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Aspects referring to the international cooperation on the protection of the Black Sea against pollution.

Europe is the continent surrounded by two oceans and four seas. The water is the living environment for different ecosystems and covers several biogeographical regions. The European coast is 100.000 km long, and the marine territory of the Community is bigger than its continental territory. A lot of European citizens actually live in coastal areas and the sea represents a living source for them.

Almost a third of the dry areas of Europe links to the Black Sea. Thus, it is the largest continental basin in the world with brinish and without tidal waters, with a shoreline length of 4358 km, a volume of about 600,000 [km.sup.3] and an area of 412,490 [km.sup.2]. Here flow the great European rivers--the Danube, Dnieper and Don, and the only link with the world's oceans is the Bosphorus Straits. (1)

As the degradation of the marine environment became obvious worldwide, the Black Sea waters too make no exception. The pollution and irresponsible fishing have led to a reduction of biological resources, species diversity and natural ecosystem of the sea. In recent decades, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of dolphins and fish species and quantities; between the two phenomena, there is a causal relation. The overfishing has affected not only the fish resource, but by that also the scarcity of food for dolphins, with the related consequences. Other causes were added to all these, such as the accidental capture during the activities of legal or illegal fishing with the use of abusive methods and instruments, the marine oil pollution and waste water which gradually led to the illness of fish and dolphins populations, to the disturbance of their natural habitat. (2)

The biological balance of the Black Sea can thus be disrupted in different ways. If we take into consideration that some pollutants intoxicate animals and plants by mere contact with them, others, eager for the oxygen spread in the sea water, decrease it considerably leading to species extinction. Other pollutants create the possibility of rapid growth of unique species, which either destroy or intoxicate other species. Equally, there are pollutants crowded in the body of marine animals, substantially altering their physiological functions and which represent a danger not only for their further development, but also for the possibility that they would remain a basic food for mankind. (3)

According to experts, 90% of the total Black Sea waters are devoid of oxygen, and most marine life is concentrated on the surface, in the remaining 10%. A large amount of pollutants is discharged in the marine environment, especially from the Danube, Dnieper and Don. Its ecological state, as a whole, and especially in its north-western part, under the direct influence of freshwater input of the river, is extremely serious. All changes that have profoundly altered the steady state of the marine ecosystem were due to the removal of H2S layer, deepening hypoxia, penetration of a huge amount of mineral and organic pollutants. (4) Therefore, the pollution remains the main problem.

The intensification of the subregional cooperation and some new problems led to the adoption of a special protection against the degradation of the marine environment. Thus, after six years of negotiations, on April 21st, 1992, the representatives of the riparian states--Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine--signed in Bucharest the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against pollution, with three additional protocols regarding: the pollution from land-based sources, the pollution by discharge, the pollution by oil or other hazardous substances in emergency situations (ratified by Romania, by Law no. 98 from September 16, 1992, published in the Official Gazette, Part I, no. 242 from September 29, 1992 and entered into force on June 15, 1994). Known as "the Bucharest Convention," the document has as general objectives to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the Black Sea, to protect and preserve the marine environment. The Convention also provides the legal framework for cooperation and action focused to protect the Black Sea.

The geographical field of application of the Convention concerns the territorial sea and the Black Sea exclusive economic zone of each contracting party, excluding the application of its provisions on the internal waters of states parties.

In order to specify the exact meaning and to circumscribe as exactly as possible the scope, the document sets out the meanings given to concepts such as: marine pollution, ship unloading and harmful substance. Thus, in the definition of marine pollution, the Convention reflects the provisions of art. 1, paragraph 4 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (December 10, 1982), providing that "marine pollution means the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment, including estuaries, which have or can result in injury such as harm to living resources and marine life, hazards to human health, barriers to activities at sea, including fishing and other legitimate uses of the sea, degradation of water use and deterioration of recreational sea" (Article II. 1). Although useful, this definition is not complete because it does not include some human activities that may harm the marine environment, activities that are otherwise found in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For the purposes of the Convention, ships mean ships of any kind, travelling by sea. This includes ships propeller, air-cushion vehicles, submarines, floating means, whether or not motorized, platforms and any other buildings located on the water. The Convention does not apply to any warship, auxiliary ship, other vessels or aircraft owned or operated by a State and used, at that time, only in the government's non-commercial service (article IV). However, each contracting party is obliged to adopt appropriate measures in order not to hinder the operations of such ships or aircraft owned or operated by it, so that they could act in a manner consistent with the Convention provisions.

The discharge is defined in two ways: in a positive way, as any deliberate discharge of wastes or other materials from vessels or aircraft, any deliberate scuttling of vessels or aircraft, and in a negative way, not including:

1. the discharge of waste or other materials resulting directly or indirectly from the normal operation of ships or aircraft and their equipment, other than wastes or other materials transported by or to vessels or aircraft that are operated to discharge such materials or derived from the treatment of such wastes or other materials on vessels or aircraft;

2. any placement of materials for a purpose other than mere discharge thereof, provided that such placement is not contrary to the purposes of this Convention.

