Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine)


On Tuesday 3 February 2009 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rendered its Judgment in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine). A public sitting took place at 10 a.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which the President of the Court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, read the Court’s Judgment.

In its Judgment, which is final, binding and without appeal, the Court unanimously

“Decides that starting from Point 1, as agreed by the Parties in Article 1 of the 2003 State Border Régime Treaty, the line of the single maritime boundary delimiting the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zones of Romania and Ukraine in the Black Sea shall follow the 12-nautical-mile arc of the territorial sea of Ukraine around Serpents’ Island until Point 2 (with co-ordinates 45° 03' 18.5" N and 30° 09' 24.6" E) where the arc intersects with the line equidistant from Romania’s and Ukraine’s adjacent coasts. From Point 2 the boundary line shall follow the equidistance line through Points 3 (with co-ordinates 44° 46' 38.7" N and 30° 58' 37.3" E) and 4 (with co-ordinates 44° 44' 13.4" N and 31° 10' 27.7" E) until it reaches Point 5 (with co-ordinates 44° 02' 53.0" N and 31° 24' 35.0" E). From Point 5 the maritime boundary line shall continue along the line equidistant from the opposite coasts of Romania and Ukraine in a southerly direction starting at a geodetic azimuth of 185° 23' 54.5" until it reaches the area where the rights of third States may be affected.”

History of the Dispute

In short, the Parties disagreed on the course of a single maritime boundary to be established between the two States, thereby delimiting the continental shelf and the economic zones appertaining to them. In this respect the presence of Serpents’ Island, a small island situated in the north-western part of the Black Sea, approximately 20 nautical miles east of the Danube delta, played an important role. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine inherited control over the island.

In 1997, Romania and Ukraine signed a treaty in which both states "reaffirm that the existing border between them is inviolable and therefore, they shall refrain, now and in future, from any attempt against the border, as well as from any demand, or act of, seizure and usurpation of part or all the territory of the Contracting Party". Romania agreed with the terms of the treaty, as it opened for the country a door to NATO. However, both sides agreed that if no resolution on maritime borders could be reached within two years, then either side could go to the International Court of Justice to seek a final ruling.

History of the Proceedings

On 16 September 2004, Romania indeed filed an Application instituting proceedings against Ukraine in respect of a dispute “concerning the establishment of a single maritime boundary between the two States in the Black Sea, thereby delimiting the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zones appertaining to them”. Romania stated that on 2 June 1997 Ukraine and itself signed a Treaty on Relations of Co-operation and Good-Neighbourliness, as well as an Additional Agreement, by which the two States committed themselves to finding agreement on the above-mentioned matters. Romania contended that negotiations held since 1998 have been inconclusive. Romania invoked Article 4 (h) of the Additional Agreement, which provides the dispute to be brought to the International Court of Justice. Later on Romania filed its Memorial and Ukraine its Counter-Memorial. By an Order of 30 June 2006, the Court authorized the filing of a Reply by Romania and a Rejoinder by Ukraine. Public hearings in the Great Hall of Justice were held in the case from 2 to 19 September 2008.