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Case Number: 25

Case Mnemonic: DANUBE

Case Name: Danube River Dispute

Case Author: Jerry Fortunato, Kevin Kurland, Leslie Barcus Tara Mitchell, Spring1997


1. Abstract

The diversion of the Danube River onto Slovak territory will changethe international boundary between the two countries. It will affect Hungarian trade flows because duties may be charged by Slovakia to cross their territory on the New Danube River and the environmental impact of diverting the river is immense. The damwill result in the lowering of the water table, the destruction ofwoodlands and wetlands, and the contamination of water supplies. Not only would it harm all ecosystems that feed off the oldriver-bed, Hungarian critics charge water supplies to some ethnicHungarian Danube villages will be cut off, while others would beflooded. Slovakian officials dismiss the environmental reportsas alarmist and tout the energy creating benefits of the dam. Scientists studying the project say even when the dam is fullyoperational, it will only provide Slovakia with five percent of itsenergy needs.

2. Description

Fifteen years ago, the idea of correcting "mother nature" was invogue in the communist countries of Europe. Former Soviet leaderLeonid Brezhnev originated the idea of irrigating the deserts ofSoviet Asian territory by reversing the course of Siberia's threegreat rivers, the Ob, Yensei, and Lena. By constructing a seriesof man-made dams, the plan was to divert the water into massive irrigation channels spread throughout the territory. Although hisidea was (fortunately) never implemented, it did provideinspiration to the communist leaders of Czechoslovakia and Hungary,who decided to dam the Danube River. On May 6, 1976, thegovernments of the two countries signed the Joint Agreed Plan,which undertook to construct the Gabcikovo-Nagymoros Barrage Systemto conquer nature. The plan was to divert the Danube River into anew river bed or canal that would produce electric power, becomethe new route for international inland navigation, manage water supplies, and aid the economic development of neighboring regions.

The Barrage system was to consist of a reservoir, two diversion canals, and two hydroelectric power plants located in present-day Slovakia and Hungary (Gabcikovo and Nagymoros respectively). Theenvironmental effects from re-routing the Danube into twodiversionary canals, while still discharging water into the old Danube river bed, had serious consequences for both Hungary and Czechoslovakia. However, the need for domestic energy production spurred construction of the project.

When the political regimes in both countries changed in 1989, anenvironmental assessment was made on the Barrage system due to thegrowing environmental consciousness in both countries. It was noted that the dam project would cause serious problems to the drinking water supplies, the water tables, natural resources, and plant and organic species.

The interpretation of the study varied in each country. The Czechsand Slovaks believed subsequent technical corrections would be sufficient to correct the environmental damage that would occur. The Hungarians did not believe this to be sufficient, and afterenormous political pressure from environmentalists, they stoppedwork on the Nagymoros dam on July 20, 1989. Meanwhile, theCzechoslovak Party gave notice to a new provisional solution on August 31, 1993 -- to divert the Danube on Czechoslovak territory. By simply building their own dam farther upstream, and safelywithin their own sovereign territory, the new solution virtuallyensured the Slovak continuation of the Gabcikovo project. This notonly would have the aforementioned environmental effects, but thenew solution was also a violation of international law because italtered the line of the natural border between the two countries,namely the middle of the Danube River, and changed the navigationalroute for trade through Slovakia.

This change of the navigational route will severely affect exportand import trade of Hungary. If cargo ships bound for Hungary haveto cross Slovak territory to reach Hungary, goods will besusceptible to Slovak tariffs and duties. Slovakia will also havethe means to strangle Hungarian trade along the river if conflictdoes arise between the two countries. Because of the large Magyarpopulation in Slovakia, there is already tension between the twocountries.

The European Community became involved to avoid another possibleEuropean conflagration. In November of 1992 the European Communitybegan a series of conciliatory moves to broker a cooperationagreement between the Slovak and Hungarian governments. A jointcommittee consisting of Slovak and Hungarian experts, as well asEuropean Commission representatives, has been set up to ensureconsultations on the water distribution system. In view of theSlovakian determination to continue construction of the dam, theEuropean Commission believes a compromise over the amount of waterdiverted to the Slovakian turbines is needed so that the brunt ofthe environmental damage can be avoided by ensuring sufficientwater levels in the old river bed.

