the upcoming membership of Croatia will bring to economic cooperation,” according to the statement. “With the naming of Mr. Kajzer, we will ensure uninterrupted continuity and a needed credibility in seeking a solution.”

Slovenia and Croatia have been haggling for years over claims of former deposits owed to Croatian savers by the Yugoslav predecessor of Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. The government of Slovenia, an EU member that controls NLB, has threatened to veto Croatia’s accession to the bloc if the claims are not withdrawn.

Leaders of Slovenian political parties met President Borut Pahor in Ljubljana yesterday and pledged to pave the way for the ratification of Croatia’s EU entry. Economists, including Tim Ash from Standard Bank Plc in London, have said Slovenia’s deepening political crisis may cause a delay its southern neighbor’s membership in the EU.

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