Implementation Committee of Espoo Convention analyses Ukraine’s complaint against Romania

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The Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context has started looking into a complaint filed this March by Ukraine against Romania’s alleged infraction of its environmental duties in respect to the Danube Delta, the Romanian Foreign Ministry (MAE) reported on Thursday.

At a meeting on Wednesday in Geneva, Ukraine alleged that Romania built a navigable canal in the middle of the Danube Delta to allow for the passage of high-tonnage vessels. In backing up its allegations, Ukraine submitted to the members of the Implementation Committee for consideration the design of the Sulina Canal in the second half of the 19th century, MAE informed.

Although Romania became a party to the Espoo Convention in 2001, Ukraine has been alleging that the works on the Sulina Canal is affecting its territory as it reduces the flow of water in the Ukrainian part of the Danube, reads a press release issued by the MAE.

‘As known, Ukraine is currently building the Bystroe Canal, which would expand to include the Chilia branch as well. At the meeting, Ukraine accused Romania that as a result of the latter’s maintenance works on the Danube sediments are being deposited on the Chilia branch, thus affecting its project. The Romanian delegation attending the meeting replied by indicating that the accusation is groundless, because a general law principle says that nobody can make use of its own guilt to level an accusation against another state.

Moreover, Romania has proved that the works in question are carried out by virtue of international obligations incumbent on it under the 1948 Belgrade Convention concerning navigation of the Danube,’ MAE said.

The release also mentions that Ukraine also accused Romania of alleged actions, such as conducting navigational works on the Sfantu Gheorghe branch of the Danube or building artificial canals in an alleged attempt to deviate the flow of the river from the Chilia to the Sulina branch. Ukraine also claimed that these works are affecting the Bystroe Canal by cutting the flow of water on the Chilia branch, without backing up its accusation with any evidence, says the release.

‘Romania indicated that the Danube Delta ecosystem is conserved according to European and international environmental norms and that the state of the environment in protected areas is permanently monitored by international experts. At the same time, Romania categorically rejected Ukraine’s ungrounded claims and came up with arguments that Ukraine’s complaint is lacking in any judicial or factual basis,’ reads the release.

Romania also showed that the procedures of the Espoo Convention may not apply to works that were conducted long before the convention was adopted. At the same time, the Romanian delegation proved that no works were conducted on the Sfantu Gheorghe branch, contrary to Ukraine’s allegations.

Moreover, it was proved that the other activities of Romania presented by Ukraine as having a negative impact are in fact works conducted to green up the Danube and can in no way be included in the list of activities covered by the Espoo Convention.

‘Ukraine’s action is in fact aimed at distracting the attention of international forums from the real problem that the construction of the Bystroe Canal is posing. In the time after the current debate and the next meeting of the Implementation Committee in March 2010, a report will be approved and recommendations will be made regarding the issues raised at this meeting,’ MAE reported.

Ukraine notified the Implementation Committee, a special body without jurisdiction created to supervise the observance of the Espoo Convention provisions, on March 6, 2009. According to the procedure, Romania submitted a written reply to Ukraine’s allegation within three months, on June 5, 2009.

After oral debates, the Implementation Committee will draw up and present a report that it will submit to the two parties involved for observations and comments. A final version of the report will be adopted at the next meeting of the Implementation Committee scheduled for March 2010. The report will then be submitted to a Meeting of the parties to the Espoo Convention in 2011.

The mechanism of notifying the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention was started first by Romania in January 2007 over Ukraine’s Bystroe Canal project. Following Romania’s action, the parties to the Espoo Convention established in May 2008 that Ukraine infringed the Convention and asked it to halt the ongoing works.

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