Commissions of the Danube River

The Commissions of the Danube River were authorized by the Treaty of Paris (1856) after the close of the Crimean War . One of these international commissions, the most successful, was the European Commission of the Danube, or, in French, European Commission of the Danube, the CED, which had authority over the three mouths of the river – the Chilia in the north, the Sulina in the middle, and the St. George in the south and which was originally designed for the last two years. Instead, it lasted eighty-two years. A separate commission, the International Danube Commission, or IDC,was up to the Danube Delta and was supposed to be permanent, but it was not formally organized until after 1918.

International stature

Commemorative plaque at a lighthouse in Sulina , Tulcea county, Romania, built by the European Commission along with river dykes and completed in November 1870

The European Commission of the Danube was the first – and for a long time the only one – it was seen in 1930, for example, by the professor professor Glen A. Blackburn of the United States as a „unique“ organization.

Without territorial possessions, it is nevertheless a distinct international entity, possessing sovereignty over the broad waters of the Danube. . . . These are entirely limited to the sanction of the group of nations, and there is no appeal of the edicts of the Commission. [1] : 1154

The lower section of the Danube, he continued, was „more than an internationalized river“ because of the CED wielded independent administrative powers. [1] : 1154 He concluded that the commission:

falls short of being white has a bona fide member of the family of nations icts Because there is Largely de facto and not de jure. . . . It is safe to predict que la need for protecting the integrity of the commission will some day lift it out of the twilight of statehood and accord it full membership in the League of Nations . [1] : 1154

To the contrary, Joseph L. Kunz, a professor of international law at the University of Toledo in Ohio, wrote in 1945 that international river commissions were organized on the collegiate principle, to act in accordance with the instructions of their states. “ They were, he concluded, objects, not subjects, of international law. [2]

Stanford University history professor Edward Krehbiel suggested that in 1918 that other „international administrative agents“ like the Danube Commission would eventually be created to handle specific problems. Their activities would „develop a whole body of rules that will in fact be the foundation of the super-state itself.“ [3] : 55 The commission, he said:

Offers an organization through which nations can approach one another on the basis of common or united action, instead of as rivals, as is the case in an ambassadorial conference. [3] : 48

In view of the EDC, he noted that the tariffs were to be settled by a majority vote of the commissioners and that „Majority rule results in the making of the law for the minority, and it is a truly profound abasement of national sovereignty. “ [3] : 52

The establishments of the CED were guaranteed to be neutral (promulgated in 1865) and free of the restraints of the territorial authorities. It owned and operated a hospital for all countries, and it flew a flag („red and white, blue, white, and red, the blue strip having a height double the number of other strips, and bearing in white the letters ‚CED‘ „) [4]

Modern map of the Danube. Click here for a larger version of the map.


The ECA began its work by fixing the seat of the commission in the port of Galatz and ordering of the Sulina . Under the chairmanship of Sir John Stokes , [5] Crimean War veteran of the British Royal Engineers , the commission hastened to get the job done within the two years originally allotted by the treaty. It was under a mandate to:

The Danube River is a part of the Danube Sea, which is one of the most important aspects of the sea. and the said parts of the Sea in the best possible state for Navigation …. [6] It is understood that the European Commission shall have completed its task. . . within the period of two years. [7]

At the end of the two years, the powers of the European Commission, and the so-called „permanent“, upstream, IDC was then to extend its supervision to the Lower Danube. The latter is one of Austria-Hungary , Bavaria , the Sublime Porte (Turkey), Württemberg and the two Danubian mainities (Moldavia and Wallachia). The IDC did not know what to do with the Danubian Navigation Act in November 1857, but it was not accepted multilaterally because of the opposition of all powers except Austria. [8] : 52 [9]It was, however, applied to the agreements between Austria, Bavaria, and Württemberg. The river-bordering states, Krehbiel stressed in his 1918 article, „were eager to get control of the river in their own hands,“ but the non-riparian states were „loath to lose control.“ As a result, the CED was constantly strengthened, and the IDC never came into power, but „was presently abandoned.“ [10]

