Document Details
Conference Paper
The Management of the Watershed of the Danube in the Context of the EU Water Framework Directive

The Management of the Watershed of the Danube
in the Context of
the EU Water Framework Directive
Mircea Dutu
President of the Ecological University of Bucharest
I. Introduction. The Danube – European river of international
II. From water course to river basin district regulations.
1. The judicial recognition of this evolution.
2. The 2000/60/EC Directive and the integrated water management
The District – the key management unit
Administrative authority pertaining to the district
The river basin district management plan
Content of the management plan
Elaboration deadline for the first management plan
III. The regime specific to the Danube
1. The evolution of the international judicial regime of the Danube
2. Bilateral cooperation
3. The relevance of the E.U. law
4. The judicial regime of the management of the river Danube
5. Management of the river Danube waters within the DCA context
IV. Conclusions
I. Introduction. The Danube – European river of international
By its length and water volume the Danube represents the second large
river in Europe (after Volga) and one of the most important at an
international scale. It crosses the territory of 10 states (6 of which are E.U.
Member States), it connects 4 European capitals, and its 801,463 km2 basin
surface concerns the territory of 19 countries (10% of the continent surface),
with a population of approximately 250 million inhabitants. Of the total
length of 2,780 km, the river is navigable on approximately 2,500 km,
between Ulm and Sulina1. The river and its basin district represents a highly
important factor from an ecological – geographical, economic and strategic
point of view, forming together with Main and Rhine a natural navigation
corridor connecting the west and center of the continent to the Black Sea and
through it to the rest of the world. Its European and international importance
has generated an early interstate cooperation, aiming at the beginning for the
freedom of navigation, and then for aspects referring to fishing, protection
against floods a.o. and over the last period, developing as a priority the
problems of the protection and preservation of the aquatic media. This has
generated a series of judicial regulations and collaboration forms in a
continuous evolution.
At the same time, the fact that the majority of riparian and basin
district states are E.U. Member States (11 of the 19) brings about the fact
that the Community law entails major implications concerning the protection
1 97% of the surface of Romania is situated within the river Danube’s basin, which represents 29% of its
total surface; on the Romanian territory the river measures 1,076 km ( namely 37.7% of its length).
and sustainable management of the river waters. More than that, by the
adhesion of Romania and Bulgaria to the E.U. (first of January 2007), the
Black Sea has become a “Community sea”, also regarding the outfalls of the
Danube, which supposes, amongst others, according to the integrated
approach promoted by the Water Framework Directive (WFA), the taking
into account of the aspects regarding the coast area. Finally, the creation of
the Black Sea Euro-region by the initiative of the European Council (2006),
stimulates the promotion of the objectives of the sustainable development
and environmental protection of the Danubian-Pontic region.
Finally, the pertinent bilateral cooperation between riparian states,
especially between E.U. Member States and non-E.U. Member States
regarding punctual issues should not be ignored, either. In connection and
under mutual influence, the national legislations of the riparian and basin
district states have been developed with a more obvious tendency towards
homogenization and integration.
Thus, a relatively massive and major judicial corpus has been created,
dominated by general principles and governed by specific rules, with an
accentuated integrating character, putting together international,
communitarian and national law and that could be defined as “Danube’s
basin district law”. From this perspective, the river waters management
acquires a global, integrated and more unitary character.
II. From water course to river basin district regulation.
Out of a geographical and spatial perspective, a first phase of the
regulation and management process of the aquatic environment problems
has been constituted the one regarding the water course. Beginning from the
second half of the 19th century, a series of water courses of international
importance enjoyed the concluding of interstate agreements regulating
aspects of their common usage. On the European continent, the object of
such regulations were, initially, aspects such as navigation, fishing or
protection against floods. Aspects related to the prevention of, or to the
protection against pollution were missing, or, at the best, were on a
secondary, incidental plan.
In the same context and approach, the treaties concluded between
neighbour states in order to regulate general border issues, sometimes
comprised instructions related to the protection of the aquatic environment
against pollution.
A significant progress was represented in the field by the enactment of
some international instruments having as exclusive, or at least main object
the protection of the water courses against pollution, such as the 29th of April
1963 Berne Convention concerning the protection of Rhine against
pollution. The principles regarding the cross-boundary pollution and shared
natural resources or the improvement of technical and scientific knowledge
allowing the establishment of water quality or emission regulations have
contributed also to evolving into a new stage, that of river basin district
At the same time, under the simultaneous pressure of factors such as
“ecologization” and the globalization of the environmental issues, the
assertion of the concept of sustainable development, the offensive of
neoliberal globalization, the idea of a common management of all resources
of a river basin was born and imposed. Finally, the last expression of those
evolutions is represented by the global and integrated approach of these
problems, more obvious at the E.U. level.
1. Judicial recognition of this evolution. The idea of a basin district
approach of the general issues regarding the protection, the preservation and
the management of an international water course was on purpose expressed
and developed for the first time by the Helsinki Rules, approved in 1966, by
a text adopted by the International Law Association2.
According to the 4th article of the document, each state of an
international drainage basin has the right to a reasonable and fair part of the
favourable usage of the basin waters; according to the fair usage principle,
any state must refrain from causing any form of pollution or any increase of
the existing water pollution degree in an international drainage basin and
must take all reasonable measures to reduce the existing pollution so that no
serious damage should be caused to the territory of another state of the
basin. (article 10).
