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Hungary, Slovakia take steps to settle long disputed dam project

Hungary and Slovakia signed an agreement to start a joint strategic environmental study of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam system, a much disputed project along the River Danube, that runs between the two countries.

The agreement lays down the schedule for the study, the tasks of the body overseeing it and rules for the collection and exchange of information, said György Erdey, state secretary at Hungary's Environment Ministry.

Hungary will contribute Ft 100 million toward covering the cost of the survey.

The body overseeing the study will start its work within two weeks, and the study will be completed by the end of 2009.

Gabriel Jencik, who signed the contract on behalf of Slovakia, said there are still disagreements on the way the dam project should be carried out.

Hungary and Slovakia singed a contract on the construction of the dam system, between the Slovakian city of Gabcikovo and the Hungarian town of Nagymaros, in 1977, but when the environmental effects of the project became clear, Hungaran civil organisations protested the plan. In 1989, Hungary shelved the project because of the stand of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the lack of an environmental impact study. In 1992, the case was brought before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The court ruled that Hungary had illegally broken the 1977 contract on the dam system , but that Slovakia had also acted in breach of the law when it put a hydroelectric power plant in operation without Hungary's consent in Gabcikovo. (MTI – Econews)