The European Union said Wednesday it may cancel the next round of entry talks with Croatia due to an impasse over the country's border dispute with EU member Slovenia.
Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra, whose country now holds the EU presidency, said officials were considering postponing the talks scheduled for March 27.
The 18-year-old border dispute centers on an Adriatic Sea bay shared by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Slovenia's part is blocked off by those of its two larger neighbors and it wants Croatia to give it a channel to the open sea.
The two countries disagree on how their dispute should be mediated.
Their foreign ministers met in Brussels Tuesday to discuss mediation through former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari. "We are concerned this ... did not generate any fruitful results," Vondra told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
"We note that time is running out" for Croatia, he added.
Croatia opened entry talks on Oct. 3, 2005. These cover 35 areas in which it must align its laws with EU rules and regulations. Croatia had hoped to join in 2009, but 2011 or 2012 now seems more realistic.
Canceling the March 27 negotiations would be seen as a serious setback to the goal of concluding the entry talks this year.
The spat between Slovenia _ which joined the EU in 2004 _ and Croatia portends wider problems for other aspiring candidates in the Western Balkans where border disputes are a legacy of the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslav federation in the 1990s.