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.
I would like to thank you for chairing this meeting and assure you of the EU’s and its Member States’ full support for your efforts to narrow down differences on some of the issues under discussion. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is a fundamental tool of the international architecture prohibiting biological weapons and every possible effort should be made to strengthen it and ensure its full and effective implementation. We look forward to building on last year’s discussion and exploring how to best strengthen the Convention in the face of rapidly evolving developments in science and technology, proliferation of pandemics, and the continued threat of use of biological agents or toxins for terrorist purposes.
While verification remains a central element of a complete and effective disarmament and non-proliferation regime, we recognise that there is no consensus regarding verification at this stage. In this regard, we recall, inter alia, the UK’s Working Paper on: Institutional Strengthening of the Convention: Reflections on the 2001 Protocol and the Verification Challenge.
The EU supports the ongoing efforts to enhance transparency and building confidence in compliance with the Convention and to the effective implementation of the object and purpose of the BTWC. For this purpose, we invite all States Parties to submit regular, timely and comprehensive Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU), increase sharing of information and best practices on national capabilities, activities and actions for implementation, and consider conducting or participating in peer review initiatives and voluntary visits to relevant facilities and other transparency and confidence-building initiatives. Let me underline that the purpose of such initiatives is not to replace legally-binding verification measures, but to strengthen national implementation and thereby the BTWC.
We invite States Parties to also consider enhancing the effectiveness of the consultative procedures under Article V of the Convention with a view to building and sustaining confidence in compliance. This could be achieved through operationalizing the procedures for bilateral and multilateral consultations, as proposed in the EU working paper circulated ahead of the Eighth Review Conference (BWC/CONF.VIII/WP.16). If these types of measures were to be adopted, it may allow States Parties to select a method of consultation commensurate to the gravity of the problem identified.
BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU)
We commend the ISU for its valuable work and support it provides to States Parties for the implementation of their Treaty obligations and the intersessional work programme despite the continued serious financial situation of the Convention.
The EU has consistently advocated the strengthening of the ISU’s role and the inclusion of further activities in its mandate, such as a standing science and technology advisory and liaison function, coordination of universalisation activities, and support to national points of contacts in compiling and submitting CBM forms.
Timely and full contributions to the BTWC budget are the essential requirement for a well-functioning and strengthened Convention, including for convening regular meetings and sustaining the ISU. We once again urge all States to fulfil their financial obligations under the Convention, and those in arrears to pay their dues without further delay. We note that the financial measures agreed last year do not address the late and non-payment of contributions and this should remain on our agenda.
Supporting the UN Secretary-General's Mechanism
The EU remains a strong supporter of the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigation of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons. In case of a biological weapon incident, the Mechanism is currently the only investigative tool in place. We have supported its operationalisation in order to strengthen both Article VI, and indirectly VII, of the BTWC.
Notably, the EU and several of its Member States have provided and will continue to provide support for training programmes, including a comprehensive Capstone exercise to take place in Berlin in the second half of 2020, and the development of an analytical laboratory network, part of which were presented during a German-Swedish-Swiss joint side-event at the last MSP. These efforts aim to ensure the continued effectiveness of the UNSG’s Mechanism.
We look forward to working together with the UN Secretary-General to develop a stronger international capacity to investigate any alleged use of biological or toxin weapons and to ensure that any illegal acts will be quickly detected. To this end, we are currently considering further ways to support the Mechanism with the assistance of UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in New York and encourage States Parties, who are not yet engaged in these efforts, to consider hosting an exercise for the first time.
Thank you, Mr. Chair