Mouths of the Danube as shown on an 1867 map

The CED gradually expanded its power until it became an international entity in blackburn called „the twilight of statehood.“ It expanded its functions until it was ranked „the most successful“ such agency until the League of Nations. At the start, though, it had no funds, „it had no basis for an opinion to the best way to attack the river. [3] : 55At the end of the two years, Sir Charles Hartley, had been appointed chief engineer (a post he was to hold for forty-nine years) but wide draft draft were unable to sail unimpeded up the meandering river . These meager results, the powers to extend the life of the commission for another two years,[11]


Funds have been borrowed from Turkey to pay for improvements, but they cam irregularly. Sometimes the CED had to contract short-term, high-rate loans. By 1860, though, traffic had increased enough so the commission could get a rate and get a good amount of money. There was no opposition from the vessels, to the provision of the Treaty of Paris, that of the powers had „the right to station, at all times, Two Light Vessels at the Mouths of the Danube.“ [12] What was the establishment of the CED as „an international financial agent with considerable independence“ the novel prerogative was that it could go into the money market and contract loans. [3] : 53

In 1866, the commission found itself in financial trouble because of the just-ended Austro-Prussian War . But it is secured by issuing bonds, offering the river tolls as security. „To be sure, the rate of 10 percent per Was high, aim the significant fact is attached que le agent of the nations Was Developing a real identity and personality Its venturesomeness Was Rewarded with full solvency.. [3] : 53

Public Act of 1865

View of the river at Braila in 1870; a ship in drydock

On November 2, 1865, a public act signed by Austria, Britain, France, Italy, Prussia, Russia, and Turkey placed on the CED, its officers, works and establishments „under the protection of international law“ (Article I). Two annexes have been appended – one on navigation regulations and the other one has a tariff of „navigation due to be levied at the mouth of the Danube.“ The new tariff, principally the work of John Stokes, established at Danubian rule or Danube rule of measurement. [13]

The only provision of the 1865 act was that of the two annexes could be changed by a majority vote of the commission. Duties of the officers were spelled out, the neutrality of the buildings, records, and funds were ordered, and certain portions of Turkish territory were reserved for the exclusive use of the CED. Its purpose is extended for another five years, but Russia protested that this „should not be exceeded in any case.“ [3] : 46

London Conference of 1871

In 1871 at a conference in London, Russia agreed with Austria-Hungary, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Turkey to extend the commission for another year, which coincided with the redemption period of a large loan floated in 1865. [14] The conference also:

  1. Rejected Britain’s suggestion to extend the commission’s jurisdiction farther up the river. [15]
  2. Agreed to a „reassembling of the Riverain Commission“ – goal at no set time.
  3. Gave Austria the authority to set up a toll-collecting agency at the dangerous Iron Gates section to pay for improvements there.
  4. Extended the neutrality spelled out in the Treaty of 1865 to the staff of the CED, as well as the buildings and works.

Treaty of Berlin of 1878

In 1878, Romania, which had been an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire since 1861, was admitted to an expanded Treaty of Berlin (1878) . It replaced Turkey as a sovereign power on the delta and was given a seat on the CED. Turkey remained a member of the body.

Russia was the winner of the Russo-Turkish War , and she took over an old strip of Bessarabia detached from her in 1856. This place is still on the banks of the Danube. The other Danubian arrangements were:

  1. The jurisdiction of the CED was extended from Isatcha to Galatz .
  2. The powers agreed that it would be formulated for the upward stretch of Galatz to the Iron Gates by a „mixed“ European commission, „assisted by Delegates of the Riverine States, and placed in harmony with those portion of the river below Galatz. “ In the end, a new scheme was adopted for the IDC – Austria, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria would each have a representative on the IDC, and each of the members of the other commission, the CED, would serve alternating terms on the IDC for six months at a time. Austria would be chair, but with no tie-breaking vote. [16] : 268

Southeastern Europe after the Congress of Berlin

Additional Public Act of 1881

In 1881, the article was published in the French version of the French text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was then that Russia withdrew its territory from the EDC’s jurisdiction – the left bank of the Kilia, over which the CED had so far not exercised its right of control. [16] : 268 Russia’s action was last-minute affair, done through a reservation to the treaty.

