From Schweizerhalle to Baia Mare: The Continuing Failure of International Law to Protect Europe's Rivers
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Virginia Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 19, Winter 2000
Professor Schwabach addresses the role of international environmental law in the aftermath of the January 2000 cyanide spill in Baia Mare, Romania in his article, "From Schweizerhalle to Baia Mare: The Continuing Failure of International Law to Protect Europe's Rivers." The spill, ultimately polluting waters in five countries, caused substantial short-term and long-term damage. The article emphasizes the failure of global and regional laws to protect transboundary waters from extraordinary chemical spills as well as from daily, routine activities.
The article describes the Baia Mare incident, originating at a mine co-owned by a private Australian company and the Romanian government, that ultimately polluted three European rivers: the Somes, Tisza, and Danube. Professor Schwabach analyzes the treaties governing these Danube Basin rivers and Romania's apparent violation of certain treaty provisions. He emphasizes that even though treaties existed, they failed to protect against this catastrophic environmental harm.
The treaties represent conventional international law. Professor Schwabach also addresses governing customary international law, which balances a nation's sovereign right to exploit natural resources lying within its boundaries against its duty to prevent harm to other nations from activities within its territory.
Professor Schwabach suggests that the Danube Basin situation will improve, even considering the gross economic and political inequality within the region. However, he also cautions that other rivers are also in danger unless further international legal structures are implemented.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Danube, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Europe, rivers, water courses, environment, international, international environmental law, Romania, Hungary, watercourses, fresh water, natural resources, fisheries
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Date posted: September 13, 2003