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Minister Dejan Židan's Response to the statements by the EU Commissioner for Agriculture

Ljubljana, 24 January 2017 — In an interview given for Slovenian television, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, made some statements regarding allegations that Minister Dejan Židan was the initiator and that he asked the Commissioner for some time allowing Slovenia and Croatia the possibility to agree and that the question of the protection of Teran was a subject of accession negotiations with Croatia and that, unfortunately, the issue was been resolved at that time, namely: Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said in an interview on 23 January 2017: "... He asked me for some time to make an amicable agreement with Croatia..." "This issue, too, was a subject of accession negotiations and was not solved at the time of Croatia's accession ..." "... As I mentioned, the Slovenian Minister for Agriculture asked us to give him some time..." "... I informed the Minister about the legal status many times. He asked me to give him some time to reach an agreement with Croatia..." "... All this has been taking place since May 2013. The Minister asked me to give him some time, however, no agreement was possible..." "...It would have been better, if the issue had been resolved during accession negotiations..."


The Commissioner's statements are not true and I firmly reject them. Since I was appointed the Minister of Agriculture I have never mentioned, nor proposed, nor agreed with Commissioner Phil Hogan that Slovenia needs time for negotiations in the case of Teran.  It is publicly known and proven that I, as a Minister, have always firmly and publicly rejected the possibility of Teran being a subject of negotiations; this was never acceptable to Slovenia, since Teran is a closed case and the protection was obtained in accordance with the EU legal order which Slovenia, as a country, has always respected and defended.    


Croatia concluded its accession negotiations on 30 June 2011 (at that time, the last intergovernmental negotiating conference took place) and signed  the EU Accession Treaty in December 2011.  Slovenia (the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia) ratified Croatia's Accession Treaty on 2 April 2013.  At that time all 82 members of the National Assembly were in favour of ratification; however, ratification itself was not self-evident due to many open questions, and the necessary two-thirds majority of the vote.


No exception for Teran was agreed upon in the negotiations. In the negotiations,  the European Commission represented  the Member States on the basis of a common position, approved by the Member States with the consent for each negotiation chapter. The European Commission never had a mandate to negotiate and agree with Croatia, as a candidate country, on anything else, but the subject of the formal negotiating positions of both parties.


The European Commission (Statement by the spokesperson of the then Commissioner for Agriculture) formally confirmed that regarding Teran no exception had been agreed upon in the negotiations, and in its written reply of April 2013 confirmed that the exception for Teran was not part of the Accession Treaty with Croatia. It was further confirmed that under this name only Slovenian wine can be sold and that no Croatian wine could not be labelled with this name after 1 July 2013.


The same was confirmed by the European Commission's Management Committee for Wine which, at the request of Croatia, discussed the item 'Teran' under AOB in April 2013. According to the minutes, at that time the Commission explained that this is the protected designation of origin for a Slovenian wine, which should no longer be used in Croatia after its accession to the EU.


Slovenia, as the Member State, was informed about the Croatian request as late as September 2014, when the Commission made its first attempt to put on the agenda of the Expert Committee for Wine the delegated act, which would grant an exception to Croatia; however, owing to Slovenia's protest, this item was removed from the agenda.


Slovenia was not informed of the Croatian application, although the application directly concerns Slovenia. At the meetings with representatives of the Commission, Slovenia asked the Commission many times, including in writing, to provide Slovenia with the Croatian application so as to be able to verify on what basis Croatia requested an exception; however, Slovenia received the first response in this regard only in the autumn of 2015, as a result of the agreement between Minister Židan and the First Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans. However, the Croatian documents were communicated in a form where all substantive information was blacked out. It can be seen from this documents that on 13 May 2013, therefore a month and a half before its accession to the EU, Croatia submitted to the Commission an application for transitional measures allowing Croatia to sell out its stocks of wine labelled with the name of varieties that are protected in the EU; after that Croatia submitted another letter on 16 May 2013, mentioning, as a special point, Teran; however, the actual content of this letter again remained hidden from Slovenia. Although these two applications cannot be regarded as part of the negotiating process, the Commission should explain why Slovenia was not informed about the Croatia's application and why the Commission negotiated with Croatia regarding Teran without Slovenia's knowledge.


Also, the statement by Commissioner Hogan, that the Minister for Agriculture, Dejan Židan, asked for time to achieve an agreement with Croatia, is completely untrue. Since Slovenia was not informed about the agreement between the Commission and Croatia, and since the Commission, even in April 2013, still argued to the contrary and since it adopted transitional measures upon Croatia's accession to the EU granting Croatia a three-year transitional period for selling out its old stocks of Teran wine, Slovenia was surprised at the Commission's intention to grant Croatia a permanent exception for Teran. The entire time Slovenia was opposed to such an exception and asked to be allowed to provide arguments for its position with relevant documents and, for this reason, it asked to be given additional time.  In July 2015, when they Commissioner Hogan and Minister Židan met, it was agreed that Slovenia will reply to the questions asked by the Commission, to further substantively and legally illuminate the issue.  Slovenia was never willing to negotiate with Croatia on the subject, which was also repeatedly communicated to the Commissioner; Slovenia also refused trilateral meetings between the Commission, Croatia and Slovenia due to substantive and procedural arguments, which were explained repeatedly and due to which Slovenia was not ready to compromise.


Particularly misleading is the Commissioner's statement that the procedure was transparent, fair and equal and according to EU law. The mere fact that the Commission bypassed the accession negotiations in which all the Member States must agree to grant such an exception in order to comply with the Croatian application is highly controversial.  Now the Commission is resolving this issue unilaterally, since the Commission itself adopts delegated acts, and to contest a delegated act in the EU Council or the European Parliament a qualified or simple majority voting 'against' is required. Another evidence of completely the non-transparent conduct of the Commission in this procedure is the fact that Slovenia and Slovenian producers, who are the holders of this protection, have never been presented with Croatia’s arguments.  To the contrary, it can be argued that in this regard the Commission had acted in a particularly non-transparent, biased and unfair manner towards the Slovenian producers.


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