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Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark)

Overview of the case

On 17 May 1991 Finland instituted proceedings against Denmark in respect of a dispute concerning passage through the Great Belt (Storebælt), and the project by the Government of Denmark to construct a fixed traffic connection for both road and rail traffic across the West and East Channels of the Great Belt. The effect of this project, and in particular of the planned high-level suspension bridge over the East Channel, would have been permanently to close the Baltic for deep draught vessels of over 65 m height, thus preventing the passage of such drill ships and oil rigs manufactured in Finland as required more than that clearance. In its Application Finland requested the Court to adjudge and declare (a) that there was a right of free passage through the Great Belt which applied to all ships entering and leaving Finnish ports and shipyards ; (b) that this right extended to drill ships, oil rigs and reasonably foreseeable ships ; (c) that the construction of a fixed bridge over the Great Belt as currently planned by Denmark would be incompatible with the right of passage mentioned in subparagraphs (a) and (b) above and ; (d) that Denmark and Finland ought to start negotiations, in good faith, on how the right of free passage, as set out in subparagraphs (a) to (c) above, should be guaranteed. On 23 May 1991, Finland requested the Court to indicate certain provisional measures aimed, principally, at stopping all construction works in connection with the planned bridge project over the East Channel of the Great Belt which it was alleged would prevent the passage of ships, in particular drill ships and oil rigs, entering and leaving Finnish ports and shipyards.

By an Order dated 29 July 1991, the Court dismissed that request for the indication of provisional measures by Finland, while at the same time indicating that, pending its decision on the merits, any negotiation between the Parties with a view to achieving a direct and friendly settlement was to be welcomed, and going on to say that it would be appropriate for the Court, with the co-operation of the Parties, to ensure that the decision on the merits was reached with all possible expedition. By a letter dated 3 September 1992, the Agent of Finland, referring to the relevant passage of the Order, stated that a settlement of the dispute had been attained and accordingly notified the Court of the discontinuance of the case. Denmark let it be known that it had no objection to that discontinuance. Consequently, the President of the Court, on 10 September 1992, made an Order recording the discontinuance of the proceedings and directing the removal of the case from the Court’s List.


This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 1991/9

Public sitting held on Monday 1 July 1991, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1991/10

Public sitting held on Monday 1 July 1991, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1991/11

Public sitting held on Tuesday 2 July 1991, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1991/12

Public sitting held on Tuesday 2 July 1991, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1991/13

Public sitting held on Thursday 4 July 1991, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1991/14

Public sitting held on Friday 5 July 1991, at 2.30 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Sir Robert Jennings presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Orders

Order of 29 July 1991

Fixing of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 10 September 1992

Removal from list
Procedure(s): Discontinuance
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1991/1

Summary of the Order of 29 July 1991
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1991/14

17 May 1991
Finland brings a case against Denmark
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/15

24 May 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Request for indication of provisional measures
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/16

31 May 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Request for the indication of provisional measures - Hearings to open on 1 July 1991
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/19

1 July 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Solemn declarations of Judges ad hoc Paul Henning Fischer and Bengt Broms
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/20

8 July 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Progress and conclusion of public hearings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/23

23 July 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Request for the indication of provisional measures - Court to give its decision on Monday 29 July 1991
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/24

29 July 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - The Court decides not to indicate provisional measures, but to reach a decision on the merit with all possible expedition
Available in:
English French

Press release 1991/25

29 July 1991
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Fixing of time-limits
Available in:
English French

Press release 1992/16

24 June 1992
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Opening of Hearings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1992/23

11 September 1992
Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark) - Discontinuance
Available in:
English French

Correspondence

Correspondence

23 June 1992
Correspondence
Available in:
English