Even this plan has been met with opposition. Slovakia wants tofollow through on the original plan for the complex and remove anaverage of 1,400 cubic meters of water per second, or two-thirds ofits natural volume, from the river to fill its diversionary canaland a nearby reservoir during a two-year test period of thecomplex. Hungary is fiercely opposed to this plan, citing thenegative impact on the quality of drinking water in the region. According to a published study by the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) the reduced flow in the river's natural bed would threatenwater reservoirs with increased deposits of polluted clay. TheEuropean Commission has asked Slovakia to divert only a third ofthe Danube's flow and leave the remaining two-thirds of the waterin the natural river bed. The Slovaks say that their turbines musthave at least two-thirds, and that if the Hungarians want to raisethe water level in the original channel, they can build auxiliarydams. Hungarian officials believe such installations would be asdamaging as the diversion itself.

Hungary has refused to initiate a military response. The currentgovernment appears to remain committed to finding a diplomaticsolution to the problem. In light of the fact that the Slovakianactions affect political, economic, and environmental securityinternationally, on October 29, 1992 both sides agreed to allow theInternational Court of Justice to rule on this matter. The Slovaks insist it is the Hungarians who have violated internationallaw by officially and unilaterally abrogating the original damtreaty. The European Union is insisting that Slovakia shouldaccept the compromise proposal, and continues to act as a mediatorbetween the two governments. Although the case is still underreview by the International Court, the Slovaks have since completedthe Gabcikovo dam. On the Hungarian side, earlier plans to startdismantling their dam at Nagymoros have not been undertaken.

From the 18th century, Czech nationalists sought to create a statewhose borders would reach the Danube as well as connect it withother Slav territories. The Paris Peace Conference at the end ofWorld War I accomplished this goal. Bohemia and Slovakia were joined, incorporating Hungarian territories within the Slovak sideof the Danube. The greater desire of both the Czechs and Slovakswas to obtain Hungarian territory on both sides of the Danubegiving the new nation unilateral control of the river.

Negotiations between the governments of Czechoslovakia andHungarian to build the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dam date back to 1951.The original intent of the project was to alter the shallow reachof the Danube between Bratislava, Czechoslovakia and Gyor, Hungaryand to connect the two countries to the Danube-Main-Rhine trans-European waterway. The project was strongly supported by theSoviet Union whose ships transported large quantities of goodsthrough this part of Eastern Europe. Via this waterway, directaccess to the Black Sea from Budapest and to the North Sea fromBratislava would be possible. Joint planning on the waterway beganin the 1950s. An important component of the long-term plan was toassess the environmental and regional impacts of a dam project.

While the original intent of the project was to construct anavigable waterway, the priority of the project was refocused inthe 1970s toward energy production. This reorientation was drivenby two factors. First, with the oil shocks of the 70s, petrolprices were increasing. Thus, it was in the best interest ofCzechoslovakia and Hungary to produce more energy. Second, theonly way the Hungarian water management bureaucracy was able togain necessary support and resources within Hungary was toemphasize energy production. Hungary always held less enthusiasmfor the project than Czechoslovakia because of the Czech's desireto unilaterally control the Danube. Hungary succumbed to Sovietdomination and signed on to the project.

In light of the oil crisis and recentralization of Soviet powerafter the Czechoslovak revolution of 1968, Czechoslovakia andHungary hastily signed a "Treaty Concerning the Construction andOperation of the Gabcikovo System of Locks" (the 1977 Treaty) inSeptember 1977. This signing cut short further environmental andregional impact studies which were slated for completion at the endof 1978.

The project plan included four objectives:

First, it would manage water flow against flood protection. Bybuilding a canal within Slovakia, the peak flow of the old Danubechannel could be controlled as could hydraulic pressure on existinglevees. Around Nagymaros on the Hungarian side, embankments were tobe reinforced to protect land banks from erosion.

