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Slovaks press Hungary to build Nagymaros dam

Slovakia told Hungary on November 10 that it must complete a second dam on the Danube in Nagymaros so that Slovakia can fully exploit its own part of the controversial Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros dam project. "Without a second dam it is not possible to fulfill the original 1977 joint treaty to build the project," Slovak Agricultural Minister Peter Baco told reporters after the second round of bilateral talks on a dispute over the dam scheme.
The two countries have been at loggerheads over the plan to harness the Danube with a joint hydro-electric project since Hungary ceased working on its own dam at Nagymaros in 1989. Budapest fully abandoned the project in 1992 under pressure from domestic environmental groups. Czechoslovakia, with whom Hungary had signed the original agreement in 1977, completed its part of the work at Gabčíkovo, which was taken over by Slovakia after Czechoslovakia split in 1993. The Nagymaros dam, more than 100 km (60 miles) downstream from Gabčíkovo, had been designed to cope with large fluctuations in water levels that the operation of Gabčíkovo would have caused at peak output.

Slovakia told Hungary on November 10 that it must complete a second dam on the Danube in Nagymaros so that Slovakia can fully exploit its own part of the controversial Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros dam project. "Without a second dam it is not possible to fulfill the original 1977 joint treaty to build the project," Slovak Agricultural Minister Peter Baco told reporters after the second round of bilateral talks on a dispute over the dam scheme. The two countries have been at loggerheads over the plan to harness the Danube with a joint hydro-electric project since Hungary ceased working on its own dam at Nagymaros in 1989.

Budapest fully abandoned the project in 1992 under pressure from domestic environmental groups. Czechoslovakia, with whom Hungary had signed the original agreement in 1977, completed its part of the work at Gabčíkovo, which was taken over by Slovakia after Czechoslovakia split in 1993. The Nagymaros dam, more than 100 km (60 miles) downstream from Gabčíkovo, had been designed to cope with large fluctuations in water levels that the operation of Gabčíkovo would have caused at peak output.

Without the Nagymaros dam, Slovakia now complains, the completed power plant can only be used at constant output, unable to boost electricity when demand is high. "Not being able to operate the hydro-electric project at peak power is costing us half a million dollars a day," Baco said.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled in September that the 1977 treaty was still valid, saying that both countries "must take all necessary measures to ensure the achievement of the objectives of the Treaty of 16 September 1977, in accordance with such modalities as they may agree upon."

But János Nemcsok, the leader of the Hungarian delegation, said rebuilding the already -destroyed parts of Nagymaros is out of question, adding that Hungary will offer the Slovaks an alternative technical solution at the next round of talks expected during the last week of November.

"I can say today that Hungary will not build a new dam at Nagymaros," Nemcsok said. "We will offer alternative solutions."

The two parties have six months to agree on how to implement the Hague Court's verdict and then either side may unilaterally return to the tribunal for arbitration on remaining points of contention.

Prime Minister Horn wrote in a letter sent last month to his Slovak counterpart, Vladimír Mečiar, that it would be to the benefit of both sides to involve a third, neutral party as an observer in the talks, but Baco ruled this out. "We do not believe a third party should be involved in the talks," he said.

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