Treaty of London of 1883

Percy Sanderson , British-built dredger of the Danube Commission in 1911

In 1883, Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey were represented at another conference, this time in London. A majority decided to admit Romania and Serbia in a consultative capacity only and that Bulgaria could be represented only through Turkey, the nominal suzerain . Serbia accepted, but Romania and Bulgaria protested, taking no part in the conference. [17] : 257

After a month of discussion, the delegates decided to:

  1. Extend the jurisdiction of the CED from Galatz to Ibraila [nowadays known as Brăila ].
  2. Authorize the establishment of the reorganized „mixed“ commission (the IDC), with the hope that Romania and Bulgaria would agree.
  3. Prolong the term of the CED for twenty-one years, after which it would continue for three-year periods, unless changes are proposed by one of the major powers.
  4. To review the Kilia – la concurrence de la concurrence, provided the CED. [17] : 257

Detailed and liberal rules drawn up in this convention for the Danube between Ibraila upstream and the Iron Gate have never been applied. Romania did not agree, „and the stretch of the Danube was handled by each riparian state, with due regard, however, to the principle of free navigation.“ [8] : 51

As conditions in the delta improved, shipping increased and more funds were received by the CED. Conditions improved: There were 111 shipwrecks of seagoing vessels between 1861 and 1881, but only five wrecks between 1909 and 1929 [1] : 1154

First World War

The European Commission of the Danube, the CED, continued working during the first two years of the war, and delegates from the Allies and the Central Powers continued to meet together. [18] : 293 After Germany attacked Romania in 1916, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey) kept the commission in operation for a short time – but without the British and the French. Indeed, the Germans attempted to legalize a commission that would have perpetually excluded the Allied powers. on May 7, 1918, they concluded a separate peace with the Romanians, changing the EDC into a Commission of the Mouth of the Danube; its competence was maintained, but membership was restricted to Danubian Gold Black Seacountries; [8] : 52 above Braila, control of the river, which is, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, and Germany. [3] : 47 Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Rumania obtained the right to keep warships on the river; this led, as a reaction, to the internationalization of the river between Ulm and the Black Sea after the war. [18] : 294 même Were stipulations included in the peace treaty entre Germany and Russia in 1918.

These were negated upon Allied victory. In November 1918 the victors established at the Danube Navigation Command , with Sir Ernest Troubridge as commander. The Allies‘ Supreme Committee decided on May 22, 1919, that „despite the existing uncertainty concerning the frontiers and the ownership of the floating material, normal conditions of traffic on the Danube should be established as soon as possible“, and an Inter-Allied Danube Commission was formed under Troubridge. Later in the year, non-enemy states were admitted on an equal footing with the great powers ; the group with some success in river reopening, despite the difficulties. [19] : 241

The old European Commission, but its membership was limited to Britain, France, Italy, and Romania (excluding, then, Russia and Turkey). In addition, an International Commission was established to regulate the Upper Danube from Ulm to Braila. A general conference was planned for the future. [8] : 53


The conference convened in Paris in September 1920 to finalize the statute for the river. Represented were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Yugoslavia, Absent from a full-dress Danubian conference for the first time were Russia, then in the first years of rule by the Bolsheviks, and Turkey. It took six months, but on July 23, 1921, the basic convention was signed. It follows to a large extent the temporary framework built just after the war. The European Commission of the Danube was re-established, and all the former treaties and regulations were confirmed.

The International Danube Commission (upriver) was finally given a permanent status, made a subject of international law like the EDC, and provided with the regulations that gave it life. It, however, had no law courts of its own; it was obliged to surrender transgressors to the territorial authorities for trial and punishment. Members included all the riparian states, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Romania.

