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Romania v. Ukraine at the ICJ: Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea

 Judgment no. 100 of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, rendered on 3 February 2009, recognized the jurisdiction and sovereign rights of Romania over more than 79% of the 12,200 square kilometers of continental shelf and exclusive economic zones disputed by Romania and Ukraine.

The ICJ judgment traces a delimitation line, strictly defined by geographical coordinates, between Romania’s and Ukraine’s zones of exclusive jurisdiction in the Black Sea. As of the date when the judgment was rendered, the two states have full rights to tap the economic resources in those zones.

The maritime boundary was traced according to a method the International Court of Justice developed, based on international law, in dealing with similar cases in its over 60 years of activity. That is precisely why this specific settlement of Romania’s and Ukraine’s competing claims over the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones in the North-Western part of the Black Sea basin stands for a victory of international law. This case is an example of good practices in the international relations in the area.

Romania and Ukraine agreed, in the 1997 basic political Treaty and the related Additional Agreement, to settle the Black Sea dispute through the ICJ, in case the bilateral negotiations would not yield an agreement and provided the conditions stipulated in the Additional Agreement were met. Romania brought the case before the ICJ on 16 September 2004. The proceedings included a written stage, when the two states submitted to the Court the documents containing the legal cases whereby each state upheld its claims. The second stage – the public hearings – took place over 2-19 September 2008, the two states arguing their respective cases before the Court.

The judgment the ICJ rendered is final, binding and without appeal. The two states are bound to observe the judgment, which is enforceable immediately, no further bilateral agreements, interpretations of the judgment or additional acts being needed.