Transregional Comparative Lessons in Pursuit of Sustainable Development
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Werner Scholtz and Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 14: A comparative analysis of the legal frameworks that govern Europe’s transboundary waters
Transboundary waters are of considerable importance in the European region and their sustainable management requires a high degree of inter-State cooperation. There are a total of 69 international river basins in the region, of which 28 lie solely within the borders of the EU, while a further 29 are shared between EU and non-EU States. To illustrate the range and complexity of these shared basins, the Danube basin is shared by 17 States and covers a total area of 790,100 km², while 39 basins are shared between only two States. In addition, there are around 69 aquifers throughout Europe, many of which are inevitably transboundary. The European region has a very long and rich legacy of inter-State cooperation over transboundary waters, with many of the earliest treaties on issues such as riverine navigation, fisheries and irrigation, as well as a history of legal disputes ending in judicial or arbitral settlement. It is not surprising, therefore, that the utilisation and environmental protection of Europe’s transboundary water resources are governed by a complex web of legal frameworks working at a range of levels of administration – international and transnational, European Union and national. Neither should one be surprised that European practice in relation to transboundary water management makes a hugely significant contribution to the development and normativisation of key principles of good water governance essential for the sustainable management of shared water resources.
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