On the international front the controversy over the Gabcikovo Dam on the Danube continues to sour relations with Hungary. (The dam is also in an area of Slovakia where Hungarians predominate.) Hungary and Czechoslovakia had jointly signed an agreement in 1977, but Hungary stopped work on the scheme in 1989 after a powerful campaign by environmentalists and formally withdrew in May 1992. On 24 October 1992 the Slovak government (the Czechs wanted a delay) went ahead with the plan to divert water from the Danube as part of the hydro-electric power scheme. Hungary complained that the diversion also violated the international border. The EC intervened and a temporary deal was made regarding work on the power plant and the amount of water diverted. In April 1993 Hungary agreed to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The verdict was delivered on 25 September 1997.
The court has concluded that both parties committed internationally wrongful acts … Hungary and Slovakia must negotiate in good faith … and must take all the necessary measures to achieve the objectives of the 1977 treaty … The issue of compensation could satisfactorily be resolved in the framework of an overall settlement, if each of the parties were to renounce or cancel all financial claims.
The court ruled that both countries should operate the dam jointly (with Hungary paying part of the building and operating costs) and take environmental considerations into account. (The dam accounts for around 10 per cent of Slovakia's electricity generation: FT, 26 September 1997, p. 2.) On 6 February 1998 Hungary announced that it was to build a new dam to support Slovakia's Gabcikovo. But on 3 September 1998 the Slovak government announced that it had decided to return the dispute to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Slovakia claimed that Hungary was not complying with