MR. JOSEPH COWEN
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If the Danubian Conference has closed its sittings; and, if he can furnish the House with any information as to the decisions arrived at?
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
Sir, the Conference on the Navigation of the Danube brought its labours to a termination on Saturday. As the House is aware, the Conference met in order to give effect to the stipulations of Articles 52, 54, and 55, of the Treaty of Berlin, which are themselves a continuation of those Articles of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, under which the principle of the freedom of navigation of the great rivers of Europe, adopted in the Final Act of the 205 Congress of Vienna, was applied to the Danube, and a European Commission, consisting of the Delegates of the Great Powers, was appointed to superintend the management of the river from Galatz to the sea. At Berlin, a seat on this Commission was accorded to Roumania also; because, under the other Articles of that Treaty, the seat of the Commission had become Roumanian territory, and her special interests in the navigation had been greatly increased. At the present Conference, Great Britain was accordingly willing to have given the privilege of a vote to Roumania, and to Servia also, as an interested party; but the Treaty of Berlin having expressly stipulated that the questions which came before the Conference were to be decided by the Powers Signatory of that Treaty, the two States in question were invited to attend the Conference, with a consultative voice only. Servia accepted this invitation. Bulgaria, under the terms of the Treaty of Berlin, was represented by the Plenipotentiary of Turkey; but her Delegates were accorded the right of hearing the proceedings, and the condition was made that the Turkish Plenipotentiary should make any communication, whether verbal or in writing, which they might wish to convey to the Conference. The three specific points to which the Conference directed its attention were—
The decisions arrived at have been embodied in a Treaty of nine Articles, which are to the following effect:—
- "1. The extension of the jurisdiction of the European Commission from Galatz to Ibraila.
- "2. The confirmation of the regulations drawn up by the European Commission, under Article 65 of the Berlin Treaty, for the control, by a Mixed Commission, of the river from Galatz or Ibraila, as the case might be, to the Iron Gates.
- "3. The prolongation of the powers of the European Commission."Article 1. The jurisdiction of the European Commission of the Danube is extended from Galatz to Ibraila.Article 2. The powers of the European Commission are prolonged for a period of twenty-one years, dating from April 24, 1883. At the expiration of the said period the powers of the said Commission shall continue in force by tacit prolongation ("tacite réconduction") for successive terms of three years, unless one of the high contracting parties should notify, one year before the expiration of one of these terms of three years, the intention of proposing modifications in the constitution or in the powers of the Commission.206Article 3. The European Commission shall exercise no effective control over those portions of the Kilia branch of which both banks belong to one of the riverain States of that branch.Article 4. With regard to that portion of the Kilia branch which flows between Russian and Roumanian territory, and in order to insure uniformity in the management of the Lower Danube, the regulations in force on the Sulina branch shall be applied under the superintendence of the Russian and Roumanian Delegates of the European Commission.Article 5. In case Russia or Roumania should undertake works in the Kilia branch, either in the part which divides their respective territories, or that which flows exclusively within the territories of either of them, the competent authority shall communicate the plans of these works to the European Commission, with the solo view of establishing that they do not interfere in any way with the navigable state of the other branches. The works which have already been carried out at the Tchatal of Ismail remain at the charge and under the control of the European Commission of the Danube. Should there be a difference of opinion between the Russian or Roumanian authorities and the European Commission respecting the plans of works to be undertaken in the Kilia branch, or a difference of opinion in that Commission respecting any extension that it might be advisable to make in the works at the Tchatal of Ismail, the case shall be submitted to the Powers direct.Article 6. It is understood that there shall be no restriction upon the right of Russia to levy tolls intended to cover the expenses of the works undertaken by her. Nevertheless, with the view of providing a safeguard for the reciprocal interests of the navigation on the Sulina branch and on the Kilia branch, the Russian Government will put the Governments represented in the European Commission in possession of the regulations respecting the tolls which they may think it advisable to introduce, so as to insure an understanding on the subject.Article 7. The regulations for navigation, river police, and superintendence drawn up on the 2nd June, 1882, by the European Commission, assisted by the Delegates of Servia and Bulgaria, are adopted in the form annexed to the present Treaty, and declared applicable to that part of the Danube which is situated between the Iron Gates and I braila.Article 8. All the Treaties, Conventions, Acts, and arrangements relating to the Danube and its mouths are maintained in all such of their provisions as are not abrogated or modified by the preceding stipulations.Article 9. The present Treaty shall be ratified, and the ratifications exchanged at London, within the space of six months, or sooner if possible.By a Protocol, declared to be of equal force with the Treaty, the rights of the agents of the European Commission to circulate freely for the purposes of information, on the Kilia branch, is expressly maintained. The Plenipoten- 207 tiaries also unanimously agreed that they accepted the 5th Article as meaning that the tolls should not come into operation till accepted by the Powers. The Conference further amended the regulations for the navigation of the river between the Iron Gates and Ibraila, in regard to three important points, as to which objections had been made to the original regulations by Roumania and Bulgaria—namely, the method of nominating the Sub-Inspectors of the river; the manner in which the stream was to be set out for the purposes of management; and the rotation in which the European Representative is to be sent by the European Commission to sit on the Mixed Commission. Austria-Hungary, being permanently represented on the latter, consents to abandon her right to the double representation which she otherwise would have had. I may remind the House that previously to the assembly of the Conference she had already abandoned the right she had advanced to a casting vote. These, Sir, were the decisions of the Conference. The President (Earl Granville) has been requested to convey them to the Governments of the Riverain States, and to invite their adhesion. The ratifications of the Treaty have been purposely delayed in order to give a full opportunity to the Riverain States to make themselves parties to the present settlement, and the President of the Conference has been given power by his Colleagues to summon the Conference again for a further meeting, if necessary, with the above object. I propose to lay Papers before the House at an early date; and I believe it will be the opinion of hon. Members, when they read them, that a settlement has been arrived at favourable to the interests of British commerce, and in harmony with the requirements of the case and with the public law of Europe.