On the 13th of February 1987 the Water Committee of the UN
Economic Commission for Europe (EEC/UN) published a reflection
document over some principles regarding the management of crossboundary
waters. The first and the most important one referred to the
necessity of constructing an international specific regulation for this matter:
the states sharing a watercourse must conclude treaties or agreements meant
to establish particularly quality objectives, water quality control and
information exchange means.
An important progress in that matter was determined by Agenda 21,
adopted by the Rio de Janeiro Conference in 1992, which, in the 18th chapter
dedicated to the freshwater resources protection and to the ensurance of their
2 International Law Association, Report of the Committee on the Uses of the Waters of International
Rivers, Helsinki Conference, ILA, 1966.
quality, also stated as a principle of action the application of an integrated
approach of the capitalization, management and usage of water resources.
Even if, in a certain way and in an indirect manner, the 21st of May
1997 New York Convention regarding the right to use the international
watercourses for other purposes than navigation also adopts the same
approach, aiming at entire river basins, underground waters and marine
environments. The convention also contemplates an international
management, as far as possible.
Referring to the stipulations of article 5, paragraph 2 of the
Convention, in the decision pronounced on the 25th of September 1997 in the
cause of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros project, the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) estimated that “the watercourse States participate in the usage
and the protection of an international watercourse in an equitable and
reasonable way. This participation also entails the right to use the
watercourse and the obligation to cooperate for its protection and good
usage, as stipulated in the present articles” (paragraph 147).3
On a regional basis, the basin vision is promoted especially by the 17th
of March 1992 Helsinki Convention regarding the protection and the
usage of cross-boundary watercourses and international lakes.
In the same way as the New York Convention, the Helsinki Convention
insists upon the need to conclude agreements between riparian states
concerned by the same international watercourse; these agreements must
“elaborate policies, programmes and harmonized strategies applicable to the
whole or to part of the respective river basin, having as its object the
prevention, control and reduction of the cross-boundary impact and the
3 Through this reference to the New York Convention of 1997, ICJ admitted implicitly that it is a matter of
a real encoding instrument, transforming already existing international custom rules into a treaty.
protection of the cross-boundary water environment” (art. 2, paragraph 6). In
article 9 precise indications are formulated over the possible content of those
agreements. The 1999 London Protocol, regarding water and health, to the
Convention registers a series of improvements such as taking into
consideration the ecosystems, integrated management, information of the
public, continuous evaluation of the application and usage of simple
methods for the surveillance and observance of the obligations assumed by
the party-States.
2. The 2000/60/EC Framework Directive and the integrated water
The basin approach of integrated character has found its most
adequate expression in the EU plan, through the adoption of the 23rd of
October 2000 Directive establishing a framework for a Community policy
regarding water. (no. 2000/60/EC)4.
After a period of time covering a few decades during which a sectorial
concept has dominated, expressed in directives fixing quality or emissions
standards and having in view the destination of the protected waters, starting
from the ’90s a new approach aiming at wider directives was manifested,
culminating with the enactment of the 2000 directive. It defines a general
framework for the protection and the improvement of all continental aquatic
environments, having as its major objective, to achieve, within a 15 years
deadline, a “good status” level of the continental waters.
The Framework Directive establishes the terms of a coherent
4 L327, JO of 22nd of December 2000
• regarding the environment with an ecosystemic approach, aiming for
all types of waters, the inland waters (the surface waters and the
groundwater) as well as the coastal waters. The ecosystemic
reference is water body, defined depending on its being artificial,
strongly modified, of surface or groundwater (articles 2-8, 9, 10, 12
• regarding the territorial approach through the construction of a
management framework based on the hydrographic district,
materialized by means of basins and sub-basins and permitting also
the ecoregion identification;
• regarding the management ways; ECD imposes a coherence for the
management instruments, through the management plans and
programmes of measures, for the institutions, since the states need to
identify the competent authority assuming the responsibilities for this
management, but also for the police measures by the need to control
the activities, the system being based on a general regime and on an
accentuated control in certain areas;
• concerning the objectives to be reached, ECD aiming, before all, at
quantitative objectives through promoting a more economic
approach, allowing to affect the usage costs in three designated
sectors, (domestic consumption, industry and agriculture) , then
qualitative objectives, aiming to reach, by 2015, a “good ecological
status of waters”, through preventive measures and the application
especially of the polluter pays principle. Moreover, the states have
the obligation to prevent the damage of “all water bodies”, an
objective with a marked general character5.
In a global approach, it is desired to guarantee a coherence of all the
existing regulations through an undertaking combining the obligation to
inform, the obligation to determine the management areas and the obligation
to organize multifunctional rules. The Directive underlines the importance of
the international hydrographic basins and prescribes that they need to be
endowed with a unique plan of management, with a result obligation and
with precise deadlines for accomplishment. But the water management
would not be global if it were not placed within the context defined by the
environmental law principles, including the polluter pays principle;
therefore, the tarrifs policy of the States must, on the one hand, sanction
pollutions and on the other hand, stimulate a sustainable and responsible
water consumption.
2.1 . The district – the key management unit
The great innovation brought about in the field by the ECD consists in
a new administrative carving, through the introduction of the “river basin
district” concept, around which the entire action in this field is concentrated.
The district represents a management unit, an administrative area,
terrestrial and marine, composed of one or more hydrographic basins, as
well as of the associated ground water and coastal waters (article 3).
