Using conservation as a tool to resolve conflict: Establishing the Piran–Savudrija international Marine Peace Park
Border disputes between neighbouring States are a regular occurrence and have the potential to undermine relations at national, regional, local and even individual level. In this instance the conflict over Piran Bay in the Northern Adriatic Sea has led to conflict between the neighbouring States of Croatia and Slovenia. The lack of resolution of this conflict resulted in Croatia being delayed in its accession into the European Union (EU). The border dispute remains unresolved and will go to international arbitration in 2013. Yet it is unlikely that arbitration will provide a solution agreeable to all stakeholders. It is likely that residual feelings of injustice will remain, especially at local level. Analysis of the political context of the dispute and recognition of the biological importance of the region has led to opportunity to combine politics and biological conservation to establish an International Marine Peace Park (IMPP) as a potential mitigation measure to help resolve the conflict. This initiative aims to develop regional ownership over a shared marine space linking the local communities of Slovenia and Croatia that co-habit the adjacent Istrian peninsula. The area of the proposed Piran–Savudrija IMPP hosts numerous habitat types and species which are representative of the region and are of international and national conservation importance. The policies and opportunities associated with EU accession provide the potential political, economic and environmental frameworks to develop a regional agency or a bi-national steering committee for the management of the area. This could allow local communities to develop equitable management and restore good relations while preserving an important regionally representative marine area.
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