Golden Gate University Law Review


Stephen Stec


The dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over the construction of a system of barrages on the Danube presented an extraordinarily complex set of facts of a technical nature, especially with respect to the assessment of the potential environmental impacts of the project. The case presented an opportunity for the consideration of the extent to which environmental concerns could justify the substantial reformation or termination of a treaty-based regime. In so doing the ICJ could give shape to developing concepts such as sustainable development and the precautionary principle. As the dispute involved the unilateral diversion of the Danube by Czechoslovakia, the Court had the opportunity to elaborate on the development of international law concerning shared natural resources, in particular pertaining to the equitable and reasonable use of a transboundary watercourse, recently clarified through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the NonNavigational Uses of International Watercourses. The Court had the opportunity to balance two interests - each of which involved an intrusion upon sovereignty - first, the interest in enforceable rules of conduct guiding relations among nations and, second, the interest in protecting the common heritage of mankind against ill-conceived development.

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