Second, it would create a navigational inland waterway withinSlovakia which met the Danube Commission recommendations of achannel 180 meters wide by 3.5 meters deep. This depth wouldaccommodate barge traffic permitting the Slovak government toincrease shipping revenues at the Bratislava port.

Third, it would produce electricity by constructing twohydroelectric power stations. On the Slovak side, the Gabcikovopower plant would have installed capacity of 720 MW and an annualproduction of about 3.0 billion Kwh. In Hungary, the Nagymaros Damwould have installed capacity of 158 MW. Annual production wasforecasted at 1.0 billion Kwh.

Fourth, it would conserve the ecosystem of the inland delta of theDanube by slowing the river current and preventing erosion. Directing water to river-side forests and side-arms of the Danubewould prevent desiccation of these areas.

The Gabcikovo system consisted of a head reservoir measuring 60square kilometers, a dam and system of locks at the reservoir. From this reservoir, a 17 km by-pass canal within Slovak territorywas planned to divert water to a power plant at Gabcikovo. Thehead reservoir at Dunakiliti straddled Hungarian and Slovakterritory. Approximately 90 to 97 percent of the Danubežs flowwould be diverted to Gabcikovo. The remaining flow would bediverted 8 kms back to the old Danube river bed. Nagymaros, thesecond power station, was to be built approximately 100 kmsdownstream of Gabcikovo. The Nagymaros Project was also to includea dam and reservoir and lock system. The site of the power stationwas located entirely within Hungary.

An agreement signed prior to the 1977 Treaty set the years 1986 to1990 for starting operations of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros. The 1977Treaty stipulated that state borders would be respected accordingto the present navigation line of the old Danube river bed. Provisions regarding protection of the environment included that(1) the water of the Danube was not to be impaired as a result ofthe construction and operation of the dams and locks; (2)compliance with the obligation for the protection of theenvironment was to be ensured and (3) the old bed of the Danube wasto be maintained.

Construction on the Gabcikovo power plant began in 1978, but wassuspended in June 1981 when Hungary, caught up in a deepeningeconomic crisis, realized it had neither the technical norfinancial wherewithal to continue construction. Faced with thiseconomic crisis and sharp criticism from the Hungarian WaterAssociation as well as from a grassroots political party, Hungarianofficials suspended further construction. In addition, a review ofmajor national investments was ordered. Finally, an agreement withSlovakia was signed that changed the project deadline to 1994 andpostponed construction of Nagymaros until 1988.

During this delay, Hungarian opposition to the project onenvironmental grounds was further mounting. Under pressure from theopposition, the Hungarian Parliament demanded that the ecologicalrisks of the project be studied further. Construction of Nagymaroswas taken up again in 1985 at the behest of the water managementlobby. However, public debate against the project continued. By 1987, the democracy movement in Hungary was beginning to takeshape.

A group of independent politicians and representatives of theproject opposition who had been elected in 1985 initiated areexamination of the project. Construction continued in 1988 whilecontroversy over the project grew increasingly heated. to gainneeded popular support in the fight against conservatives, thereformist wing of parliament used the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Projectas a political tool. On the strength of the reformist movement andfinding that ecological and technical evaluations were insufficientduring the initial planning phase, the Hungarian governmentunilaterally suspended further construction of the Nagymaros Damand the Dunakiliti works on May 13, 1989. In addition, theParliament authorized the government to enter into negotiations forthe termination of the 1977 Treaty.

In the autumn of 1989, radical political changes in Slovakiawitnessed a more moderate tone in the on-going conflict betweenHungary and Czechoslovkia. Hoping to find a solution to theproblem, the Hungarian government proposed that the conflict beresolved on the basis of independent scientific investigation. In addition, until free elections of 1990 had been held in bothcountries, Hungary proposed that all work on the project bestopped. The Czechoslovak government under the leadership ofVaclav Havel agreed to the environmental investigations, butinsisted on the continuation of work due to the huge sums of moneyalready invested in the project. The Slovaks argued thatadditional installations could be added to the project to protectthe environment and therefore, Gabcikovo should be put intooperation to amortize investment costs.

