I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia[*], Montenegro* and Albania* as well as Ukraine align themselves with this statement.
As this is the first time I take the floor during the Tunisian Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament, I would like to congratulate you and wish you every success in your tenure.
In his new disarmament agenda, the UN Secretary-General encourages the Conference on Disarmament to live up to its potential as the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating body. The ongoing substantive discussions in the five subsidiary bodies should lead to concrete and much-needed outcomes.
It is a timely reminder of the importance of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation for our collective security. Effective multilateralism and the rules-based international system, with the United Nations at its core, are indispensable for ensuring the maintenance of international peace and security.
We share the concern of the Secretary-General over the current security environment and concur with his view that further dialogue, transparency and confidence-building measures as well as disarmament education are necessary. It is important that all parties contribute to improving the strategic context for arms control and disarmament.
We are concerned about the continued non-compliance by some States with their non-proliferation obligations. As emphasised by the Secretary-General, the international community must ensure accountability and end impunity for such violations. We strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone. In this respect, the EU warmly welcomes the decision of the Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on addressing the threat posed by the increasing use of chemical weapons by reinforcing international verification and attribution capacities and looks forward to implementation of the OPCW attribution arrangements on Syria.
We also strongly support the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigation of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons and look forward to his proposal to develop a stronger international capacity.
As outlined in the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, our long-standing policy has been to prevent, deter, halt and, where possible, eliminate proliferation programmes of concern, while dealing with their underlying causes. We have done our utmost to promote a stable international and regional environment and address the root causes of instability stemming from political conflicts, poverty, environmental degradation and human rights violations. We have provided significant political and financial support to multilateral institutions to uphold and strengthen key international treaties, conventions, agreements and other instruments, promoted universal adherence thereto and built capacities to help other countries to meet their obligations. We have played a lead role in finding diplomatic solutions to regional proliferation crises, backed up by robust sanctions, where needed.
The EU has repeatedly stressed the need for concrete progress towards the full implementation of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with the ultimate goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons. We continue to actively promote universalisation and prompt entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), advocate immediate negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) according to CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein, support international efforts on nuclear disarmament verification and the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
The EU reiterates its commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231.
We support efforts towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and underline the importance of maintaining pressure through sanctions, while keeping channels of communication open.
We continue to encourage the two nuclear weapon States with the largest arsenals to extend the New START Treaty, preserve the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and seek further reductions to their arsenals, including deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons. Given the current severe security environment, we encourage all States concerned to take appropriate practical risk reduction measures, as outlined in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan, which are important to also ensure the safety and security of their nuclear arsenals.
As regards activities in outer space and in cyber space, we note the support expressed by the Secretary-General for transparency and confidence building measures, such as principles of responsible behaviour.
The EU supports the implementation of the consensus recommendations of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities which unanimously endorsed efforts to pursue political commitments, for example in the form of unilateral declarations, bilateral commitments or a multilateral code of conduct to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful uses of outer space. The GGE concluded that voluntary political measures can form the basis for considerations of concepts and proposals for legally binding obligations.
The EU equally supports the implementation of the consensus reports of the UN Groups of Governmental Experts in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security confirming that existing international law applies in cyberspace and promoting the implementation of confidence building measures and norms of responsible state behaviour.
The EU welcomes the outcome of the Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action (PoA) against illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in June 2018 in New York. We are particularly satisfied that the outcome document welcomes the process established by UN General Assembly Resolution 72/55 on ammunition and that the importance of PoA implementation is stressed for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The outcome document recognises the gender dimension, with references to gender based violence and the collection of disaggregated data on gender and the illicit trade in SALW. It calls for a process to reach consensus on guidance for the marking of modular and polymer weapons by the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7). It reaffirms the importance of countering the illicit small arms trade in the fight against terrorism, also underscored by UN Security Council Resolution 2370. This outcome ensures the relevance and will increase the effectiveness of the UN Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. A unanimously adopted outcome on a sensitive security-related topic is also an important achievement given the growing pressures on multilateralism, international agreements and the rules-based international order.
In this context, the EU welcomes the proposal of the UN Secretary-General to establish a dedicated funding facility to support SALW-control and looks forward to additional details regarding its implementation. We must step up national, regional and international efforts against illicit SALW which fuel terrorism and organised crime, trigger conflicts and hamper development in many parts of the world. The EU has been investing considerably in related cooperation and assistance with a focus on collection and destruction of surplus SALW and ammunition, physical security and stockpile management for SALW and ammunition, and capacity building for marking, record keeping and tracing. The EU is currently finalising a review of its 2005 SALW Strategy which will cover illicit manufacture and diversion of firearms, small arms, light weapons and their ammunition. A focus of our joint efforts is the prevention and reduction of illicit SALW and ammunitions trafficking, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16.4.
We call upon all States, in particular major arms exporters, importers and transit States, to join the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which aims to establish the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition. Within the EU, the ATT is given effect through the 2008 Common Position which defines common rules for the control of exports of military technology and equipment of the EU Member States. Every request for an arms export licence for an item listed in the EU Common Military List must be assessed on a case by case basis against eight risk criteria. These include respect for human rights and international humanitarian law also taking into account the risk of gender based violence; diversion, and internal or regional instability. The EU’s Annual Report on arms exports is a significant tool in enhancing transparency in arms trade, as it displays EU Member States' arms exports as well as refused exports.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women is an important horizontal priority for the EU. We therefore welcome the attention given by the UN Secretary-General to the gendered impact of arms and active and equal participation of women. The EU will continue to promote the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and all other relevant resolutions aimed at advancing the women, peace and security agenda, such as UN General Assembly Resolution 65/69 on the role of women in disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control and its follow-on resolutions.
Mine action is another area where the EU plays an active role as a major donor for mine clearance, risk education, stockpile destruction and victim assistance and a strong supporter for the implementation and universalisation of the Ottawa Convention. We look forward to the revised UN Mine Action Strategy as well as the updating of the International Mine Action Standards. We take note of the intention of the UN Secretary-General to promote a strengthened and coherent UN inter-agency coordination on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
We also appreciate the efforts of the Secretary-General to raise awareness of the challenges associated with the use of explosive weapons and munitions in densely populated areas and their impact on civilians. We call on all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The EU will continue to take a strong stand to promote the respect for IHL and the protection of civilians in all conflict situations.
As noted by the Secretary-General, advances in science and technology have brought about enormous benefits which contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda. These advances also pose a range of risks and challenges, such as may be the case with synthetic biology and genome editing, 3D printing, and new weapon technologies. The upcoming CD discussion with researchers, academics, civil society and industry should encourage responsible innovation. We look forward to the continuation of discussion on these issues in relevant international fora.
We welcome the call of the UN Secretary-General for further exchange of information on legal weapons reviews to share best practices. The first Group of Governmental Experts meeting in November 2017 confirmed that international law, in particular International Humanitarian Law, fully applies to all weapons systems, including Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and that States remain responsible and accountable for their development and use in armed conflict.
The European Union remains a strong, consistent and reliable partner of the United Nations. We recognise the linkages between sustainable development, humanitarian action and conflict prevention and peacebuilding and welcome the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to explore synergies across the UN system. We will contribute to the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda in line with our priorities and look forward to further cooperation with all UN Member States and other stakeholders.
Thank you, Mr. President.
[*] The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.