Equidistance – Special Circumstances: A Return to the  Geneva Convention of 1958 or a Continuing Uncertainty?


Abstract: Since the date of 3 February 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the judgment of the international Court of Justice in the  Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine) case, the  study proposes an analysis of the relevant case-law in the field of maritime  delimitations, in order to ascertain the existence of a trend towards the  consecration of the ”equidistance – special circumstances” as the most  pertinent method for international courts and tribunals, to effectuate  maritime delimitations. The study demonstrates that the Black Sea case has  been a turning point, which established, as a matter of ”acquis judiciaire”,  that the equitable result envisaged by the relevant law (articles 74 and 83 of  UNCLOS, reflecting customary international law) is to be achieved by the  use of the ”equidistance – special circumstances” method (except for  ”compelling reasons”). The line of cases which started with the Black Sea  delimitation provided, as a matter of legal certainty, the predictability that  this method will be used in the application of articles 74 and 83 of  UNCLOS. However, the study shows that certain difficulties persist with  respect to the ”way in which” the method will be applied, especially in the  light of certain special circumstances, such as ”concavity” or ”cut-off  effect”.

Key-words: continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, maritime  delimitation, equidistance/special circumstances, equitable result  

* Ion GÂLEA is Senior Lecturer in Public International Law and International  Organiazations at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Law. He held the position of  director general for legal affaris (legal advisor) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of  Romania between 2010 and 2016. Since 2016, he is the Ambassador of Romania to the  Republic of Bulgaria. The opinions expressed in this paper are solely the author’s and do  not engage the institutions he belongs to.

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