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EU for calm on Slovenia-Croatia row

The European Union urged Slovenia and Croatia to remain calm over a border dispute that is holding up progress towards Croatia's eventual EU accession.

world Updated: Dec 19, 2008 19:49 IST

The European Union urged Slovenia and Croatia on Friday to remain calm over a border dispute that is holding up progress towards Croatia's eventual EU accession.

The bloc opened one area in talks with Croatia and concluded three on Friday, after EU member Slovenia vetoed wider progress due to the long-running border dispute. Croatia had hoped to open 10 chapters and conclude five.

EU President France had suggested that opening the 10 chapters would not prejudge the outcome of the border dispute, but Slovenia rejected the idea.

"I can see the temperature is rising, even in this room," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters, who repeatedly asked him about the border issue and its impact on Croatia's EU talks.

"Let's all try to calm it down, have a good Christmas break and immediately after the break start thinking of how we can get out of this," Rehn told the news conference.

The two countries have been unable to agree on a sliver of land and Adriatic sea border since they proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Slovenia says Croatia has been using official documents in its EU accession process that are prejudicial to their 17-year-old border disagreement.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic said he regretted Slovenia's veto and that his country was not trying to prejudge the outcome of the border dispute in the EU accession talks. "Croatia's accession process continues," Jandrokovic told the same news conference.

Rehn and French Junior European Affairs Minister Bruno Lemaire also said they regretted that the bloc could not open more chapters with Croatia.

Rehn and Jandrokovic said the European Commission's indicative timetable -- according to which Croatia could wrap up EU talks next year if it stepped up reforms -- remained realistic.

Croatia has now opened 22 chapters and concluded seven, out of 35 it needs to finish before EU accession.