Otto Popper of Bratislava, secretary of the IDC in 1920-29, said this about the statute when viewing it:

[President Woodrow] Wilson ’s Fourteen Points was beginning to fade. As it stands the Statute is a somewhat unsatisfactory compromise between broad conceptions and narrow-mindedness. Its text was made to varying interpretations [,] and some of its important stipulations were therefore not applied, as it had been hoped, in the best interests of the river and its navigation. [19] : 244

John C. Campbell, Eastern European Specialist with the US State Department, wrote in 1949 that just had the Paris conference in 1856, had striven to block „Russian domination“ in Southeastern Europe after the Crimean War, so the 1921 convention „stood for an effort to block the resurgence of German or Russian power. “ [20]


The European Commission, again at Galatz, finds things very bad at the mouths of the Danube after the war. Silt had choked the channel again, and it was trying to improve the situation. [19] : 244

Economic affairs along the river were so bad that the League of Nations instituted in 1922 an inquiry by a special committee, headed by an American, Walker D. Hines (Wilson’s wartime chief of railroads). His report was issued in August 1925, but was only 56 percent of normal. This reduction was largely due to an economic depression but also by the breakup of Austria-Hungary’s large duty-free area. Hines scored the „petty attitudes“ of the multitude of free and complementary of the frontier formalities and the exclusion of non-nationals from international trade . [21]Despite the existence of the EDC and the IDC, the situation had „changed but little since the end of the war.“ [22]

This report to the Commercial and Financial Chronicle of New York City to suggest, in particular, the reduction of „due which it [the EDC] has imposed.“ [23] British interests since 1918 had turned the Danube into a virtual European Thames. Before the war, Clair Price of the New York Times,

the Danube was in the hands of waterfront [river-bordering] groups, but since then Furness, Withy and Co. , a large United Kingdom shipholders, have obtained a virtual monopoly. . . . It operates a steamer service from British ports to the Levant [Eastern Mediterranean], the Black Sea and to Sulina, Galatz and Braila, where British tonnage has long been preponderant. [24]

The company has obtained this monopoly by refinancing the war-stricken prewar firms, most of which are owned by Austrian or Hungarian interests (the losers in the war). A holding company , the Danube Shipping Co., was organized, and had astute financial maneuvering given to Furness, Withy „the practical control of the traffic of the navigable length of the Danube.“ [18] : 300

Romania’s struggle for control

Meanwhile, Romania desired the outright abolition of the CED, having made the suggestion for the first time in 1881, when King Carol said he would insist on the mouths being „exclusively controlled by Romanian officials.“ [18] : 300 This statement to a break with Austria-Hungary, and Carol was forced late in the year to dispatch a message of „deep regret“ for the offense that had been given to Austria. [16] : 268

The country requests its demands in 1919 at the Peace Conference Paris and in 1921 at the Danube Conference. On both instances, it was overruled. Romania changed tactics, but not motives, at the Conference of Lausanne in 1923, when affairs of the Middle East were discussed. On this occasion, Romania suggests that the powers of the CED should be expanded; it would also be given over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles .

Danube, for the Commission, Danube, for the Commission, the Danube, and the Commission with a view to the future of the Danube The Lower Danube would have devolved upon Rumania.

wrote Joseph D. Somogyi in 1948. [8] : 56

A 2004 photo of the Sulina Channel of the Danube River, leading to the Black Sea

In 1924, Romania suggests that the activities of the commission be limited; That country would be heavily involved in this process, and would be similar to the method used by the newer, upriver International Danube Commission. This suggestion was also rejected by the other powers. Balked internationally, the Romanian government began an internal propaganda campaign in 1926 to nationalize the Sulina channel, even with the competition of the other nations. Spokesmen claimed the DAC had failed to keep the channel clear, resulting in a situation where only empty boats could cross it; the commission argued that the silt had been piled up during the war when Romania had full control. [25]

