Border: Romania-Ukraine

Date(s) of establishment: 1918; current demarcation on land in 1940, maritime border in 1999
Length of border: 649 km
Regions concerned: Romania – Satu Mare, Maramureș, Suceava, Botoșani, Tulcea
Ukraine – Oblasts of Zakarpattia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Odessa

European programme(s):


At a total length of 649 km, the border between Ukraine and Romania has the particularity of being discontinuous, as the Republic of Moldova separates the border into two portions. The first segment begins in the west, at the tripoint between the Hungarian-Romanian and Hungarian-Ukrainian borders. It then continues across the East Carpathian mountains and comes to a stop at the tripoint formed by the Moldovan, Romanian and Ukrainian borders. The second portion of the border begins at the second tripoint between the Moldovan, Romanian and Ukrainian borders, on the north bank of the Danube, and comes to an end as it reaches the Black Sea.


The two portions of this discontinuous border were not established at the same time. The first part of the border, which begins at the Hungarian-Romanian-Ukrainian tripoint and ends in the Carpathian mountains, was established in 1918 by an international commission, following the First World War. The rest of the border was established in 1940 by a Soviet-Romanian commission created in the context of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939, after which Romania was forced to cede Bessarabia to the USSR.

For the most part, the border has since remained unmodified, however certain sections have been the subject of disagreements, notably in 1991 and 2009. The significance of this dispute is linked to the natural resources of gas and oil, very rich in this region. The litigation involves 9 islands, initially Romanian, occupied by the USSR in 1945, recognised as Romanian by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 and then divided between the parties by a special protocol between Romania and the USSR that was not ratified by either country. Indeed, following the fall of the USSR, the Ukrainians continued to occupy six of these islands, which were supposed to have been returned to, and were thus claimed by Romania.

The dispute came to end for a first time in 1997 when, in order to join NATO, Romania signed the Treaty of Constanţa, following arbitration by the USA, even though the treaty was to Romania’s disadvantage as it validated the existing situation, at the exception, nevertheless, of the territorial waters of Snake Island, the mouth of the Sulina branch, and Maican Island near Kiliya.

After the beginning of construction of the Bystroye Canal, and Ukraine’s unilateral placement of border marker buoys too far south of the Snake Island, close to the disputed area, the quarrel between Ukraine and Romania was revived in 2004. Romania took the case to the International Court of Justice, which resolved the situation in 2009 with the establishment of a precise demarcation of the maritime border: the six disputed islands remain within Ukrainian territory, and territorial waters around Snake Island were divided between the two parties. Despite this, Maican Island and the mouth the Sulina branch remain disputed areas.

Cross-border cooperation

The continuing border disputes between the two countries have not been encouraged cross-border cooperation. Moreover, while Romania is a Member State of the European Union, this is not the case for Ukraine.
Given this situation, the two countries are both involved in two programmes within the framework of the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument) – the programmes “Romania–Ukraine-Republic of Moldova” and “Hungary–Slovakia–Romania–Ukraine”. In this region of Europe, cooperation between the two states is developing slowly, and the choice was made to privilege multilateral cooperation, in order to bolster the region of Southeast Europe in a more general way.

The first programme aims to ensure a competitive economy for the border region. In order to achieve this, it focuses on the modernisation and diversification of activities within the border region. The programme also works towards providing environmentally friendly long-term solutions for the region, notably with the aim of responding to possible environmental emergencies.

The second programme shares the same economic and environmental objectives, but also aims to reinforce small-scale cross-border cooperation, by privileging “people to people” relations.

This border also marks the limit of the European Union: the programmes therefore promote secure border areas, as well as the improvement of cross-border transport, in order to better control border crossings.

The Interreg programme involving the two countries is also dedicated to a larger space – Southeast Europe.
Southeast Europe is a fragile cooperation zone as the emergence of new borders has often had an impact on relations between the different countries. With these constant changes, it is difficult for states to rapidly adapt to the EU – it is in order to remedy this context that the Interreg programme aims to involve the entire region.

Specific aims for Romania and Ukraine are not mentioned, but one of the priorities of the programme is accessibility and, given the particularities of this border (being composed of mountains, a river and another country), both countries are directly concerned. Obstacles to be overcome are therefore numerous. In order to improve accessibility between the two countries, planning and development of their respective transport networks needs to be coordinated. Multi-modal transport needs to be a focus, as this approach can prove particularly useful for such a border.

At a more local level, cross-border cooperation is for the most part organised within the two Euroregions. To the north, the Upper Prut Euroregion, established in 2000, brings together Romanian, Ukrainian and Moldovan territories. To the south, the Lower Danube Euroregion (1998) comprises Romanian, Moldovan and Ukrainian districts.

Territory projects and institutional bodies for cooperation

Cross-border cooperation at the regional level

Eurorégion des Carpates
Eurorégion Danube Inférieur