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Case name Iron Rhine Arbitration (Belgium/Netherlands)
Case description

The Iron Rhine is a railway linking the port of Antwerp in Belgium to the Rhine basin in Germany via the Netherlands. Its origins lie in the 1839 Treaty of Separation (“1839 Treaty”) which conferred certain transit rights on Belgium. Following World War II, parts of the Iron Rhine gradually fell into disuse and during the 1990s the Netherlands took legal steps to designate nature reserves that lay across its route. 


The Parties disagreed as to the allocation of costs and risks for works necessary for the long-term use of the railway. In particular, the Parties disagreed on the interpretation of Belgium's right of transit under the 1839 Treaty in light of subsequent developments, including environmental protection measures and the requirements of European law.


The Tribunal decided the case on the basis of written submissions as neither Party requested an oral hearing. The Tribunal ruled that Belgium had an obligation to fund the environmental element of the overall costs of the reactivation. In relation to those parts of the line where Iron Rhine trains and Netherlands trains would pass, the Netherlands was obliged to contribute to the total costs of reactivation, to the extent that those measures represented particular quantifiable benefits to the Netherlands. The Tribunal applied these principles to each segment of the proposed line.


On July 25, 2005 Belgium submitted three requests for interpretation of the Award. On September 20, 2005, after receiving comments from the Netherlands on each of those requests, the Tribunal issued its Interpretation of the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal.

Name(s) of Claimant(s)
Name(s) of Respondent(s)
Names of Parties The Kingdom of Belgium ( State )
The Kingdom of the Netherlands ( State )
Case number 2003-02
Administering institution Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
Case status Concluded
Type of case Inter-state arbitration
Subject matter or economic sector Transportation and storage
Rules used in arbitral proceedings Permanent Court of Arbitration Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes between Two States
Treaty or contract under which proceedings were commenced Other
Compromis concluded by exchange of diplomatic notes dated July 22 and 23, 2003.

Language of Proceeding English
Seat of Arbitration (by Country) Netherlands

Judge Rosalyn Higgins (President)

Professor Guy Schrans

Judge Bruno Simma

Professor Alfred Soons

Judge Peter Tomka

Representatives of the Claimant(s)
Representatives of the Respondent(s)
Representatives of the Parties



Mr. Jan Devadder


Counsel and Advocates

Mr. Nicolas Angelet, Avocat, Chargé de cours at the Université Libre de Bruxelles;

Mrs. Corinne Clavé, Researcher, Centre de droit International, Université Libre de Bruxelles




Professor Johan G. Lammers

Number of Arbitrators in case 5
Date of commencement of proceeding [dd-mm-yyyy] 23-07-2003
Date of issue of final award [dd-mm-yyyy] 24-05-2005  
Length of Proceedings 1-2 years
Additional notes
Attachments Notice of Arbitration
22-07-2003  English

Written submission
01-10-2003  English
01-10-2003  English
01-01-2004  English
29-03-2004  English
29-03-2004  English
01-06-2004  English

Award or other decision
24-05-2005  English
24-05-2005  English
20-09-2005  English
20-09-2005  English
20-09-2005  French

Press Release
20-05-2004  English
02-05-2005  English

23-07-2003  English
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