Viche 2008 23

23, 2008

Right is not policy: business about differentiation of marine spaces between Ukraine and Romania in the Black sea

At the beginning of 2009 the International court of the UNO in the Hague will declare the verdict on this business which has been examined since 2004.
The court will not consider the status of Zmiyinyi Island, as far as it was acknowledged by the operating international agreements to be the part of the territory of Ukraine and its territorial belonging is not discussed. However, the court has to set whether Zmiyinyi an island or a rock is.

We will remind that about 85 people live on Zmiyinyi Island, which occupies the area of 0,17 square kilometers and is located in Ukrainian territorial waters 300 kilometers from Odessa and 35 kilometers from the delta of the Danube River. Romania considers that Zmiyinyi is a rock and that is why it doesnt have to be taken into account during boundary delimitation. Ukraine has an opposite opinion. Therefore the International court of the UNO in the Hague will put an end in this business. The representative of Ukraine in the court, the honored lawyer of Ukraine, the doctor of legal sciences, Professor Volodymyr Vasylenko has told us about this business in more detail.




    Volodymyr Andriyevych, who was actually the initiator of appealing to the International court?  


Ukraine was the first to propose the idea of appealing to the International court in the case of unsuccessful bilateral negotiations. This idea was accepted by the Romanian side and was officially registered in the proper agreement. Taking this into account the Ministry of foreign affairs carried out the preparatory work, which has become the system after the appeal of Romania to the court in 2004. I want to mark that the essence of the dispute is not the status of Zmiyinyi Island, but the delimitation of marine spaces in the north-western part of the Black Sea. The status of the island was already long ago set by numerous international agreements at first between the USSR, and later by Ukraine, and Romania, in particular by the Great Ukrainian-Romanian agreement of 1997, where it is sharply defined that Zmiyinyi Island is the part of the territory of Ukraine, and nobody contests this fact or calls it in question, including Romania.  Therefore we appealed to the Hague court with only one question: to define the line of the border between the continental shelf and the economic area of Romania and Ukraine. Thats all. Full stop.


The formulation of the appeal to the International court of the UNO offered by Ukraine foresaw the previous conclusion of the Treaty about the mode of the state boundary and its implementation. After its ratification by both sides all territorial questions were regulated as thoroughly as possible. And as far as the Ukrainian side was sure in the strength of its position in the questions of delimitation of marine spaces Romania was suggested to appeal to the International court. We also took into consideration the fact that for more than 50-year-old history the court hasnt damaged its reputation and has always made weighed legal decisions.






    So did the Romanian side try to prove in the court that Zmiyinyi is a rock not an island?


During the verbal hearing of the case in September this year the Romanian side tried to prove that in accordance with the point 3 of the article 121 of the Convention of the UNO  on the naval law Zmiyinyi Island is a rock, which is unsuitable for living or economic activity. In actual fact the flora of the island and the level of precipitations testify that these climatic terms are close to the steppe zone. Even old tanks for keeping rain water have been saved. Regardless of claims of the Romanian side there are the sources of fresh water on the island.


On all old maps Zmiyinyi Island is marked exactly as an island, not a rock or reef.


Denying the influence of Zmiyinyi Island on the determination of the line of delimitation, the Romanian side insisted on the necessity to take into account the Sulynska dam which continues artificially the territory of Romania. Such approach is obviously unbalanced.


Moreover the Romanian delegation aimed to draw the attention of the court from the fact that the length of the coastline of Ukraine in the district of delimitation is at least three times bigger than the length of the whole Romanian coast. In fact in cases about delimitation of marine spaces exactly the correlation of the length of coasts is decisive in the determination of the line of delimitation. For this reason the Romanian delegation aimed groundlessly to amputate about six hundred kilometers of the Ukrainian coast from Odessa to the Crimean cape of Tarkhunkut, ignoring the peculiarities of the geography of the district of delimitation.




Volodymyr Andriyovych, people say that the decision of the Hague court can be accepted not in favor of Ukraine because of the inexpressive position of official Kyiv and because of even some secret agreements at the highest level?


It is known that the decision about the expedience of passing the dispute for consideration to the International court of the UNO was accepted yet in times of presidency of L. Kuchma. It was the rational and correct decision formalized in the additional agreement to the Great Ukrainian-Romanian agreement. The mentioned acts signed in 1997 were properly ratified by the Verkhovna Rada. Consequently, it was not some willful and obscure decision.


I will also remind that the will of the President isnt obviously enough in order to change the territory. In accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine such changes can take place only in the result of national referendum.


The fact of appealing to the court itself testifies the high level of civilized society of both sides and their faith in the justice of the International court, the decision of which will become the basis for subsequent development of Ukrainian-Romanian relations.


Do you, Volodymyr Andriyevych, think that the presence of oil and gas deposits near Zmiyinyi Island have a big geopolitical value?


This is true that such deposits are located in the arguable district. But they have not been explored finally yet. Therefore in mass media different figures are cited from 50 to 100 milliard cubic meters of gas. The whole district of delimitation is about 75 thousand square kilometers, arguable district 12 thousand square kilometers. I want to notice that the forecast deposits of oil and gas are not so big there so that Ukraine or Romania could cardinally and for a long period decide their energy supply problems. That is why we dont need to speak about some global geopolitical value of these deposits.


Volodymyr Andriyovych, here is the last question: is there a possibility of transference of Romanian experience about the settlement of the situation with Russia during the delimitation of the sea of Azov and the Kerch channel?


As far as the negotiations on this question have reached god-forsaken place, Ukraine should appeal officially to the Russian Federation with the suggestion to pass the dispute for consideration to the International court of the UNO. It will testify the confidence of Ukraine in the force of the legal position.


Thank you, Volodymyr Andriyovych, for a very interesting conversation!


An interview was conducted by Svitlana FILONENKO.
Photo made by Anastasiya SYROTKINA.