EU Statement on the occasion of the 58th Session of Working Group A, CTBTO Preparatory Commission (28 - 30 October 2020)
1. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The following countries align themselves with this statement: Turkey§, The Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland+, Serbia*, Albania*, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Ukraine, The Republic of Moldova, Norway+, Georgia, Armenia and San Marino.
2. The EU wishes to thank the Executive Secretary for his opening statement and for his report on Non-Verification-Related Activities, as well as the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) for preparing this meeting, under extraordinary circumstances. The PTS has been sparing no effort to ensure the business continuity of the CTBTO and its efficient provision of International Monitoring Station (IMS) data and International Data Centre (IDC) products, while taking all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of its staff. In light of the increasing number of infections in the host country and the large levels of attendance at recent meetings, we ask the PTS to continue to do its utmost to protect staff and delegates participating in these meetings.
3. We would also like to recognize the efforts of the PrepCom Chair, Ambassador MEBARKI, and you Madam Chair, in making use of existing possibilities to allow the Policy Making Organs to continue working. In this regard, the EU and its MS support keeping to the calendar and scheduled sessions for 2021/2022, by holding planned meetings, as necessary, either in hybrid or in virtual format. Under current circumstances, it is also pertinent to limit agendas to the most essential, pressing and compulsory matters, in order to ensure the Organisation’s business continuity, as well as its administrative and financial stability.
4. The EU, as a strong supporter of the CTBT and its Organisation, welcomes the continued outreach activities of the PTS. The efforts to promote and facilitate signature and ratification remain a priority. We encourage the variety of initiatives by the PTS and the Art. XIV Chairs to engage, especially with the remaining Annex II States: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the USA, that still have to ratify the Treaty; and on the DPRK, India and Pakistan, that still have to sign and ratify it in order to bring it into force.
5. The EU and its MS would like to thank the PTS for providing the 2021 Budget Update Proposals. We welcome the fact that 81.3% of the proposed budget is allocated to verification-related activities. We consider it important that the budget should be guided by the needs of the programme and appreciate the identified savings and efficiency gains.
6. We welcome the reduced price adjustment figure standing at 1.37% for 2021. State Signatories should support the PTS in keeping the cost of post-certification activities as low as possible, since this has an effect on the price adjustment figure. It is greatly disappointing to see that as of 31 December 2019, the Preparatory Commission had paid a cumulative total of US $ 6 246 181 in taxes and custom duties over the period 1998-2019. We thus urge States to fulfil their obligation not to impose customs and taxes on IMS station parts and equipment.
7. The IMS and IDC have proved their unique ability to provide States Signatories with independent and reliable means to detect nuclear tests, which further reinforce the importance of the CTBTO. However, the CTBTO can only carry out its mandatory functions and the sustainment and provisional operation of the verification system if provided with the necessary funding. We would like to remind State Signatories that paying assessed contributions is not optional, and the failure to do so amounts to non-compliance with the Resolution establishing the Preparatory Commission. We understand that many of the 61 countries currently in arrears for more than one year are hard-hit by the current Covid-19 pandemic. However, it is crucial for the operation of the verification regime of the Treaty, and for the wider organization’s financial health, that all States honour their legal obligation to pay assessed contributions, on time and in full.
8. In this regard, the EU warmly welcomes the fact that additional States Signatories have recently paid their outstanding contributions, bringing the total number to 123 countries and resulting in an improved collection rate for 2020. We encourage other States Signatories to follow this positive example.
9. The EU, materialising its full commitment to the Treaty and its implementation, has so far contributed 29.5 million € to support CTBTO monitoring and verification activities. In line with this commitment, the EU was quick to agree to a 7-month extension, until 30 November 2020, for the ongoing voluntary contribution to account for implementation delays due to COVID-19. On 29th June 2020, the Council of the EU adopted the relevant Council Decision for a new voluntary contribution - the eighth of its kind - with a reference amount of 6,3 million € and a planned duration of 36 months - expected to enter into force on 1 December 2020, thus assuring the uninterrupted implementation of ongoing activities. These funds are being used to improve the auxiliary seismic station network, to strengthen on-site inspection and noble gas monitoring capabilities, and to provide technical assistance to countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean region, allowing them to participate fully in the CTBTO’s verification regime
10. In the same vein, we commend State Signatories who pledge voluntary contributions to the Commission, in particular the US and Japan for their generous voluntary contributions and contributions in kind to further enhance CTBTO’s verification regime.
11. We thank the PTS for the update as contained in the report for this meeting, on human resources. We encourage the PTS to continue to fill empty positions and endure that the vacancy rate of regular positions is reduced as much as possible. We welcome efforts towards reaching gender parity and encourage the PTS to continue to strive for this goal.
12. The EU and its Member States fully support the recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Group (AG) and note with appreciation the efforts made to allow the on-line meeting of AG experts.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
§ Candidate Country
*Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, as well as potential Candidate Country Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland and Norway are members of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.