5 For a presentation of the Directive see: Bernard Drobenko, Droit de l’eau, Gualino editem, Paris, 2007, p.
30-32; Sylviane Leprince, Le nouvelle directive 2000/60/CE du Parlement et du Conseil instituant un cadre
pour l’action communautaire dans le domaine de l’eau: coordination et efficacite? In « Revue de la Faculte
de droit de l’Universite de Liege », 2001/4, p.833 and next.
The establishment of these districts is made by the Member States
starting from the census of the hydrographic basins existing on their national
territory. A district could be: a) constituted of one large hydrographic basin;
b) made up of several small basins or by connecting a small basin to a larger
one; c) an international, entirely community district represented by a portion
of a basin shared among several EU Member States; d) an international,
partially community district (which “expands outside the Community
Each river basin district has to be endowed with an adequate6
administrative structure, which the Directive does not render explicitly, for
the purpose of guaranteeing that the application of the scheduled rules are
coordinated and supervised within each district.
2.2 . The administrative authority pertaining to the district.
Each river basin district should thus have an “adequate” administrative
authority. In case of an international district shared by several Member
States, the States will appoint together a competent administrative authority;
for the international, partially community districts, a sui generis solution can
be opted for. Therefore, if, in the case of all EU Member States a unique
competent authority can be designated, in the case of non-EU Member
States, a cooperation is initiated, on the one hand with the different national
authorities responsible in the field, or, on the other hand, with the
international cooperation structures, if they exists. These structures must not
6 The term “adequate” leaves to be understood the fact that the member states have the choice regarding the
structure that seems to them the most fitted. Also, these also determine the type of management of the
competent authorities, as well as their nature, and they decide especially whether they are chosen or
necessarily be created for this purpose, they could be designated from the
existing national or international bodies, provided that they have the
competences and the necessary power to fulfill the objectives set out by the
Over the nature of these competences, the ECD does not declare its
opinion, and it leaves the matter up to the involved Member States; these are
free to determine their characteristics, regarding the judicial status as well as
the judicial and administrative responsibilities, or the role to be played
within the river basin district.
Regarding the river basin districts extending beyond the Community
territory, as it is the case with the Danube, the Directive considers that it is
desirable that a river basin district and a competent authority should be
created together with the non-Members States involved.
In any case, the Member States have at least (ad minimum) the
obligation to ensure the application of the Directive rules upon the part of
the river basin district situated on their territory.
2.3 The management plan of the river basin district
According to the Directive, each river basin district must elaborate a
management plan. Of course, each Member State is the only one
responsible for the districts situated entirely on its territory (article 13).
For the international river basin districts situated entirely on the
European Union’s territory, the Member States have to “ensure
coordination with a view to producing a single management plan of the
international river basin district” (article 13.2 of the Directive).
Therefore, such a management plan of the international district
necessarily involves the creation of an international authority.
In the case of an international river basin district extending beyond
the boundaries of the Community, such as the case of the Danube is, too,
the Member States are bound to collaborate with the non-Member States
involved, in view of elaborating a management plan, but in case of
lacking such a plan, they obviously must al least ensure the elaboration
of a management plan covering the portion of the district situated on
their territory.
The Directive does not specify if this management plan must be
elaborated by the competent authority placed at the head of each river
basin district, but this seems to be the logical solution.
2.3.1 The content of the management plan. The management plan
contains specific prescriptions related to the surface waters, groundwater
and the protected areas. It appears, on the one hand, as an ascertaining
document, descriptive of the status of the river basin district and its
characteristics, a survey regarding the application of the previous
decisions and of the obtained results, and on the other hand as a plan of
action stating the new measures meant to achieve, progressively, the
objectives of the Directive. It is a reference document that must allow,
finally, the understanding and the solutioning of the entire range of
problems of the river basin district.
Concretely, the content of the management plan is established in
Annex VII of the Directive, namely:
a) A presentation (explanatory and descriptive) of the situation
It is a general description of the geophysical and hydrogeological
characteristics of the district: the identification, mapping and the typology
of the bodies of water, the map of the surveillance networks, the
identification and cartographic representation of the protected areas,
estimation of the pressures and significant incidents resulting from human
activities on the state of waters, the exposure of the quantitative and
qualitative status of respective water bodies.
b) The expounding of the already implemented measures and
steps accomplished
In this section the plan includes:
• summaries of the programmes of measures and of the performed
controls (abstraction, impoundment, direct or indirect discharges,
priority substances etc.);
• a synthesis of the results of the economic analysis of water use;
• a presentation of the results already obtained within the district
through the implementation of the previously adopted measures,
especially in the application of the existing directives.
c) The presentation of the adopted measures and steps taken or
stipulated regarding the achievement of the Directive’s objectives, in
reports or summaries:
• a list of the environmental objectives to reach under article 4;
• a summary of the adopted measures for the application of the demands
stated by the Directive (especially regarding articles 7, 9 and 11 in the
d) Updating the plan of action
Each management plan has to be updated on a regular basis, for the
first time after 15 years as of the coming into force of the Directive, and then
every 6 years. This periodical updating will not only allow an evaluation of
the status of the proposed objectives, but also the adjustment of the pace, so
as to maintain or modify the measures when need be.
