The EU and the ballistic missile proliferation

The European Union has been concerned about the proliferation of missile programmes in several regions of the world. The trend could be symptomatic of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation.

The EU supports multilateral efforts as well as regional solutions that may help to curb the proliferation of ballistic missiles and other WMD means of delivery. EU Member States therefore committed to preparing the Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation ; all UN member countries were invited to join at the 2002 conference in The Hague. All EU Member States have signed up to the Code and are implementing it in a good faith.

The objectives of the Hague Code of Conduct (HcoC) are to prevent and to curb the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and related technologies. The Code, a multilateral instrument of a political nature, proposes a set of transparency and confidence-building measures. Subscribing States committed politically not to proliferate ballistic missiles and to exercise maximum possible restraint over the development, testing and deployment of missiles. States are also invited to reduce national holdings of such missiles, in the interest of global and regional peace and security.

The HCoC does not prohibit states from owning ballistic missiles, nor from benefiting from the peaceful use of outer space. A core aspect of the Code is to increase transparency among Subscribing States and to promote confidence through annual declarations and pre-launch notifications of missile and space launches.

Annual Declarations

Subscribing States committed to submitting an annual declaration that outlines their policies on ballistic missiles, information about their launch test sites, and provides annual information on the number and generic class of ballistic missiles launched during the preceding year.

For Space Launch Vehicle programmes, States are invited to provide an outline of their policies and land (test-) launch sites, and to provide the number and generic class of space launch vehicles launched during the preceding year, consistent with commercial and economic confidentiality principles. States may consider, on a voluntary basis, inviting international observers to their land (test-) launch sites.

Pre-launch notifications

Subscribing States exchange pre-launch notifications on their ballistic missiles and space launch vehicle launches and test flights. These notifications should include such information as the generic class of the ballistic missile or space launch vehicle, the planned launch notification window, the launch area and the planned direction.

As agreed by the The Hague conference, Austria serves as the Immediate Central Contact (Executive Secretariat) and coordinates the exchange of information among HCoC Subscribing States. Conferences of Subscribing States are organised every year in Vienna.

The Council of the European Union decided on 23 July 2012 to adopt a Council Decision (2012/423/CFSP ) to undertake activities which could promote the implementation of the Code, contribute to its universal adoption, and offer a platform for conducting discussions on how to further enhance multilateral efforts against missile proliferation.

Another initiative aimed at curbing the proliferation of missile technologies and know-how is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The MTCR seeks to coordinate national export licensing efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of missile technologies (Read more).

The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary association of countries which share the goals of non-proliferation of unmanned delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The MTCR was originally established in 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Since then, the number of MTCR partners has increased to 34 countries, all of which have equal standing within the Regime.

The MTCR was initiated partly in response to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The risk of proliferation of WMD is well recognised as a threat to international peace and security, including by the UN Security Council, which emphasised this point in its Summit Meeting Declaration of 31 January 1992.

While concern has traditionally focused on state proliferators, after the tragic events of 11 September 2001, it became evident that more also has to be done to decrease the risk of WMD delivery systems falling into the hands of terrorist groups and individuals. One way to counter this threat is to maintain vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, material, and related technologies usable for systems capable of delivering WMD.

The MTCR relies on adherence to common export policy guidelines (the MTCR Guidelines) applied to an integral common list of controlled items (the MTCR Equipment, Software and Technology Annex). All MTCR decisions are taken by consensus, and MTCR partners regularly exchange information about relevant national export licensing issues.

The Union is strongly supporting export control regimes and has expressed regular concerns over the proliferation of ballistic missiles and other WMD means of delivery. The European Union considers the MTCR an important multilateral instrument. Eighteen European Union Member States are members of the MTCR and all EU countries are implementing the MTCR export control list through EU council Regulation (EC) n°428/2009.

In the past, the Union tried to overcome remaining loopholes in the implementation of the MTCR and its universality by participating in the plenaries and the Reinforced Point Of Contact meetings, but also by establishing a comprehensive dual-use list gathering data on the four export control regimes[1]. This merged list is now implemented in various world regions, facilitating ownership of the lists and the organisation of relevant export control authorities worldwide.

[1] Missile Technology Control Regime, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group.


European Union support for the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation - leaflet

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