A series of negotiations continued between the governments withoutresolution of the problem. Finally, in April 1992, the Commissionof the European Community made an offer to form a trilateralcommittee of experts to settle the dispute. The offer was subjectto several conditions however: (1) both parties would accept thefindings of the expert panel, and (2) while the study was being carried out, neither side would engage in any actions which would prejudice the panel's findings. The first condition was agreed upon, however, Hungary felt that the second condition necessitated the suspension of Variant C because it was conceived unilaterally and included construction outside of the 1977 Treaty. The Czechoslovak authorities disagreed arguing that not continuing would mean losing 2,000 Kwh per year of electricity amounting to6,000 million CKS per year (US$1/CKS28.90). It was announced that Gabcikovo would begin operations by October 1992. Still without a resolution to the problem, Hungary declared a terminationof the 1977 Treaty as of May 25, 1992. On October 24, 1992, thedamming of the Danube began and Variant C was put into operation.

Beginning October 28, 1992, trilateral negotiations betweenCzechoslovak, Hungarian and European Community officials led to thesigning of the London Protocol. This agreement stipulated thatžall works [operations] on Variant C (except for works related to flood control, navigation and environmental protection) should bepostponed for a period determined by the EC. Czechoslovakia guaranteed to maintain not less than 95 percent of normal flow in the old Danube riverbed and to refrain from operating the powerplant at Gabcikovo. The agreement further established thatthree experts nominated by the European Commission would review Variant C, environmental risks, water economy, navigation andrequirements for flood protection. The expert panel was to furtherstudy the possibility and costs of reversing the Gabcikovo constructions. On the basis of these findings, further steps fora common solution were to be identified. Hungary and Czechoslovakia agreed that the International Court of Justice atthe Hague should decide the case, taking into consideration alllegal, economic and environmental matters.

The Gabcikovo-Nagymaros case remains with the International Courtof Justice. A decision is not expected before 1997. In April 1995, Slovakia and Hungary signed a temporary agreement on thereplacement of water in the old Danube River channel. The agreement is to ensure the necessary diversion of water by Slovakiato the Szigetkoz region before the International Court of Justice makes its ruling. Disputes that arise during the temporary agreement period will be addressed by the European Commission. A primary motivation for the temporary agreement was to show Europeanneighbors that Slovakia and Hungary are capable of solving disputesin a European manner. Both Hungary and Slovakia have expresseda desire for membership in the European Union.

Under the agreement, Slovakia has agreed to raise the water levelin the main bed of the Danube to 400m3/sec, compared to an averageflow of 2000 m3/sec before the diversion. The Slovaks estimatethat this will lessen the output of Gabcikovo by 300 millionkilowatt hours or about US$ 10 million. Water levelmeasurements taken in the Danube shortly after its October 1992damming led Hungarian officials to believe that Slovakia nevercomplied with its agreement under the London Protocol to maintain95 percent of the Danube's flow in the old river channel. TheDanube was reportedly about 2 meters below the lowest mark everrecorded. Hungarian official estimated the flow to be between 220-350 m3/sec.

For its part of the new agreement, Hungary agreed to begin theconstruction of a weir at Dunakiliti to forward more water to thetributaries of the Danube. The building of the weir was tocommence 10 days after the signing of the agreement and is to becompleted within 50 days after construction start. Hungarywill finance the total cost of the weir, estimated at 450 millionHUF (HUF125/$1US).

In July 1994, Hungary begun to pump water from the depleted watersof the old Danube to revive their wetlands. This has helpedreplenish streams and created an environment in which people canagain swim, fish and boat in resort areas. In December 1994,demolition of the 1.9km Nagymaros dam began. Nagymaros should becompletely dismantled by July 1996 at a cost of $US 91 million. Yacht and other water sports facilities are planned for the site.