The plan updating, beside such elements, includes specific
information, such as:
• a succinct presentation of any change or updating after publishing the
previous version of the plan;
• an evaluation of the progress made in accomplishing the environmentrelated
• a succinct and motivated presentation of any measure included in a
previous version of the plan, that was not finally applied;
• a succinct presentation of any transitory measure adopted in the
application of article 11 (programme of measures).
e) Documents attached to the management plan
In each river basin district, the management plan has to be
accompanied by:
1. an analysis of the characteristics of the river basin district;
2. a study regarding the incidence of human activity on the
3. an economic analysis of water use within the district; this has to
allow the application of cost recovering principle for the services
related to water use;
4. a surveillance programme regarding the status of surface waters
and groundwater; its purpose is to make up a complete picture of
the ecological and chemical status of the surface waters, chemical
and quantitative status of the groundwater within the river basin
districts, with a view to obtaining an agggregate view at European
5. a record of the protected areas and a related surveillance
programme; the document constitutes an inventory of the areas that
have been designated as requiring a special protection by virtue of
other specific community regulations, concerning the protection of
surface waters and groundwater or of water-dependant habitats and
species, that need preservation;
6. a programme of measures, in the sense of means of action
(protection measures, legislative, administrative, financial,
practical actions, negotiated procedures and others) aiming at the
accomplishment of environment-related objectives of the
Directive. The measures can be of several types:
a) basic measures: each programme of measures must include the
fundamental norms constituting the minimum exigencies that need
to be observed, aimed at by article 11.3 and especially by
reference to the Annex VI A, all measures already imposed by a
series of important directives adopted for other environmental
issues, such as wild birds protection, evaluation of incidents on the
environment, major accident risks, sewage mud etc. Such an
approach emphasizes the integrated character of the Framework
Directive, not only regarding the water but also in so far as the
place of the actions related to water is concerned, for a better
management of environment and ecosystems-related problems, in a
more general manner.
The basic measures can be grouped, in turn, as follows:
• a series of control measures, such as a requirement of a prior
authorization for certain activities (abstraction and impoundment of
fresh water ) (article 11.3 e);
• measures aiming at the prevention and control of discharges from
diffuse sources; the control can be established through regulatory
exigencies: interdiction and/or records that have to define emissions
controls reviewed and updated on a regular basis (article 11.3 h);
• measures to prohibit the direct discharges (except for some very strict
cases) accompanied by adequate controls (article 11.3 j);
• measures to prevent spillage of pollutants and to reduce the impact in
case of accidental pollution incidents (article 11.3 l);
• measures “deemed appropriate for the purpose of Article 9”, that is,
meant to participate in taking into account the principle of the
recovery of costs for the services related to water use (article 11.3 b);
• measures meant to promote an effective and sustainable water use, in
order not to compromise the accomplishment of the Directive’s
objectives (article 11.3 c).
b) complementary measures, representing a special category, also
stipulated in Annex VI of the WFD and enumerated, on an illustrative basis,
that can be included in the programmes of the Member States.
These can consist in adopting financial, legislative instruments, good
behaviour codes, restoration projects, educational measures, desalination
plant equipment etc.
Since the programme of measures is adequate for each river basin
district, it will allow taking into consideration of the characteristics of each
area in selecting the measures that appear to be most appropriate, in each
particular situation.
2.4 The deadline for elaborating the first management plan
The EU Member States have at their disposal a relatively wide term for the
establishment of the first version of the management plan for the river basin
district, as this has to be published, at the latest, nine years after the coming
into force of the Directive, on the 22nd of December 2009 respectively.
III. The special regime of the Danube
1. The evolution of the international judicial regime of the
Because of its economic – strategic importance, the river and its use
have been the object of permanent disputes between the great powers of the
continent, often solved on a temporary basis and through compromise by
means of international agreements. Thus, the 1856 Paris Treaty eliminated
the Russian monopole over the Danube outfalls and instituted the principle
of freedom of navigation on the river, assumed and developed afterwards
through a series of international documents. The internationalization of the
Danube issues and the direct involvement of the great powers of the time
imposed as a permanence; the peace treaties of Saint-Germaine ( 10th of
September 1919) and Trianon (4th of June 1920) stipulated some regulations
regarding the use of the water course and created the Technical Permanent
Commission of Water Regime, whose Statute, approved by a Convention
signed in Paris in 1923, conferred it the right to initiate the concluding of
conventions between/among riparian states regarding major common interest
issues, attributions in disputes regulation, accomplishment of information
exchanges and so on.
Between the two world wars, the Member States of the Commission
(Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania) concluded
seven bilateral conventions stipulating important principles regarding the use
of limitrophe waters and protection against floods and instituted a mixed
After the Second World War, in the new context of the political forces
relations and areas of political-strategic influence, the international regime of
the river was established by the Convention regarding the navigation
regime on the Danube (Belgrade, 1948), which created for this purpose the
Danube Commission. Even if the judicial-institutional framework
established this way had as a general objective the management of
navigation issues, it allowed, though, the initiation, through a resolution of
the Commission in 1961, of some preoccupations, even though collateral,
regarding water protection against pollution, referring to the storage of petrol
waste resulting from ships; more precisely, it was prohibited for the ships
(either on route, or stationary within ports) to discharge, in any form, the oil
waste or other products and demanded that those should be deposited in
fixed or floating containers, provided by the riparian states.
At the same time, a set of bilateral conventions regulated the
cooperation in the fields of hydraulic energy exploitation and use, of
fighting against floods, and of other aspects of limitrophe hydrographic
An important step ahead in quantification and judicial expression of
the requirements regarding the protection and management of the Danube
basin against pollution was constituted by the signing, on the 13th of
December 1985, within a Conference in Bucharest, of the Declaration
regarding the cooperation of the Danubian states in the field of
management and protection of the river waters against pollution7.
