18 Dec 2023 14:27

Ukraine closes 20-year dispute with Romania over Danube-Black Sea canal - Natural Resources Ministry

MOSCOW. Dec 18 (Interfax) - Ukraine has closed a 20-year dispute with Romania over the fulfillment of its requirements during the construction of the Danube-Black Sea canal as part of its European integration commitments under the Espoo Convention on the sidelines of the Ninth Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, Ukrainian Environment Protection and Natural Resources Minister Ruslan Strelets said.

"We want and can seek common ground and correct the past mistakes," Ukrainian media quoted him as saying on social media. Strelets thanked Romanian Minister of Environment, Water and Forest Resources Mircea Fechet for backing this historic decision and Moldovan Environment Minister Iordanca Iordanov for chairing the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention professionally and diplomatically.

The Espoo Convention is an international agreement initiated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which entered into force in 1997 and is named after the Finnish city of Espoo, where it was signed in 1991. Under the document, the procedure for assessing the environmental impact of potentially hazardous projects should be carried out not only within a country, but also in neighboring countries that might be affected by the impact of these facilities.

As reported, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma opened traffic along the first part of the canal in August 2004. At the same time, the European Commission on September 1 protested to Ukraine over the continued construction of the canal in the Danube delta, which is under UNESCO's protection. The European Commission urged Kiev to stop the construction until an expert examination of the impact that the canal might have on the nature in the delta is carried out. At the same time, Romania said it would challenge the construction of the canal.

Under a decision by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, dredging of the Danube-Black Sea canal through the mouth of the Bystroye River was suspended in June 2005 for an expert examination. An expert examination conducted by a commission of the Ukrainian Environmental Protection Ministry revealed that the canal was not harmful to nature.

Ukraine proceeds from the fact that the restoration of navigation in the lower reaches of the Danube is a sovereign right of the authorities and is aimed at reviving the situation that historically existed in the region before 1994, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

The Ukrainian side said at the time that its stance had been upheld by international experts during a visit to the immediate site of the work in the Danube delta. Hence, representatives of the Ramsar, Berne, Aarhus Conventions, Espoo Convention, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, European Commission, Council of Europe, World Wildlife Fund have visited the lower reaches of the Danube since the start of restoration efforts. The mission's recommendations contained three main requirements for Ukraine: not to start work on the second stage of the project until the assessment of the environmental impact from the implementation of the second stage is completed; to hold public hearings regarding the environmental impact of the project; to conduct a systematic monitoring of the environment in the implementation of the project, which should involve international experts and Romanian representatives. Ukraine has met all of the three requirements, the ministry said.

Nevertheless, the dispute continued, and Ukraine also made counterclaims to Romania under the Espoo Convention regarding the implementation of its projects in the Danube delta. This dispute has now been brought to an end, the media reported.