The list of cases pending before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) continues to grow. Yesterday (17 November 2008) a new case was added to the docket when the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM) instituted proceedings against Greece. The case revolves around Greece’s objection to FYRM joining NATO which, according to FYRM, is in violation of obligations under the Interim Accord entered into by the two countries in September 1995. The Interim Accord also provides the basis for the jurisdiction of the Court. In its Application, FYRM asks the Court to order Greece to inter alia “take all necessary steps to comply with its obligations under Article 11, paragraph I of the Interim Accord, and to cease and desist from objecting in any way, whether directly or indirectly, to the Applicant’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and or of any other international, multilateral and regional organizations and institutions of which the Respondent is a member.” The Application by FYRM further demonstrates the variety of disputes that states are willing to submit to the ICJ.
The willingness of states to entrust their disputes to the ICJ must be welcomed. However, if the Court is to make a valuable contribution to the settlement of international disputes, it is vital that its deals with cases in a reasonable time. The ICJ has recently improved its record in this regard. In 2007, President Higgins was able to inform the General Assembly that the backlog of cases had been cleared and in her 2008 report to the General Assembly she expressed her view that “states thinking of coming to the ICJ can be confident that as soon as they have finished their written exchanges, we will be able to move to the oral stage in a timely manner.” At the same time, she warned that the pace of work could not be sustained without sufficient financial resources being invested in the Court. Justice does not come cheap and it must be wondered whether in the current financial climate the Member States of the United Nations will be willing to provide adequate support to enable the ICJ to keep up with its ever-increasing workload.