Under the Convention, harmful substance is any hazardous, poisonous or other kind of substance which, introduced into the marine environment would cause pollution or adversely affect biological processes because of its toxicity and / or persistent and / or bio-accumulating characteristics.

Another extremely important element covered by the Convention refers to the general principles which should underpin the relationship established between the signatory states. In this respect, we mention the principle of equal rights and duties in full compliance with the national sovereignty, independence, mutual benefit, etc.

Referring to the rights and obligations of contracting parties, the document requires, through its regulations, the permanent cooperation of states parties in order to prevent, reduce and control pollution, recognizing that only in this way the marine environment can be protected and preserved. The cooperation is understood in its broad sense, involving not only the participation of the signatory states, but also of any other country which is non-riparian to the Black Sea.

Under institutional aspect, the Black Sea Convention provided the establishing of a Commission for the Marine Environment Protection, with the premises in Istanbul, consisting of representatives of states parties (that enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities) and managed, in turn, by the representative of each contracting party. This Commission, which must meet at least once a year, is empowered to issue decisions and recommendations. It also has the right to develop or update the strategy to combat marine pollution, or even to adopt amendments to the Convention or its protocols.

In terms of actual protection against pollution, contracting parties commit themselves to take, individually or jointly, all appropriate measures consistent with international law and in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, to "prevent, reduce and control pollution (Article V.2)." (5) In this respect, the document establishes concrete regulations to combat, by any sources, the marine pollution from land, from ships in transit or during the loading-unloading of various products or hazardous waste, in harbors or quays. The Convention also regulates the protection of living marine resources, given the sensitivity of flora and fauna of the Black Sea, as well as the fact that it was badly affected so far. In this regard, under art. XIII, when taking measures to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution, the contracting parties shall pay special attention to avoid occurrence of damage to the marine life and living resources, in particular by changing their living place and by creating obstacles to fishing and other legitimate uses of the Black Sea.

Along with prevention measures and in addition to them, the Convention provides also measures relating to responsibility and material liability, in order to ensure the highest degree of development and protection of the Black Sea against pollution." (6) The Convention mentions the responsibility of each member state for the fulfillment of international obligations incumbent upon it, in relation to the protection of the marine environment. Each state party shall adopt rules and practical measures for establishing the liability for material damage caused by marine nationals in areas of national jurisdiction. The Convention also provides the cooperation commitment to develop and harmonize the legislation, regulations and procedures relating to liability, damage assessment and compensation for damage caused by pollution.

The Convention on the protection of the Black Sea against pollution remains one of the extremely valuable documents which provides premises for a closer regional cooperation for environment protection and conservation of an environment neglected for a long time--the marine environment.

The regulations of this act made possible and still keeps opened the possibility of adopting complementary international acts that would lead to a truly effective protection of the Black Sea.

The Convention has managed since its negotiation phase to excite a special interest for the protection of the Black Sea. This explains the adoption of other important documents in this regard, of which remarkable are: "The Ministerial statements relating to the protection of the Black Sea" in Odessa (April 7, 1993), Istanbul (1996), Sofia (2002), Bucharest (2007).

Their great merit is that they required parties to take appropriate measures for the implementation of Agenda XXI, Chapter VII "Principles and Objectives" and other international documents on the matter, adopted periodically, in the interpretation and application of the Convention. The meeting in Bucharest established bridges of cooperation between the Black Sea Commission and the Commission for the Protection of the Danube from pollution, having regard to the natural unit between river and sea. (7)

Besides these documents, a series of programs was developed and implemented, among which: The international research program in the Black Sea (Varna 1991), The program of environmental management and protection of the Black Sea, inaugurated in Constanta in 1992, the program of monitoring, laboratory analysis and information management in the countries bordering the Black Sea, the regional multi-institutional program of cooperation, etc.

Also, measures to protect the marine environment from pollution are contained in other international documents such as for example: "the Agreement establishing the group of naval cooperation in the Black Sea" (April 2001), or in bilateral treaties concluded by the riparian states on environmental policy. (8)

At EU level, the protection of the Black Sea is a priority. According to the documents adopted in this area, Black Sea countries need to enhance the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and to establish strategic cooperation in this regard.


The pollution of the seas in general (implicitly of the Black Sea) is unfortunately a universal problem affecting all countries, both developed and developing ones, all in one way or another responsible. Under these circumstances, it is necessary to continue taking appropriate measures, namely the adoption of multilateral legal instruments, regional and universal so that this clearly destructive phenomenon to be substantially diminished.


(1.) Dutu, M. (2007), Treatise of Environmental Law. Edition 3, Bucharest: C.H. Beck, 762-763.

(2.) Dutu, M. (2007), op. cit., 763.

(3.) Marinescu, D. (1996), Enviromental Law. Bucharest: Sansa, 122.

(4.) Dutu, M. (2007), op. cit., 763-764.

(5.) Lupan, E. (2009), Treatise of Environmental Protection, Bucharest: C. H. Beck, 256.

(6.) Dutu, M. (2007), op. cit., 769.

(7.) Dutu, M. (2007), op. cit., 770.



Spiru Haret University, Constantza
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Author:Tiganescu, Ana-Maria
Publication:Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Jul 1, 2012
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