Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EU's Black Sea border set in stone

The UN's top court has ruled against Ukraine in a maritime border dispute with EU member state Romania, in a decision which holds the key to major oil and gas reserves in the Black Sea.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Tuesday (3 February) decided that Snake Island - a Ukraine-owned rocky outcrop - does not entitle the country to exclusive ownership of a 12,000 square km coastal shelf, beyond a 12 nautical mile radius from the islet.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The verdict - which cannot be appealed - means Romania can exploit 80 percent of the 100 billion cubic metres of gas and 15 million tonnes of crude oil in the disputed zone, leaving the rest to Ukraine.

Ukraine deputy foreign minister Oleksandr Kupchyshyn called the ruling a "wise compromise," while Romanian diplomat Bogdan Aurescu said it was "correct," Reuters reports.

"The judgment draws an equitable line between both parties," ICJ spokesman Maxim Schouppe told EUobserver. "But in the line the court has drawn, Romania got a larger chunk than Ukraine of the disputed area."

The long-running border dispute has prevented either side from organising tenders for interested companies, such as Petrom, Romgaz, Lukoil, Total, Shell and OMV, to get the fuel out of the ground.

The once-Romanian islet has been de facto owned by the Soviet Union and later Ukraine since 1947. Romania formally ceded Snake Island to Ukraine in 1997 but the two sides could not set maritime boundaries and asked the ICJ to intervene.

Snake Island - about the size of 20 soccer pitches - houses a 100-man strong Ukrainian science mission, a lighthouse and a cashpoint. It was named by Greece in the Renaissance period, but its history dates to pre-Christian times as the legendary burial place of Greek hero Achilles.

The EU inherited a number of border disputes as part of its 2004 and 2007 rounds of enlargement.

Border problems are treated by the European Commission and member states as bilateral issues. But they have a habit of impacting EU-level policies.

The commission in January proposed creating a new diplomatic mission to help Slovenia settle a 17-year old dispute with Croatia over boundaries in the Adriatic Sea after Slovenia blocked Croatia's EU accession talks over the row last year.

Cyprus' inability to re-unite the island following a conflict with Turkey in 1974 has seen the Mediterranean EU member freeze parts of Turkey's EU accession talks.

EU member states last November also voiced concern about lack of final border arrangements between the Baltic states and Russia.

Russia has ratified border pacts with Lithuania and Latvia but the demarcation of boundaries - the installation of physical markers - is yet to take place.

Russia has refused to ratify a border agreement with Estonia however, after Tallinn inserted reference to Russia's 1920 recognition of Estonia's independence into the treaty preamble.

"The EU wants legal certainty of its external border and a stable basis for relations between its member states and Russia," an internal EU paper of November 2008 said. "The EU regrets that aspects of history have led to difficulties. It is important to take a forward-looking approach."

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

Hopeless Gaza Strip ripe for Islamic State, says UN head

Fears are mounting that more extreme militants, possibly linked to the Islamic State, will gain a foothold in the Gaza Strip as trapped youth lose all sense of hope in a conflict that is on the verge of boiling over.

Investigation

Leaked document sheds light on Turkey's controlled 'coup'

More than two years after the failed putsch, evidence is trickling out to support what the EU initially suspected - that Erdogan knew what was going to happen and let it go ahead as a pretext to create one-man rule.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us