February 4, 2009
Alhough the Romanian president has an appetite for redrawing the maps of Europe, this time his government let the work done by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The two countries have disputed the tiny Black Sea Snake Island. In the past years Ukraine was quick to try to make a permanent setttlement “for touristic” purpose on the island which has no drinking water or a single tree. Presently the island has a population of about 100 people, mostly border guards, but also scientists and shopkeepers. It has a lighthouse, and a harbor is under construction.The motivation behind the conflict is oil, of course. The real stake was the sea floor, which is counted from the distance of above sea level country territory, and which, in this case, is supposed to be a source of oil.
Romania has previously estimated that the disputed continental shelf there may contain reserves of 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas and more than 10 million tons of oil. Foreign oil majors have expressed interest in more fully exploring the area, and potentially investing in extraction.
The argument between the two countries went around the concept of being an ‘island’ or just a ‘rocky outcropping’. Eventually the court made a common sense argument that the dispute is about mining rights and has established the maritime border between the two countries regardless the status of the depicted piece of land.
I guess, good news for the Ukrainian settlers: they do not have to pretend for too long that the island is habitable and can go home. Bad news for the rest of the word: you can be sure that the oil and gas reserves will be drilled and end up in the atmosphere in the for of carbon-dioxide.