Meanwhile, Romania resorted to a lawsuit to assert its jurisdiction over an upriver stretch. It noted that the jurisdiction of the Court had been extended to the river by the Treaty of London in 1883, in the framing and signing of which Romania had not participated. In 1921, two vessels collided in the disputed sector, and the CED’s inspectorate assumed police and jurisdictional powers over Romania’s protest. The case was taken to the League of Nations, which in 1926 sent to the Permanent Court of International Justice at the request of Britain, France, Italy, and Romania. The latter country lost on all counts. The court decided the CED’s powers „extend over the sea of ​​the Danube.“ [1] : 1157-58

End of the prewar commissions

See main articles Nazi rule over the Danube River (1938-1945) and Danube Commission (after 1945)

In 1938, a committee of experts inspected the Sulina and found it almost impassable by that time. [26] And in August of that year, the regime of the two commissions was swept away by German power on the river. A series of reports in the hands of the Germans, who maintained it until the Nazi retreat in 1944 and ultimate defeat in 1945. In 1948 a Danube river conference was held, and a new treaty was adopted, putting governance in the river under committees composed only of the riparian powers, ending more than four decades of Western European presence in the control of the important waterway. [27]

References and notes

  1. ^ Jump up to:e Glen A. Blackburn, „International Control of the River Danube,“ Current History , XXXXII (September 1930)
  2. Jump up^ „Experience and Techniques in International Administration“,Iowa Law Review, XXXI (November 1945), p. 50.
  3. ^ Jump up to:h Edward Krehbiel, „The European Commission of the Danube: An Experiment in International Administration,“ Political Science Quarterly , XXXIII (March 1918)
  4. Jump up^ Treaty of Galatz, 1881, Article VIII
  5. Jump up^ Seehis biography.
  6. Jump up^ Treaty of Paris, 1856 Article XVI
  7. Jump up^ Treaty of Paris, 1856. Article XVIII
  8. ^ Jump up to:e From Somogyi, Joseph, „The Historical Development of the Danubian Problem to the Present“, Journal of Central European Affairs , VIII (April 1948)
  9. Jump up^ ATimesof London on this match Reported mishaps at“The navigation of the Danube,“ February 2, 1858, page 7.
  10. Jump up^ Krehbiel, p. 44. See a similar statement inThe Annual Register for 1871, p. 283.
  11. Jump up^ Krehbiel, p. 45. „It is another illustration of the compelling force of an international joint agent that Austria did not exercise the right of undoubtedly possessed to withdraw from the whole affair.“
  12. Jump up^ Treaty of Paris, Article XIX
  13. Jump up^ Robert Hamilton Veitch, „Stokes, Sir John“,Dictionary of National Biography, 1901-1911, London, Oxford University Press, 1920, p. 427
  14. Jump up^ France, at war with Germany, Did not send a delegate up to March 13, When the fighting HAD Ceased.
  15. Jump up^ The British chairman of the CED, Sir John Stokes, had „urged the British government to secure in perpetuity [West] European control over the mouths of the Danube by means of the commission.“ Veitch, p. 426.
  16. ^ Jump up to:c The Annual Register for 1881
  17. ^ Jump up to:b The Annual Register for 1883
  18. ^ Jump up to:d H. Charles Woods, „The Danube as an International Highway,“ Fortnightly Review , CXVI (August 1921)
  19. ^ Jump up to:c Otto Popper, „The International Regime of the Danube“, Geographical Journal , CII (November-December 1943)
  20. Jump up^ John C. Campbell, „Diplomacy on the Danube“,Foreign Affairs, XXVII (January 1949), p. 317
  21. Jump up^ New York Times, August 7, 1925, p. 15
  22. Jump up^ New York Times, July 24, 1925, p. 1
  23. Jump up^ Cited in George L. Garrigues,The European Commission of the Danube: An Historical Survey,page 37, Division of Social Sciences, College of Letters and Science, University of California, Riverside, 1957
  24. Jump up^ Clear Price,New York Times, January 25, 1925, Section 8, page 4
  25. Jump up^ New York Times, April 25, 1926, p. 13
  26. Jump up^ New York Times, May 12, 1938
  27. Jump up^ „Danubian Conference“,International Organization, III (February 1949), pp. 179-80