I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the position of the European Union on some of the issues raised by the panellists and previous speakers.
We commend the Group of Governmental Experts on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (GGE PAROS) and its Chair, Ambassador Patriota, for the fruitful discussions and regret that the GGE could not reach consensus on a final report. Nevertheless, we need to continue the discussions on what constitutes a safe, secure and sustainable use of outer space and what kind of behaviour cannot be considered as peaceful and could lead to an arms race in outer space.
While we do not exclude the possibility of a new legally-binding instrument in the future, we continue to believe that the most realistic near term prospect lies in working on a set of non-binding voluntary measures, such as a voluntary instrument to strengthen the safety, security, sustainability and peaceful nature of outer space activities. Such a voluntary instrument should establish standards of responsible behaviour across the full range of space activities, ensuring compliance with existing international law and with transparency and confidence-building measures, as developed in the UN framework. It would build upon the COPUOS achievements on the Long Term Sustainability Guidelines, which should not be duplicated, and would be complementary to these Guidelines. We consider that voluntary norms are best suited to address pressing challenges, such as space debris, space traffic management and collision avoidance. As highlighted by the Chair of the GGE, Ambassador Patriota, the importance of transparency and confidence-building measures became very clear most recently during discussions in the GGE PAROS.
We stress our view that any future legally-binding instrument on arms control in outer space would need to be comprehensive, effective and verifiable, covering also ground-based assets targeting outer space assets, and addressing all threats (earth-to-space, space-to-space, and space-to-earth). The draft Treaty presented by the Russian Federation and China on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) does not constitute a sufficient basis in this regard.
We are also concerned that the resolution "No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space" (NFP), as proposed by the Russian Federation to the UN General Assembly First Committee, does not adequately respond to the objective of strengthening trust and confidence between States, but could rather increase the risk of conflict in space. Notably, this initiative does not address the difficult issue of defining what a weapon in outer space is, which could lead a State to mistakenly assess that another State has placed weapons in outer space. Without a common understanding of what constitutes a weapon in space, a State could inadvertently put an object in space that another State considers to be a weapon. The NFP initiative contains no mechanism that would make it possible to effectively confirm a State’s political commitment “not to be the first to place weapons in outer space”.
Given the rapidly growing number of human activities in space and the increasingly diverse nature of space operators, it has become urgent to develop new voluntary norms and rules for consideration in the UN framework. The idea to launch discussions on a voluntary instrument to govern human activities in space, supported and mandated by UN Member States in the General Assembly, could be a way to deliver these objectives.
Thank you, Mr. President