Delegation of the European Union to Gabon, Sao Tomé-et-Principe and CEEAC

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) - Meeting of Experts on Strengthening National Implementation (MX3) - Key EU messages

Geneva, 05/08/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190805_8
Statements on behalf of the EU

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) - Meeting of Experts on Strengthening National Implementation (MX3) - Geneva, 5 August 2019 - Key EU messages

Madam Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

We are pleased to see you chairing this important Meeting of Experts and would like to assure you of the EU's and its Member States' full support for your efforts to strengthen national implementation of the BTWC in a comprehensive way.

National ownership essential for any implementation measures to be successful and in this regard, we continue to support the elaboration of well-coordinated National Action Plans to mitigate chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear risks within the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative which already involves more than 60 States.

We would like to encourage all BTWC States Parties to adopt and sustain robust national implementation measures, including appropriate administrative, judicial and criminal legislation; to exercise effective export controls; as well as to ensure control over pathogenic microorganisms and toxins in the framework of the BTWC.

The EU continues to provide dedicated support to States Parties at their request, in particular by funding national implementation activities carried out by the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) under the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Tailored capacity development assistance was provided to nine States Parties through the EU Extended Assistance Programme (EAP) under the previous EU Council Decision. It focused on building legislative capacity in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal and Sierra Leone; assisting Colombia to develop a control list and a framework for strategic trade; and providing biosecurity and biosafety development programmes for Lebanon, Iraq and Malaysia. Furthermore, many of the beneficiary countries received training for the submission of Confidence-Building Measures (CBM) and organised awareness-raising workshops to relevant stakeholders for the purpose of ensuring effective national implementation of the BTWC.

The new EU Council Decision, adopted in January 2019, includes a capacity development project in support BTWC implementation that will concentrate efforts on up to five beneficiary countries over a three-year period. The objectives of the project are:

a) adoption of appropriate legislative or administrative measures, including criminal law provisions, which encompass the full scope of the prohibitions and preventive measures provided for in the BTWC;

b) effective national implementation and enforcement to prevent violations of the BTWC and to impose sanctions in case of breaches;

c) better coordination and networking among all stakeholders involved in the BTWC process, including national and regional bio-safety associations, parliamentarians and the private sector, in order to promote effective implementation;

d) enhanced transparency among BTWC States Parties;

e) creation or enhancement of national mechanisms for the compilation of the required information and for the annual submissions of CBMs;

f) an increased number of States Parties participating in the CBM exchange on a regular basis and an enhanced quality of the information submitted;

g) an increase in the number of States Parties submitting their CBM returns electronically;

h) an increase in the number of States Parties having designated a national contact point for the BTWC; and

i) facilitation of education, training, exchange and twinning programmes and other means of developing human resources in biological sciences and technology related to the implementation of the BTWC in developing countries.

We are grateful to the ISU for the continued professional implementation of the projects under the EU Council Decision. These efforts will again be supported by experts nominated by EU Member States. The ISU will also continue to partner with the UN Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence as well as non-governmental organisations such as VERTIC and think tanks including within the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium.

Transparency and confidence-building measures

We consider that transparency and confidence-building measures serve as an important tool to strengthen national implementation and enhance confidence in compliance. We invite all States Parties to support the ongoing efforts in this regard, including through considering necessary revisions to the current Confidence-Building Measures.

The EU encourages all States Parties to use earlier EU-funded assistance tools such as the CBM guide and the electronic CBM facility, which was completed this year with additional support from Germany. Projects like these are not only aimed at increasing the number of annual submissions of CBMs but also at improving the quantity and quality of the information submitted. We call on all States Parties to increase their participation in, and the quality and comprehensiveness of annual CBMs, and make use of the CBM guide and electronic CBM facility in order to strengthen confidence and compliance with the provisions of the Convention. 

BTWC States Parties could also demonstrate their commitment to complying with the Convention, inter alia, by exchanging information and sharing best practices on their CBM declarations, as well as increasing transparency about their capabilities, activities and actions, including through peer review activities and voluntary on-site visits.

We encourage all States Parties to consider conducting or participating in peer review exercises, other voluntary visits and transparency and confidence-building initiatives. Their purpose is not to replace legally-binding verification measures, but to enhance confidence in compliance and strengthen national implementation and thereby the BTWC. The EU remains ready to continue cooperation with States Parties in this regard and provide capacity building assistance for effective national implementation. Under the new EU Council Decision, up to three peer review exercises will be undertaken in order to further broaden support for such voluntary measures. These will build upon the earlier successful peer review exercises conducted by France in 2013, the Benelux countries in 2015, Germany in 2016, Morocco in 2017 and other voluntary visits including to Latin America, and the most recent on-site peer review visit to the NCDC Richard Lugar Center in Tbilisi, Georgia, the results and format of which were met with great interest during the relevant MSP side-event in 2018.

UNSCR 1540

Furthermore, the EU continues to provide dedicated assistance to third countries for the implementation of their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and subsequent resolutions, regarding the reduction and elimination of risks of biological or toxin weapons being acquired or used for terrorist purposes, including the risk of non-State access to materials, equipment, and knowledge that could be used in the development and production of biological and toxin weapons.

Thank you, Madam Chair


*North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.