Thursday, February 5, 2009

Romania resolves 'Snake Island' conflict with Ukraine

EurActiv.com
Published: Wednesday 4 February 2009

Romania and Ukraine have solved a forty-year-old border dispute over a large petrol and gas-rich area of the Black Sea, as the International Court of Justice of the UN yesterday (3 February) ruled largely in Bucharest's favour on the 'Snake Island' case. EurActiv Romania reports.

The ruling, which satisfies 80% of Romania's claims over the continental shelf, recognises Bucharest's sovereignty over 9,700 square kilometres of disputed waters.

Romania's representative in the Hague court Bogdan Aurescu described the decision as "advantageous for Romania, fair, and also advantageous for Ukraine".

Snake Island, a rocky islet where according to legend Achilles was buried, was at the centre of the dispute. The islet is Ukrainian, but Romania refuses to legally recognise it as an island because doing so would give Ukraine more sovereignty over the surrounding waters.

Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said his country had "many reasons to be satisfied by this ruling". But Romania will not rush into exploiting hydrocarbons on the continental shelf because detailed prospecting has not yet been carried out, he explained.

According to Romanian foreign affairs ministry estimates, the resources availiable in the disputed waters would be enough to guarantee the country's energy independence for ten years.

Although the conflict had poisoned relations between Kiev and Bucharest for decades, Romania did not launch court proceedings until 2004.

A similar conflict over the continental shelf currently pits Croatia against Slovenia and is in fact blocking Zagreb's EU accession negotiations (EurActiv 27/01/09). In this particular case, both sides have agreed to defer to EU mediation. Several conflicts between Balkan countries have recently been referred to the UN's highest court (EurActiv 19/11/08).

The Head of the Romanian Social-Democrat delegation in the European Parliament, Adrian Severin, declared that the decision of the International ICJ constitutes “a victory of law and political wisdom, as well as one for the bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries”.

He also reminded that in his former capacity of foreign minister, he had proposed the formula upon which the issue was ultimately solved.

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