An article appearing in the July 16, 1994 issue of New Scientistreported that the World Wide Fund for Naturežs campaign againstGabcikovo was stopped in July 1994 after scientific refutation anda critique of WWF statements was made by a leading Slovakian hydrologist. According to the article, WWF officials conceded thathad the Nagymoros dam been built as originally planned, the waterresources of the entire region would have improved. It was furtherreported that WWF apologized to Slovak authorities claiming thatGabcikovo may be good for the environment after all. The articlestates that desiccated wetlands have been revived, rechargingunderground water supplies. Plant and animal life have been revivedas the ground water level has risen in formerly dry meadow landsupstream from the dam.

Contrary to the New Scientist article, WWF maintains that the "pastand present ecological impacts of Gabcikovo remained of greatconcern." In October 1994, after complete review of theSlovakian hydrologistžs report, WWF communicated that it žfearedthat the dam will drastically alter the hydrology of the Danubefloodplain and inflict serious and lasting damage on the regionžsbiodiversity. Further, WWF stated its concerns that the Slovakcritique "only addresses part of the problem affecting groundwaterimpacts in the area and ignores long-term impacts such as theecological impacts of the floodplain dynamics." WWF recommendedseveral short-term and long-term measures that should be undertakento restore the hydrological and morphological dynamics in theregion. In the short-term WWF maintains that:

The old Danube river bed should receive a discharge of between 600m3/sec and 940 m3/sec. This will permit the migration of fish andother organisms in the river bed. Islands and gravel banks inthe old river bed should be constructed. Sediment in the old riverchannel will reduce water flow, allowing the water level toincrease and spill over into desiccated river side arms.

WWF believes that short measures will lessen but not totally curbenvironmental damage to the region. Reversing ecologicalalterations and preserving the Danube floodplains and groundwaterreservoir requires longer-term measures. Specifically, WWFadvocates a discharge of about two thirds of the Danube water inthe old bed, and constricting the Cunovo reservoir to a navigationroute

3. Duration: 1978-now

The parties disagree about the environmental, political, andeconomic ramifications of diverting the Danube to Gabcikovo. Thecase is currently pending at the Court of International Justice atThe Hague, and European Union (EU) negotiators have affirmed thecommitment of all parties to a negotiated solution and bindinginternational arbitration.

Hungary and Slovakia disagree about the environmental, legal, andeconomic aspects of the project. After failure to reach agreementthrough bilateral negotiation and assistance of the EuropeanCommission, the case was referred to the International Court ofJustice at the Hague in October 1992.

4. Location

Continent: EUROPERegion: East Europe [EEUR]Country: SLOVakia

5. Actors: Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary

Slovakia's control of the Danube shipping route has created apotential disadvantage for countries desiring to ship cargo on theriver. First, Slovakia could block the route for political orsecurity reasons. In this case, shippers would be forced to usemore expensive ground transportation alternatives. Second, toprotect their foreign exchange reserves, Slovakia taxes mostimported goods. If this tax is levied on exports passing throughSlovakia, these goods will be less price competitive upon reachingtheir final markets.

A secondary potential effect of Gabcikovo relates to powerproduction and electricity exports. Slovakia is currently seekingfunding for the completion of the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plantwhich would generate 1760 MW of power. If Mochovce iscompleted, it would replace capacity at another Slovak nuclearsite, Bohunice. Nearly $200 million in safety upgrades arecurrently being undertaken at Bohunice even though its closure isscheduled for the year 2000.

In 1993, Slovakia was able to meet about 95 percent of its energyneeds. Should the Slovak government decide not to shut downBohunice, they could produce electricity for export. Informationon the Mochovce case suggests that the Slovak government intends toexport electricity once Mochovce is operational. Slovakia canexport nuclear generated electricity to western Europe at roughly60 percent of its price in the west. Electricity produced atGabcikovo provides the Slovak government greater flexibility withrespect to electricity exports. Output from Gabcikovo could beexported or be used to meet domestic demand, freeing up otheroutput for trade.

II. EnvironmentAspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Water

Data and information collected on the ecological impacts of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project are best described as inadequate. Acritique of the Gabcikovo Project of March 1993 notes that nocomplete environmental impact study had been undertaken during themany years of planning and subsequent operation of Gabcikovo. The International Rivers Network ranked the Project among the top10 most environmentally destructive hydraulic engineering projectsin the world.

Construction has contributed to the loss of thousands of hectaresof forest flood plain, agricultural lands and Danube countryside. As the diversion of the Danube began, thousands of dead fish werefound near the dam. With the closing of the old river bed, waterin certain branches of the Danube fell by six feet; other bedsdried out completely and the groundwater table fell to twelve feetbelow the soil. It is feared that such conditions willdevastate the flora and fauna in the region. Anticipated contamination of groundwater and drinking supplies threaten thehealth of human inhabitants in the region.

Disagreement over environmental impact is at the base of thisdispute. The Hungarians argue that the project is environmentally devastating and that little short of stopping the operations at Gabcikovo can restore the region. Slovak authorities maintain thatthe project is reviving formally desiccated wetlands and isenvironmentally advantageous. Following is the expectedenvironmental impact as presented by the Hungarians and Slovaks:

According to a critique of the Gabcikovo Project, Damming theDanube, endangered are 130 species of birds or 54 percent of theregionžs aviary population; 30 mammal species; 8 reptile species;6 amphibian species and 28 species of fish.

Seventeen protected areas and 4 reserves are endangered by theproject. The small Hungarian island of Szigetkoz, a habitat ofrare and elsewhere unknown animal and plant species, dried outafter the initial damming of the Danube. Of Hungaryžof 80 fishspecies, 60 are found in the region, 12 of them are protected.

Slovak supporters of the project acknowledge the loss of valuableforest lands and some flora and fauna during project construction. However they assert that as water is returned to branches of theDanube, forests, plant and animal life will be revived. An articleappearing in the July 16, 1994 issue of New Scientist reports thatsince the Slovaks began diverting water back into the Danubewetlands in 1993, branches that have been dry for 30 years arebeing revived. The WWF maintains that the ecological impact of theproject is disastrous even in light of these reports.

The largest drinking water supply in central Europe originates fromthe several hundred meter deep gravel sediment on the river bed. Daily water output from this source is about one million cubicmeters for Hungary and 2.3 million cubic meters for Slovakia. It was reported in the summer of 1993, that the water supply atSamorin had reduced production to two thirds of normal supply. Samorin supplies roughly 40 percent of Bratislavažs drinkingwater. Slovak authorities claimed this shortage was made upby a surplus of drinking water in other wells. The WWF recommendedthat monitoring data be checked by an independent institution toverify the status of drinking water supplies. The expected impactto ground and drinking water supplies is that as the flow is slowedin the old river bed, larger deposits of polluted silt, andbacteria will infiltrate water supplies.

Slowing the flow in the old river bed is expected to seriouslyimpact fish breeding. Spawning and young fish will be stifled bysediment and flow fluctuations. The fish stock is anticipated todecrease by 66 percent Vodohospodarska Vystavba, the operators ofGabcikovo, report that new fish ponds were constructed under theproject which create optimal conditions for fisheries.

WWF posits that two thirds of river bed erosion has been caused byexcavation from 1976 to 1989 for industrial projects including theconstruction of Gabcikovo. This excavation threatens thestability of bridges in Bratislava and has lowered groundwatertables. Slovak authorities claim that river bed erosion resultedfrom an intense program of hydro-power plant construction wasstarted along the German and Austrian Danube sections. Theseprojects have caused fundamental flow changes in the Danube,flushing out gravel, deepening the river bed below Bratislava andworsening the navigational conditions of the Danube. In addition,the underground water table has begun to sink, accelerating thedesertification of fertile lands in Slovakia.

Damming the Danube has dramatically altered the flow and volume ofwater in the old river channel. Prior to Gabcikovo, water flowedat 2,000 m3/sec. After the project, the flow was reduced toless than 400 m3/sec. This reduced flow will negatively impact thesurvival of plant and animal forms in the region.