Although the document has no full judicial power (taking over, confirming
or reaffirming already existing principles and rules or contributing to the
pre-conceiving of others), it contributed in a notable manner to the
stimulation of the preoccupations of the Danubian states regarding the
cooperation for preventing and fighting against Danube pollution.
Moreover, even if the diverging opinions of the ideological and
military alliances have prevented the document from becoming a convention
and it remained at the stage of declaration, its real effects have been
7 The states signatory to the document were Austria, Czechoslovakia, Federal Republic of Germany,
Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, USSR.
significant, such as those regarding the work groups for water quality, floods
and their forecast and water balance8
The declaration proclaimed as objectives of the Danubian states policy
in this field the reasonable use and preservation of Danubian water
resources, prevention of the pollution of its waters and surveillance of their
As concrete steps of cooperation and accomplishment of the proposed
objectives, the following were stipulated: the Danube waters quality
systematic control, according to some programmes and methods allowing to
obtain comparable data, the exchange of information regarding the
competent authorities and the information held regarding the results obtained
as a consequence of the control performed within the measurement stations
and of measures taken in view of protecting the river against pollution, the
joint organization, at least once every two years, of meetings of the
representatives of the competent authorities and so on.
The most important real result constituted the set-up, in cooperation,
of a control system of the quality of the Danube waters by means of the
measurement stations located at the passing of the Danube from one state’s
territory to another state’s territory, and in those sectors where the river
8 The Declaration remains the most expressive document from this point of view, owing to the fact that,
with regard to its content, it accomplishes some functions similar to those instituted through the special
conventions in the field, and in so far as its judicial value is concerned, it has remained at a declarative
agreement level. In this sense the process prior to adopting the declaration was decisive. During the
preparing reunions of the experts the main discussions were about the judicial nature, the form and content
of the document. Concerning the first aspect, the occidental countries ( The Federal Republic of Germany,
Austria ) have pronounced in favour of a document with a general character (recommendation), and the
states that were communist at the time ( Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, USSR ), in favour of a
compulsory juridical-technical instrument. The West-European representatives imposed, as a condition of
their accepting a pledging agreement, its being signed by the E.E.C., too, a fact considered unacceptable by
certain communist countries that hadn’t acknowledged the E.E.C. as a judicial entity as such. Under the
circumstances, an intermediary formula was opted for, namely that of a declaration adequate in point of
content and insufficient in so far as the judicial force was concerned.
forms a common frontier between two states, at the beginning and at the end
of the common frontier sectors, in the points established on a bilateral
agreement basis. A systematic control was instituted regarding the discharge
of waste waters into the Danube, according to a comparative methodology.
But more important than anything else proved to be the effects of the
Declaration of Bucharest. They instituted de facto a surveillance mechanism
of the quality of the river waters in case of pollution (accidental or
permanent), even if, de iure, the assumed arrangements remained at a
declarative level.
After 1990, along with the fall of the “iron curtain” and the process of
reunification and European integration of the Eastern part of the continent,
the preoccupations regarding the cooperation between the riparian states in
view of protecting the river against pollution and of sustainable
management of its basin were intensified and developed at bilateral level
(through signing of some conventions regarding riparian states collaboration
in the wider domain of environment protection, but having important
chapters referring to the Danube, or of some agreements referring to frontier
waters management) and at a multilateral level, through the Convention
regarding the cooperation for the sustainable protection and use of the
river Danube (signed in Sofia, on the 29th of June 1994, to which the EC is
also party).
If before 1989 only two of the riparian states of the Danube –
Germany and Austria – were part of the E.C., today, 6 of the 10 such
countries belong to the EU and practically there is no part of the river
remaining outside the application, even partial, of the Community law of the
water. Finally, the integrated approach pronounced by the Water Framework
Directive finds its fulfillment in the fact that the Black Sea, having become a
Community sea, after the 1st of January 2007, the pertaining coastal area is
also included into the river management.
2. Bilateral cooperation
The bilateral cooperation between states riparian to an international
watercourse has always had a major impact on the development of the
management of the related issues and of the judicial applicable rules. If, in a
first phase, the rules established in this manner have had a precursory role in
stating the regulations at a watercourse level, subsequently the situation
reversed in the sense that, at present, the bilateral cooperation forms specify
the details and adapt to real conditions and situations the regulations adopted
at an international basin level.
Expressing especially ideas of a political – strategic orientation, the
bilateral or multilateral declarations between riparian or basin-related states
contribute to the intensification of coordinating the actions aiming for the
integrated management of the river waters and to the stipulation of the
significations of the operational agreements.9
The bilateral agreements signed between non-EU member states
pursue especially the establishment of a cooperation framework, by
adapting to the characteristic features of the bilateral context, the stipulations
of the international conventions in the field, such as the Helsinki Convention
(1991) and the Convention for the protection of the Danube river (1994) and
approach, based on principles such as the polluter pays or precaution,
9 As, for instance, The Declaration between The Ministry of the Environment and Waters of Bulgaria, The
Ministry of the Environment and Territory Planning of Moldavia, The Ministry of Waters, Forests and
Environment Protection of Romania and The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of
Ukraine concerning cooperation related to the set-up of The Green Corridor of the Lower Danube, signed
in Bucharest on the 5th of June 2000, or The Declaration of the ministers in charge of water management of
the contracting parties to the Danube river protection Convention and the Convention for protection of the
Black Sea against pollutin or the enhancement cooperation (Bucharest, 23 February, 2007).
aspects referring to: use of water resources, protection of waters against
pollution, defense against floods and so on.10
The agreements concluded by Danube riparian EU Member States and
after the year 2000 promote a complex vision of the bilateral cooperation
framework, taking into account their being situated within the Danube11
river basin, the fact that they are parties to the Convention of Sofia and to
the Convention of Helsinki, having in view the stipulations of the
2000/60/EC Directive and invoking the objective of a “good status” of the
waters established by the European document.
