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The Hungary-Slovakia Danube River dispute: implications for sustainable development and equitable utilization of natural resources in international law

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The Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project dispute is one of several controversies that have surrounded the use of Europe's second longest river - the Danube. It is a dispute that rocked Hungary and Czechoslovakia for many years before reaching the International Court of Justice. At the very heart of the matter are international environmental law issues, in particular, sustainable development and equitable utilisation of international watercourses. The authors analyse the background of the dispute, the September 1997 International Court of Justice's decision, and the post-case developments that have since taken place. The paper seeks to determine the extent to which these international law concepts were given effect in the ICJ decision. The writers also question how effectively the ICJ addressed the issues that were presented to it by the parties before finally considering how the competing interests could have been balanced within the framework of these concepts. The paper concludes that the ICJ decision was largely non-committal to the real issues facing the parties and that this might carry some adverse implications for similar future cases.

Keywords: Danube River, equitable utilisation, Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project, International Court of Justice, international environmental law, sustainable development, treaty law, water law

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