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Border deal boosts Croatia EU bid

4 November 09 14:46 GMT

Slovenia and Croatia have signed a deal to allow international arbitrators to resolve a border dispute that has delayed Croatia's EU membership bid.

The agreement, signed in Sweden, means Slovenia will no longer block Croatia's bid. Croatia hopes to become the 28th EU member state by 2011.

The dispute over the small Bay of Piran in the Adriatic Sea dates back to the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991.

The deal still requires the approval of the two countries' parliaments.

Both governments say they will abide by the decision of independent experts.

Slovenia exercised its veto because it considered that Croatia had provided maps and documents in the EU negotiations that failed to take account of Slovenia's position.

Croatia has called for the border to be drawn down the middle of the bay.

But Slovenia, which has a much shorter coastline than its neighbour, fears this would deny its ships direct passage to the high seas.

Slovenia says the two countries' parliaments will have a chance to decide on the line-up of the arbitration panel.

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