Sometimes even punctual international cooperation projects are
indicated, taken into consideration by the bilateral agreement, such as, for
instance, the participation to the fulfillment of the strategic Plan of action
within the “Environment protection programme within the Danube’s basin”
and to the accomplishment of the Management Plan for the Danube’s basin,
according to the WFD. 12
The transposing and implementation of the WFD become
“cooperation areas” (article 2, paragraph c, from the Agreement between
Romania and Bulgaria), and “the coordination and implementation of the
common activities following the WFD stipulations” become a form of
bilateral cooperation in the field (article 3 letter a in the same document).
10As for instance, The Agreement of the 30th of September 1997 between The Govern of
Romania and The Govern of Ukraine concerning cooperation in the domain of frontier
waters management ( ratified by Romania by Law 16/1999).
11 The Agreement of the 12th of November 2004 between The Ministry of the Environment and Water
Management of Romania and The Ministry of the Environment and Waters of Bulgaria concerning
cooperation in the domain of water management has also in view the fact that the two countries are situated
in the Black Sea basin and are also parties to the Convention concerning the protection of this sea against
pollution (1992); further the Romania – Bulgaria Agreement .
12The Agreement of the 15th of September 2003 between The Govern of Romania and The Govern of
Hungary concerning collaboration for the protection and sustainable use of frontier waters (approved by
Romania through H.G. (Government Decision) no. 577/2004; further the Romania – Hungary Agreement .
Moreover, the signatory parties agree to apply, especially, within the
bilateral cooperation framework, the principles of equitable and rational use
of the frontier waters, of precaution, reciprocity, good faith and the polluter
pays principle, “just as these are developed on a long term, within the WFD”
(article 4, Agreement between Romania and Hungary). The mixed
commissions created through such agreements have an important role in
coordinating and developing cooperation, with significant basin-related
implications, especially because they can invite to the meetings “EU
representatives of the Permanent Secretariat of the ICPDR, the authorities
for water management from the states that are parties to the Convention in
Sofia” (article 10 of the same agreement).
3. The relevance of the E.U. law.
The E.U. action regarding the cooperation of the states within the Danube
area is developed alike from a EC perspective as a party to the Convention in
Sofia (1994) and so, from the perspective of the international law
engagements assumed this way and of the 11 riparian and basin-related EU
Member States that are bound to transpose and apply the pertinent
community law, including the 2000/60/EC Directive13. According to the
article 300 of the EC Treaty, the agreements signed by the Community with
the third-party states bind the Community institutions and the EU Member
States. In other words, the respective agreements are part of the community
judicial order and constitute sources of Community law.
The jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice has stated that the international
conventions signed by the EC are part of the Community law and the
13 97/825/CE, Council Directive of 24-th November 1997 concerning the conclusion of the Convention on
the cooperation for protection and sustainable development of the Danube.
derived Community law has to observe and be in agreement with the
stipulations of the respective international treaties.
The relevance of the Community law in the approached issues must be
regarded in the context from several points of views. Generally, the new
stipulations of the Lisbon Treaty (2007) include some references and notable
incidences. Thus, according to article 7, letter a of the EU Treaty (EUT), the
Union develops privileged relations with the neighbouring states, in view of
establishing a prosperity and good neighborhood space, based on the Union
values and characterized by tight and peaceful relations, relying on
cooperation, an important orientation for the Danube area, too, concerning
the sustainable management of the river issues, especially from the
perspective of the relations with states such Ukraine and Serbia. At the same
time, the external action principle of participating in the elaboration of some
international measures for the preservation and improvement of the
environment quality and sustainable management of the global natural
resources, in view of ensuring a sustainable development (article 10 (2)
letter f of the EUT) adds a significant environmental dimension also to the
cooperation at the river basin level. Obviously, the main EU objective of
sustainable development based on a “high level of protection and
improvement of the quality of the environment” (article 2 (3) EUT)
regarding the inner market action, and, in a complementary way, the one of
the “ planet’s sustainable development” (article 5) within the EU relations
with the rest of the international community are also leaving their mark.
Along with these guidelines of political action the Community law regarding
water operates straight and effectively, headed by the WFD stipulations.
Finally, but with an important coordinating role and an obvious integrating
character, the stipulations of the International Convention regarding the
Danube river are applicable, as obligations resulting from the Union’s
external commitments.
4. The judicial regime of the management of the river Danube
By virtue of its particular geographical and political statute, the river Danube
represents, from the perspective of the judicial regulations in force, an
international basin (according to the Convention regarding the Danube) and
respectively, an international district, partially communitary (shared with the
non-EU states), under a complex judicial regime, made up of internal,
international and Community law regulations, that are superposing,
intersecting, complementing each other, or even, to a certain degree,
counteract, from an increasingly more integrated, ecological perspective
(surface waters, groundwater, coastal area) imposed especially by the WFD
and that presumes, for management, measures of a diverse nature (economic,
administrative, ecological, etc.).
