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Nonbinding agreements in Europe’s trans-boundary river pollution: a first assessment

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Deciding whether commitments should involve binding or nonbinding agreements is a crucial strategic element when it comes to designing effective governance systems. Up to now, legally binding treaties seem to be the preferred approach. More than 1500 bilateral and 1100 multilateral treaties have been signed according to one recent compilation.
However, at least some have proven to be ineffective, if not counterproductive, for solving the problems they were negotiated for. Therefore, it is not surprising to see states increasingly use a different approach for solving trans-boundary environmental problems: nonbinding agreements. In contrast to signing legally binding treaties, state officials negotiate international norms that are intentionally nonbinding, but still possess legal relevance. This paper provides a first assessment of nonbinding agreements in Europe’s trans-boundary river pollution. In particular, the paper focuses on the goals as well as on the achievements of nonbinding agreements and compare them with binding treaties.

Keywords: nonbinding agreements, Europe, water, trans-boundary river pollution, governance systems, regime effectiveness

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