Some six months since the publication of the third post on the Croatia v. Slovenia arbitration, as Bernard Woolley might say, ‘there has been movement’. To recapitulate, following Croatia’s note verbale of 24 July 2015 informing Slovenia and the Tribunal of its intention to terminate the Arbitration Agreement, Slovenia tendered its objection dated 13 August. In the aftermath of the successive resignations of the arbitrator of Slovenian nationality (Dr Jernej Sekolec) on 23 July, the arbitrator of Croatian nationality (Professor Budislav Vukas) on 30 July, and the replacement arbitrator for Sekolec (President Ronny Abraham of the ICJ) on 3 August, the Tribunal invited the parties to appoint replacements for Vukas and Abraham. Croatia declined to name a replacement, whereas Slovenia wrote to the Tribunal that, ‘in order to preserve the integrity, independence and impartiality of the Arbitral Tribunal and the ongoing proceedings, it will refrain from appointing a member of the Tribunal to replace Judge Abraham’. Instead, Slovenia requested ‘the President of the Arbitration Tribunal, Judge Gilbert Guillaume, in exercise of his powers under Article 2, paragraph 2, of the Arbitration Agreement, to appoint a member of the Tribunal’. In a press release dated 25 September, the Tribunal announced:
Since neither Party made an appointment within 15 days after the resignation of Professor Vukas and Judge Abraham, it fell to the President to appoint the remaining two members of the Tribunal. [Professor Nicolas Michel, of Swiss nationality] was appointed to succeed Professor Vukas on the Tribunal, and [H.E. Ambassador Rolf Fife, of Norwegian nationality] was appointed to succeed Judge Abraham. The Tribunal now intends to consider the Parties’ positions carefully, including in respect of the effect of Croatia’s stated intention to terminate the Arbitration Agreement and in respect of the possible implications for the present proceedings of the events reportedly underlying Croatia’s decision. In this regard, the Tribunal may invite further submissions from the Parties on questions of fact and law as may be necessary.
It is noteworthy that, for the first time in the history of the arbitration, the panel is now ‘wholly neutral’ in that all of the arbitrators are nationals of neither party. Although this appears to have eventuated faute de mieux, it is attractive on a systemic level, as covered in our last post.
On 2 December, the Tribunal fixed deadlines for further submissions on the aforementioned issues. On 14 March, the Tribunal announced that it had fixed 17 March as the date for hearings on the matter, to be held (understandably) in camera pursuant to Article 6(5) of the Arbitration Agreement with a summary of the Parties’ positions to be published via press release. On the ground, tensions have been escalated by the decision of Slovenia to run a barbed wire fence along part of the disputed territory (see here). Reactions in Croatia, likening these actions to the Nazi occupation of the area during the Second World War, have not helped to ease tensions Read the rest of this entry…