7. Type of Habitat: Temperate

8. Act and Harm Sites: Slovakia and Hungary

Conflicts over national minorities living in Slovakia and Hungaryhave long been a problem in the relations between the two nations. Historically, Slovakia was long under Hungarian rule. EthnicSlovaks were subject to suppression until the abolition of theAustro-Hungarian empire in 1918. Slovak territory was reformed in1920 under the Treaty of Trianon and confirmed by the Paris Peaceconference of 1948. Hungary, considering these borders forced uponher, has during different conflicts sought to reclaim former lands.Participating in the division of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Hungarytook over 102 Slovak minority communities. Hungary alsoparticipated in a forced military occupation of eastern Slovakia in1939.

After World War II, borders were returned to their pre-war state. All Hungarians claiming to be of Hungarian nationality weretransferred to Hungary. Those declaring themselves of Slovaknationality remained in Slovakia. Those living in Hungary whoclaimed to be of Slovak origin were transferred to Slovakia. Civicrights and rights to free press were granted to Hungarians livingin southern Slovakia and in 1952, a law was passed allowingHungarians to participate in public administration. Ethnically-mixed southern districts of Slovakia remained legally bilingual. Basic minority rights were written into the new constitution of1960.

Ethnic conflicts were renewed in 1990 when the Slovak NationalCouncil passed a law making Slovak the national language. With thebreak-up of Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993, attacks anddisplays of nationalism began to increase. The conflict gained political momentum when, in 1993, Slovakia asked to be accepted onto the Council of Europe. Representatives of the Hungarian minoritypresented a memorandum expressing reservation toward the Slovakconstitution and Slovakia's membership to the Council. Thememorandum included a survey of minority rights violations inSlovakia and criticized government policy. Slovakia was finallyaccepted on June 30, 1993 on the condition that it respected therights of national minorities.

In opposition to the Hungarian minority, the Slovak parliamentpassed a law that first and surnames be Slovakized. The Parliamentfurther demanded that signposts with bilingual place names beremoved. Following a wave of protest, the Slovak parliamentapproved a law allowing minorities to use first names and surnamesin the form of their own language. On July 7 the law on bilingualplace names was abolished.

Slovak political leaders reject criticism of Slovak policy, saying that Slovak Hungarians have rights in the form of schools, displayof culture, political organizations, media and language autonomy. They reference the Slovaks living in Hungary who in many respectshave lost their Slovak identity. More than 560,000 people inSlovakia declare themselves to be of Hungarian nationality (10.8 ofthe population) compared to about 10,000 Slovaks living inHungary.

The Gabcikovo project has been at the center of the on-goingdispute regarding ethnic Hungarian minorities. A Slovak oppositionparty representing this minority claims that the basic aim oflarge-scale industrial projects carried out in South Slovakia bythe former communist government was the evacuation and assimilationof the Hungarian minority. The party points to a nationaldevelopment plan drafted in the early 1980s which urges the"industrial expulsion of the Hungarians" with the construction offour large projects including Gabcikovo." Inhabitants in theregion of Gabcikovo were largely ethnic Hungarians who were displaced with the building of the power plant.

On March 19, 1995, the prime ministers of Slovakia and Hungarysigned the Basic Treaty between Slovakia and Hungary. The Basic Treaty contractually defines the protection of the rights of thenational minorities living in the two territories and incorporatesthe acceptance of a recommendation of the Council of Europe whichspecifies the settlement of disputes by peaceful means It is toosoon to know how or if this Treaty will effect Hungarians who weredisplaced due to the construction of Gabcikovo.

