Monday

26th Sep 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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."

EU rushing to ratify climate agreement

Environment ministers will try to agree next week to speed up the process to sign up to the Paris agreement. Otherwise it would not be present at the table of the signatories at a conference in November.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  2. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  3. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  5. YouthProAktivEntrepreneurship, Proactivity, Innovation - Turn Ideas Into Action #IPS2016
  6. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations
  7. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeDon't Miss the Mega Conference to Master Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  8. Martens CentreFighting Terrorism: Do we have what it takes? 26 September, Brussels
  9. ACCAKaras Report on Access to Finance for SMEs in a Capital Markets Union
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters"I still believe we can change Europe" Said David Grosclaude
  11. World VisionThe Child Protection Index to be Launched in Brussels on 28 September 2016
  12. HuaweiDigital Transformation: Unleashing Europe’s Potential

Latest News

  1. Climate change and migration vote on the Agenda This WEEK
  2. Irish and Polish people march for abortion
  3. EU admits 'unrealistic' to close TTIP deal this year
  4. LGBT rights at stake in Georgia election
  5. UK to start Brexit talks early 2017, Johnson says
  6. Migrant smugglers mostly Turks, says Europol
  7. Canada woos sceptical EU left on trade deal
  8. EU rushing to ratify climate agreement