Danube oil spill causes diplomatic rift

Bulgaria and Romania are demanding action from Serbia after a huge oil slick up to 90 miles long was washed down the Danube.

The Bulgarian Environment Minister, Dzhevdet Chakarov, told journalists that he would be requesting financial compensation for the ecological disaster caused by the spill while his Romanian counterpart, Sulfina Barbu, has written to Belgrade complaining that it failed to warn its neighbours about the spill making mitigation of the damage difficult.

For its part, Serbia acknowledges there was a ‘small spill’ from an oil company site near its border with Bulgaria, but denies it was linked to the massive slick polluting the river, the source of which it claims remains a mystery.

Bulgaria and Romania both attempted to prevent the oil from reaching the banks of the Danube but say these attempts were only partially successful due to the lack of warning and have caused extensive environmental damage to farmland and wildlife.

The fragile ecosystems of the Danube delta are particularly at risk from the spill and the clean-up is expected to have a serious impact on agriculture and the fishing industry.

Chakarov told Bulgarian radio that under the formal Danube convention, he believed that, as the state from which the pollution originated, Serbia was responsible for picking up the tab and would then have to carry out its own investigations as to the exact source of the spill.

He called for an inquiry to be established with representatives from all three countries taking part in the investigation and assessment of the damage and likely costs.

Sam Bond

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