Therefore, related to the international law, and in a complementary
manner, the Convention of Sofia regarding the Danube (1994) and the
Convention of Bucharest regarding the Black Sea (1992) are mainly
applicable in this case, and the cooperation presupposes the participation of
the two commissions instituted for this purpose by the respective
The first international treaty that has materialized, at the level of a
river, the new rules emerging at an international level and especially the
ones stipulated by the Helsinki Convention, is the Convention of Sofia of
the 29th of June 1994 for the protection and sustainable use of the
From the perspective we are interested in, mentioned should be made,
first, of the definition of the applicable field of the Convention. Those are
considered “Danubian states”, representing its addressees, that are sovereign
states sharing a significant part of the Danube’s river basin, respectively an
amount that surpasses 2000 km2 of the hydrographic basin (article 1,
paragraph a). This perspective does not hold good from the Community
law’s point of view, which becomes applicable for any state of the district,
namely whose territory depends on the Danube.
The objective of the document is that of achieving the sustainable and
equitable management of the basin’s waters, including the groundwater
(article 2, paragraph 1), therefore, their preservation, improvement and
rational use. Also, urgent measures against pollution, as well as the
preservation and restoration of the ecosystems through a cooperation aiming
for a sustainable management of waters in the service of maintaining the
general quality of life and of the access to natural resources are especially
considered as necessary. The stipulations regarding the integrated
management remain ones of principle, of a general character.
The concepts affirmed are those of “prevention and control of
transboundary pollution”, “sustainable water management”, “rational use
and conservation of water resources”, as well as an integrated approach,
“taking duly into account the interests of the Danubian States in the field of
water use in the field of water use and at the same time contributing to the
protection of the marine environment of the Black Sea”.
14 Al.Kiss, J.-P. Beurier, Droit international de l’environnement, 3e édition, Editions A.Pedone, Paris,
2004, p.229.
An important aspect of the integrated approach is the institutional one
which, within the Convention of Sofia materialized by the creation of the
International Commission for the protection of the river Danube (ICPDR),
with the headquarters in Vienna; the Commission can adopt decisions that
are obligatory for the Member States that have emitted an affirmative vote.
The control of the execution of the decisions is performed through a system
of reports. The Commission can also propose emission quotes, the updating
of the Annex lists enumerating the activities and the polluting substances
and can elaborate assistance procedures in case of critical situations.
The pertinent dispositions of the bilateral conventions are added to
these regulations .
For the national parts, the stipulations of the pertaining internal law
are obviously applied, these transposing or not, depending on the case, the
Community law, mainly the WFD. From the riparian states, Romania enjoys
the longest presence of the river on its territory – 1076 km – and
consequently it has an important role in promoting a sustainable
management of its waters, through the national law.
The Romanian law of waters (no. 107/1996) was successively
modified, for the last time in 2004, by Law no. 310, for transposing,
internally, the stipulations of the Water Framework Directive of 2000.
Thus, for the part of the international river basin of the Danube
comprised in the territory of Romania, including the coastal waters of the
Black Sea, the national part of the management plan of this international
river basin is elaborated on the basis of the planning and management
directive schemes .
The competent authority for the elaboration of this plan is The
Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
In the spirit of the Community law, the river basin is defined by the
Romanian legislation as an indivisible geographic entity of quantitative and
qualitative management of water resources (surface waters and
groundwater), for the purpose of human solidarity and common interest,
through tight collaboration and cooperation, at all public administration
levels, of water users, of local collectivity representatives and of the
population, for the achievement of a maximum social benefit.
5. The management of the river Danube’s waters in the context of
In its capacity as international district to which non-EU Member
States also participate, the one of the river Danube is subject to a special
regime, defined through the obligation of the Community states to “make the
necessary efforts to establish an adequate coordination together with the
third-party states involved, for the purpose of achieving the objectives of the
Framework Directive throughout the entire river basin district” (article 3.5 of
the Directive); by all means they have to guarantee that on their territory the
pertinent Community regulations are applied (art. 35) and to cooperate with
the third-party involved states for the elaboration of an adequate
management plan.
For this purpose, they have the possibility to use for coordination an
existing structure, derived from international agreements (article 3.4). In
such a general judicial context, in November 2000, the states that are parties
to the Convention of Sofia manifested their will to accept the objectives of
the Framework Directive and to cooperate, under the coordination of
ICPDR, for the accomplishment of a single Management Plan for the
Danube river, at the level of the entire Danubian basin.
Taking over the principles of the Directive, the following general
content of the Plan was established:
– a general description of the characteristics of the river basin;
– a summary of the main pressures and of the impact of human
activities upon the surface waters and groundwater;
– a map of the monitoring networks;
– a list of the environment-related objectives;
– a summary of the economic analysis of water use;
– a summary of the measures programme;
– a summary of the public information measures;
The calendar of the accomplishment of the assumed objectives is the
• 2004 – characterization of the river basin: pressures, impact and
economic analysis (article 5 WFD);
• 2006 – establishment of the monitoring network (article 8);
• 2008 – presentation of the Management Plan project (article 13);
• 2009 – finalization of the Management Plan, including the programme
of measures (articles 13 and 11);
• 2010 – introduction of taxation measures (article 9);
• 2012 – operationalization of the programmes of measures (article 11);
• 2015 – accomplishment of the environment-related objectives (article
• 2021 – finalization of the first management cycle (articles 4 and 13);
• 2027 – finalization of the 2nd management cycle (articles 4 and 13).
