Passage through the Great Belt (Finland v. Denmark)
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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.
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