Determining if Variant C has changed the national boundaries ofSlovakia and Hungary is one of the most difficult matters of thecase. Prior to the signing of the 1977 Treaty (the basis of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project), the boundary between the two countries was legally established by the 1920 Peace Treaty of Trianon, the 1947 Treaty of Peace with Hungary, and the 1956 Treatybetween the Czechoslovak Republic and the Hungarian PeopležsRepublic concerning the Regime of State Frontiers. These threetreaties, in accordance with international law, set the boundary asthe main navigable channel of the Danube at the lowest navigablelevel. The main navigable channel now runs through the waterreservoir at Cunovo and the inland canal, both of which lie inSlovak territory. The 1956 Boundary Treaty in part states : "[O]nsectors where it runs over water, the frontier line shall vary withthe changes brought about by natural causes in the median line ofthe bed of rivers, streams or canals or on the main navigablechannels of navigable rivers. The frontier line shall not beaffected by other changes in the flow of a frontier watercourseunless the Parties conclude a separate agreement to thateffect." The Boundary Treaty further stipulates that the changeof flow of boundary waters will not be changed unilaterally

The 1977 Treaty states that žapart from minor revisions, the statefrontier should be the centre line of the present main navigationline. Slovak authorities give precedence to the 1977 Treaty andargue that they are operating within its stipulations. Furthermore, Slovkia posits that Hungary has violated the Treaty byunilaterally withdrawing from the project. Hungary justifieswithdrawing from the 1977 Treaty on environmental grounds (perhapsthe sole justification from withdrawing from this otherwise non-cancelable treaty) and argues that Slovakia's Variant C has alteredthe lowest navigable level of the Danube, thus altering nationalboundaries. Further, since the decision to build and operateVariant C was made unilaterally, Slovakia is deemed in violation ofprevious boundary treaties.

III. ConflictAspects

9. Type of Conflict: War

10. Level of Conflict: Threat

11. Fatality Level of Dispute: 0

III. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: Direct

Causal Diagram

13. Level of Strategic Interest: Region

The Danube is the only major waterway linking Hungary with NorthernEurope. A look at the table below describes Hungary's direction oftrade as a share of 1992 exports and imports (see Table III-34-2). Close to 50 percent of its trade occurs with the European Union(EU) and one half from Germany. If the Danube is altered ontoSlovak territory, there will be no way for one-fourth of theirtrade to reach its destination without being tariffed. The onlyalternative for the Hungarians would be to transport their goodsinto the EU via Austria. This is possible because Austria is amember of the European Free Trade Association, which has signed afree trade accord with Hungary. However, transportation costs willincrease because Hungary will need new lorries and it will takemuch longer to transport products by ground.

14. Outcome of Dispute: Stalemate

IV. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE Cases

NILE River
LITANI River JORDAN River MARSH Arabs case

16. Relevant Websites and Literature

Berrisch, George.  "Construction and Operation of
Variant C of     the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project Under International
Law:     Legal Study for the World Wide Fund for Nature."      Prepared
by Schon, Nolte, Finkelnburg & Clemm for WWF.      October 1992. 
Brussels. "Country Report: Hungary," Economist Intelligence Unit.  2nd  
  Quarter 1995. CTK National New Wire.  "Profile of Hungarian Slovak 
Relations," March 17, 1995.  As provided by Lexis/Nexis. Dister, Emil et
al.  "A New Solution for the Danube."  WWF Statement on the EC Mission
Reports of the Working Group  Monitoring and Management Experts and   on
the Overall  Situation of the Gabcikovo Hydrodam Project.  December 13, 
1993.  Vienna. Embassy of Hungary.  Bos-Nagymoros File (Budapest,
October  1992).European Information Service. "Europe Environment," March
2,   1993."Gabcikovo Compromise Accord Approved by Slovak Government," 
April 18, 1995.  "Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project:  Standpoint of the
Czecho-Slovak  Side and Answers to Questions."  April 1992. Bratislava.
Global 2000 and Greenpeace.  "Mochovce-Documentation for  
Opinion-Leaders." June 1994. "Hungary, Starts Final Demolition of
Nagymaros Dam," December  9, 1994.  The Reuter European Business Report.
 As provided by  Lexis/Nexis.Husarska, Anna.  "Dam Cheek," The New
Republic. December 21,  1992.  "Industrialization of South Slovakia an
Anti-Hungarian Plot?"  April 1, 1995.International Environmental
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November, 1997

Some materials from drafts by Jerry Fortunato, Kevin Kurland,Leslie Barcus