Thursday, May 24, 2007

Danube dilemma

by Editorial , Kyiv Post
May 24 2007, 00:18

As an article in the Post last week pointed out, a conflict between Romania and Ukraine over canals in the Danube Delta is a Pandora’s Box for Ukraine.

On the one hand, it offers significant geopolitical gains for Ukraine by offering the country a chance to muscle away from Romania a portion of shipping transit fees between the Danube and Black Sea. But the project comes with potentially serious environmental risks that could come back to haunt Ukraine in this and other attempts to stay competitive with its neighbors.

Despite sharp and relentless criticism from leaders in Bucharest, who fear Kyiv could eat away at their shipping transit earnings by building a canal bypassing Romanian turf, Ukraine played tough, moving ahead with the project to build a canal across a short Ukrainian stretch at the Danube Delta. It’s a rare example demonstrating that Kyiv can make geopolitical gains if it plays its cards right.

One could only hope that Kyiv defends its national interests with such muster when it comes to diversifying energy security by breaking down Moscow’s grip over production and transit of hydrocarbons in the region.

Nevertheless, as the Romanians and European Union have pointed out, there are serious environmental risks associated with the Danube Delta canal project. The Delta is home to a unique ecosystem. Digging up the riverbed to reopen the canal has shaken up the environment already and could cause significantly more damage.

Ukraine should take particular care in minimizing these risks to ensure that this potentially important success story ends on a positive note. The country should take every reasonable measure possible to minimize environmental risks in the Danube Delta region to ensure that future attempts to gain an edge over competitive neighbors do not fall under excessive scrutiny.

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