The International Court of Justice drew a new maritime border between Romania and Ukraine on Tuesday to settle a Black Sea dispute affecting rights to drill for oil and gas.
Romania said it would gain access to an estimated 70 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 12 million tons of crude oil. “The court in The Hague gave Romania satisfaction,” said President Traian Basescu. “This is a great success of Romania’s foreign ministry.” Ukraine also welcomed the ruling as a “wise compromise” which resolved the long-running dispute once and for all.
Andriy Goncharuk, foreign policy aide to President Viktor Yushchenko, said it created “favorable conditions for each side to bring in foreign investment to explore for and exploit natural resources in this part of the Black Sea.”
Both countries are keen to tap new energy supplies and reduce their dependence on Russian gas, starkly highlighted last month by a pricing dispute between Moscow and Kiev that cut gas supplies to much of Europe.
The 15 judges of the court -- the United Nations’ highest judicial body -- were unanimous in their decision, which both sides had agreed in advance would be binding.
ISLAND OR ROCK?
At stake were exploration and drilling rights in a total area of 12,000 sq km (4,600 sq miles) which Romania had said could contain reserves of more than 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
It had claimed a border extending into the northern part of the Black Sea, excluding an area surrounding Ukraine’s Serpent Island or Snake Island, as the rock formation located 40 km (25 miles) offshore is known.
Ukraine had claimed a border closer to the western coast of the Black Sea, saying that Serpent Island gave it territorial rights over the waters. The ruling gives Romania about four-fifths of the area it claimed, said Bogdan Aurescu, Romania’s agent on the case. “We consider this an equitable and correct solution by the court,” Aurescu told reporters after the ruling.
The new maritime border takes into account a small 12 nautical mile section of the arc surrounding Serpent Island, and then splits the distance between Romania’s 248 km (155 mile)-long coast and Ukraine’s 705 km (440 mile) coast.
Several large foreign companies have expressed interest in investing in the area, including Total, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and OMV. As part of its judgment, the court also determined that tiny Serpent Island, about the size of 20 soccer pitches, could be considered an island, rather than a rocky outcrop.
Ukraine argued that it was an inhabited, economically active island where around 100 people including military personnel, lighthouse keepers and scientists live with their families. Romania said it was just a rock, and Ukraine had only developed activity there with the court ruling in mind. (Reuters)