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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Eating in two countries at once
By Marko Kovac
BBC, Bregana

Kalin restaurant
Eat lunch in Croatia, then freshen up in Slovenia

There is one thing that probably makes Restaurant Kalin unique.

Not its renowned mushroom steak, nor its dining hall hung with hunting trophies - but its location bang on an international border.

At the family-run restaurant in the village of Bregana, you eat your meal in one country - Croatia - and cross into another - Slovenia - to visit the toilet.

Both countries used to be part of Yugoslavia, a country with six constituent republics, where internal borders didn't matter much.

Now, eight years after the country's bloody disintegration, Croatian and Slovenian diplomats are still trying to settle a host of arguments, including border delimitation.

Restaurant owner Blazenka Kalin rolls her eyes at the mention of the border dispute.

The restaurant's cash till is on the Slovenian side of the border, so her company has to be registered in Slovenia.

This means she's also forced to follow strict Slovenian inspection regulations.

Plainclothes guards

She is bitter about what she regards as "political wrangling" over the border, and says she has lost hope of a diplomatic solution.

Ironically, many of the politicians she talks about are among her customers - Kalin is popular with movers and shakers in both Zagreb and Ljubljana.

When I step outside Kalin into Slovenia, I cannot see anything to stop me walking over a bridge into Croatia.

Piran
Piran Bay is the site of another border dispute

There are no visible guards, no ramps, no passport control, and no clear markings.

But, as I approach the invisible borderline, two men in dark glasses approach me - Slovenian policemen in civilian clothes.

They suspiciously check my documents and warn me not to cross the border without a special pass, introduced to make life easier for those who migrate across every day.

Back in the busy centre of Zagreb, I meet a Croatian Government border expert, who wishes to remain anonymous.

He says there is no political will to resolve the dispute.

"Diplomatic teams can not negotiate if heads of state refuse to compromise", he says.

The problem with the land border is linked to another one regarding sea border in the disputed Adriatic bay of Piran.

On this point politicians in both countries have refused to budge for years.

EU pressure

International relations analyst Davor Gjenero says diplomats should look to European models of trans-border co-operation between regions for a solution.

Ivana Grgic
Ivana has an unusual school run

Slovenia will most probably join the European Union next year, while Croatia eagerly awaits the start of negotiations for membership.

Brussels expects issues like this to be resolved as soon as possible.

When I return to Kalin's border crossing, it is business as usual.

The red Volkswagen used by the Slovenian police still emits walkie-talkie sounds as policemen stop Croatia-born Ivana Grgic.

She is crossing the border to Slovenia from Croatia, where her son is attending school.

Only after police have checked her pass is she free to go.

"When we lived in Yugoslavia, there was no need for this kind of nonsense", she says, shaking her head while showing me her special border documents.

The dispute continues, with no sign of resolution.


SEE ALSO:
Balkan leaders embrace new era
15 Jul 02  |  Europe
Slovenia votes for EU and Nato
24 Mar 03  |  Europe
Croatia moves to join EU
21 Feb 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Croatia
29 May 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Slovenia
29 May 03  |  Country profiles


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