press release

“Pragmatic, mutually beneficial solution” Germany and the Netherlands sign Ems‑Dollart Treaty


Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterpart from the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, signed the Ems‑Dollart Treaty on 24 October aboard the “Neuwerk”, one of Germany’s coast guard ships. The signing took place during a journey across the estuary of the river Ems, starting in Emden in Germany before crossing the border to the Netherlands and arriving at the town Delfzijl. The Ems‑Dollart Treaty between Germany and the Netherlands regulates responsibilities and rights of use for the coastal sea between three and twelve nautical miles from the coast.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement on the signing of the agreement:

Today we were able to draw a line under an old conflict between Germany and the Netherlands.
The Ems‑Dollart Treaty provides the maritime economy with legal certainty on both sides of the Ems estuary. This will promote investment and growth in the region.
Instead of becoming caught up in questions of border demarcation, we are providing shipping, wind park constructors and the port industry with pragmatic, mutually beneficial solutions.
Here in the Ems estuary it is possible to see in concrete terms how cooperating rather than closing oneself off provides better results. Germany and the Netherlands are demonstrating how conflicts can be resolved through good neighbourly relations.

Further information:

The border demarcation between Germany and the Netherlands in the Ems estuary has long been disputed. The Ems‑Dollart Treaty of 1960 and its additional instruments previously regulated all practical questions relating to the stretch of sea between zero and three nautical miles from the coast.

However, these rules do not refer to the sea between 3 and 12 nautical miles from the coast. This gap has led to problems, particularly following the construction of an offshore wind farm in the disputed sea area.

Following preparatory talks which took place between 2011 and 2013, in August 2013 a practical compromise was reached at a meeting of the chief negotiators in Delfzijl. In five negotiation rounds in Berlin and The Hague, this political compromise was then converted into an international treaty. Today, the treaty was signed by Federal Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier and the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Bert Koenders.

Open questions and issues which arise in every day affairs will be discussed and resolved within the format of joint, cross-border cooperation, such as in the Westerems commission.

The Ems‑Dollart Treaty governs the most important points, of practical relevance:

The construction of the Riffgat wind farm will be provided with a firm grounding in terms of international law.

The authority to issue permits for submarine cables, pipelines, wind power plants as well as rights of exploitation and use is accorded following the line stipulated in the 1964 treaty between Germany and the Netherlands on their continental shelf border.

Access to the high seas from the ports of Emden, which is an important terminal for the German car industry, and Delfzijl and Eemshaven will not be affected.

Overall management of maritime traffic will be brought together and conducted by a joint transport control centre on the basis of jointly-agreed principles.

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