IV. Conclusions
European river of international importance, the Danube enjoys a complex
judicial regime regarding the sustainable use and protection of its waters
against pollution. This is made up of rules and regulations of international,
multilateral law (comprised especially in the Convention of Sofia) and
bilateral law (expressed in the agreements in the field concluded by the
riparian states); Community law (ahead with the WFD), coordinated through
the approval, by the EC, of the Convention of 1994, and the pertaining
national law of the 19 basin states (of which 10 are basin-related states ).
When applying the WFD and its spirit, they have developed a special
cooperation, under the coordination of the ICPDR in view of accomplishing
an integrated and adequate global management of the issues such as the
rational use and fighting against the pollution of the aquatic media of the
Danubian district.
This will be concretized in the Management (unique) Plan of the basin of
the river Danube, with a content and objectives according to the exigencies
of the WFD and with accomplishment deadlines going from 2004 to 2027.
The management of the river this way accomplished can represent a model
of cooperation and coordination in the management of the issues of a
continental river, within which the Community law has a decisive role.
At the same time, the problems of Danube determine an increased
interest and find their solutions at a Community level.15
Given its length and water volume, the Danube is the second large river in
Europe (after the Volga) and one of the most important rivers at an international level. It
crosses the territory of 10 states (of which 6 are EU members), it links 4 European
capitals, and its basin, with a surface of 801,463 km2 , is related to the territories of 19
countries (namely 10% of the surface of the continent), with a population of about 250
million inhabitants. Of its total length of 2,780 km, the river is navigable on about 2,500
km, between Ulm and Sulina. Together with its basin, it represents a highly important
factor from the geographical, ecological, economic and strategic points of view, forming,
together with Main and Rhine, a natural navigation corridor that links the western and
central part of the continent with the Black Sea.
Its quality of an eminently European river has permanently left a mark on its
waters, imposing an adequate cooperation among the involved states. At the same time,
the fact that the majority of the riparian and basin-related countries are members of the
European Union (11 of 19) makes its possible for the communitary law to entail major
implications on the sustainable management and protection of the river’s waters. More
than that, by the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU (the 1st of January 2007),
15 For example, the floods brought by the river waters in the spring of 2006 , determined the adoption of
The European Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks (2007/60/EC of 23 October
2007) (the Floods Directive), published in the O.J. of 6 November 2006.
the Black Sea has become a “communitary sea”, in so far as the Danube river mouths
are concerned, which means, among others, according to the integrated approach
promoted by the EEC/60/2006 Water Framework Directive (WFD), taking into
consideration the aspects concerning the coast area. Finally, the creation of the Black
Sea Euroregion from the Council of Europe initiative (2006) stimulates the promotion of
the sustainable development and environmental protection objectives in the Danubian
By virtue of its special geographical-political statute, the Danube river
represents, from the perspective of the applicable juridical regulations, an international
basin (according to the Convention regarding the Danube) and a partially communitary
international district respectively (with the EU-related third-party states), subject to a
complex juridical regime, including internal, international and communitary law
regulations, that are superposed, intersected and that supplement one another from an
integrated perspective (ground and underground waters, coast area) imposed by the
Water Framework Directive and that presupposes measures of a diverse nature
(economic, administrative, ecological etc.) to be managed.
Therefore, from the perspective of the international law and from an integrated
approach, the Sofia Convention related to the Danube (1994) and the Bucharest
Convention related to the Black Sea (1992) are applicable in this case, and the
cooperation supposes the participation of the two commissions set up for this purpose by
the two conventions. The pertinent stipulations of the bilateral conventions are added to
these regulations.
For the national parts, the provisions related to the internal law are obviously
applied, transposing or not, depending on the case, the communitary law, mainly the
WFD. From among the riparian countries, Romania enjoys the longest presence of the
river on its territory – 1,076 km – and consequently it has an important role in providing
a sustainable management of its waters, by means of the national law. The Romanian law
of waters (no. 107/1996) was modified in 2004 (by law no. 310) and in 2006 (by law no.
112) in order to transpose internally the 2004 Water Framework Directive.
Thus, for that part of the international hydrographic basin of the Danube river,
that is comprised in the territory of Romania, the Black Sea coast waters included, the
national part of the management plan of this international hydrographic basin is
elaborated on the basis of the water planning and management directive schemes.
The competent authority for the elaboration of this plan is the Ministry of the
Environment and Sustainable Development.
Being an international district (partially communitary) that includes the
participation of third-party states (relating to the EU), the Danube district is subject to a
special regime, defined through the obligation of the communitary states “to make the
necessary efforts in order to establish an adequate coordination together with the thirdparty
countries involved for the purpose of achieving the objectives of the Framework
Directive within the entire hydrographic district” (art. 3.5 in the Directive); anyway, they
have to guarantee that the applicable communitarian norms are enforced on their
territory (art. 3.5) and to cooperate with the third-party states involved for the
elaboration of a management plan. At the same time, they have the possibility to use for
coordination an existing structure that derives from international agreements (art. 3.4).
In such a general juridical context, in November 2000 the states part to the Sofia
Convention manifested their will to accept the objectives of the Framework Directive and
to cooperate, under the coordination of the ICPDR, for the achievement of a unique
management Plan of the Danube River, at the level of the entire Danubian basin.