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Hungary/Slovakia delegations meet on dam dispute, agreement still far

Hungarian and Slovak government delegations continued negotiations on a prolonged Danube dam dispute on Tuesday, but an agreement still seems to be at a far distance.

Head of the Slovak delegation Dominik Kocinger presented a proposal in which Slovakia suggests that Hungary provides an alternative to satisfy an earlier unfulfilled commitment to build a dam on the Danube. The Hague Court ruled in 1997 that both parties had breached an earlier treaty, and called on both Hungary and Slovakia to reach an equitable solution.

In 1993 Slovakia sued Hungary for breaching a 1977 contract to build a dam and barrage system on the Danube between Nagymaros in Hungary and Gabcikovo in Slovakia, and Hungary counter-sued Slovakia for diverting a portion of the river to operate a hydroelectric plant it had built on its own at Gabcikovo. Hungary had pulled out of the joint project for environmental reasons and Slovakia continued building on its own, cutting the water off from a nature conservation area in Hungary.

Following the Hague Court ruling, Slovakia sued again in 1998. The Slovak proposal presented on Tuesday suggests that the original contract with Hungary should apply, but some parts of it could be suspended temporarily from execution, Kocinger said. Head of the Hungarian delegation Gyorgy Erdey presented Hungary's own proposal which insists that European Union guidelines should prevail in reaching a settlement. The environmental condition of waterways must be preserved while helping a sustainable and balanced use of water power, Erdey said. He added that the two sides agreed that strategic impact studies must be prepared, but while Hungary would like to target the common Hungarian/Slovak section of the Danube, Slovakia would opt to target the area between Bratislava and Budapest in the studies.

A joint Hungarian-Slovak inter-ministerial commission met on October 5 in Budapest to set up an agenda on how the economic, legal and navigational aspects of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam along the Slovak/Hungarian border might be settled. Negotiations are set to continue in January or February next year, after experts on both sides have studied the newly presented documents. (