Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

Conference on Disarmament - Opening Statement

Geneva, 19/01/2021 - 17:01, UNIQUE ID: 210119_12
Statements on behalf of the EU

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[1], Montenegro*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.

We congratulate Belgium on assuming the first Presidency of the 2021 session of the Conference on Disarmament and wish you and the other P6 members – Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada and Chile – every success in your endeavours. We start a new year with all hope that these difficult circumstances will not prevent us from moving ahead. 

We commend your early and active preparations and well-coordinated engagement with all the incoming presidencies and CD Member States, thus bringing more consistency, continuity and predictability to our work. We appreciate that you intend to build on the 2020 achievements and concretely on the draft Programme of Work we were unable to adopt. We thank you for your early draft on a Programme of Work for the 2021 CD session, which we can support. We look forward to this session and we will fully support the P6 in their endeavours to agree to a programme of work as early as possible.

We also wish to thank the UN Secretary-General, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the Secretary-General of the CD and the CD secretariat for their support for the CD’s work.

Promoting effective multilateralism and rules-based global governance is the cornerstone of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU will continue to do its utmost to protect the integrity of the rules-based international system, which is key to our collective security. The European Union has one central aim for this year’s CD session: to reinvigorate substantive work towards concrete negotiations which have not been possible in this forum for much too long.

The CD remains the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating body and its continued relevance is of utmost importance for the EU. We are confident that despite the known challenges, we must advance technical, substantive work and broaden areas of agreement so that we are better prepared to start negotiations at an early date. The concept of a balanced and comprehensive Programme of Work should not act as a barrier to beginning substantive work on core items on the CD’s agenda. As highlighted by the Netherlands in its Working Paper during the 2019 session, we cannot afford to have protracted procedural debates on the organisation of work at the beginning of each session, but should rather opt for a more pragmatic approach to schedule our activities, similar to the more distant past. Strong political will, increased trust and flexibility are urgently required from all CD members, if we are to break the impasse and bring the CD back on track and towards genuinely fulfilling its mandate and role assigned by the international community.

While the EU and its Member States are ready to launch substantive work on all core items, we reiterate that our longstanding priority in the Conference on Disarmament is to immediately commence negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), and we support starting such negotiations in accordance with the document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein. We recall that substantial progress has already been made on possible definitions, scope, verification, and legal and institutional arrangements of such a treaty, thanks to the efforts of the Group of Governmental Experts and the High Level FMCT Expert Preparatory Group. We encourage P6 and all CD members to devote attention to these issues in 2021. We should also build on the work of the CD Subsidiary Body 2 in 2018, which is reflected in its consensus report CD/2139 (2018).

In the meantime, we call on all States possessing nuclear weapons that have not yet done so to declare and uphold an immediate moratorium on their production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We welcome the action by the two European nuclear weapon States, which have declared relevant moratoria and dismantled or converted such facilities, and call on others to follow suit.

Promoting universal adherence to and the entry into force of the CTBT is a top priority for the EU. All EU Member States have ratified the CTBT and are abiding by its obligations. We urge all States that have not yet done so, in particular those listed in Annex II, to sign and ratify the CTBT without any preconditions or further delay. In the meantime, we call on all States to abide by a moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and to refrain from any action that would defeat the object and purpose of the Treaty. 

The EU continues to actively support the enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament, which currently comprises only 65 members. Since the last expansion in 2002, 27 countries, including 12 EU Member States, are waiting to become CD members, and the number of observer States is growing each year, reaching a new long-term high in 2020. We would like to propose that a special coordinator be appointed to lead substantive consultations and lay out possible scenarios for the consideration of CD members on the long overdue expansion of membership.

Supporting and promoting gender equality and the full empowerment of women is at the heart of the European Union’s policies, internally and externally. The EU supports the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The 20th anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR Resolution 1325 in 2020 created a momentum to making further efforts to effectively mainstream gender relevant considerations in UN disarmament work and to ensure full and equal participation of women in decision-making processes around issues related to peace and security. We should also engage youth and explore further opportunities to discuss with civil society, academia, industry and research institutions within the Conference on Disarmament.

In 2021, the EU will particularly focus on promoting a successful outcome of the postponed Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The EU’s support for the NPT is unwavering. It is grounded in our conviction that a multilateral approach to security, including disarmament and non-proliferation, provides the best way to maintain international peace and security. Hence, our commitment to uphold and strengthen the NPT, promote its universalisation and enhance the implementation of all its obligations and the commitments undertaken during the previous review conferences.

The NPT is a historic success and the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, and its full implementation is crucial. The EU strongly supports all three pillars of the NPT and will continue to promote comprehensive, balanced, and full implementation of the 2010 Review Conference Action Plan. We stress the need to implement all obligations and commitments under the NPT, including the need for concrete progress towards the full implementation of Article VI, with the ultimate goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The EU continues to contribute actively to the NPT review process and provides support to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the NPT Bureau for the organisation of regional and thematic seminars, which should help to build common ground on the way to the Review Conference. Furthermore, the EU continues to provide substantive funding to the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on a process of confidence-building leading to the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the Middle East.

The EU reaffirms its longstanding commitment to verifiable and effective treaty-based nuclear arms control and disarmament. Bearing in mind the severe and increasingly volatile security environment, the EU stresses the need to preserve and further advance general arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation processes. The EU will continue to encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to seek further reductions to their arsenals, including strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons, and pursue further discussions on confidence-building, transparency, risk reduction, including strategic and nuclear risk reduction measures, verification activities and reporting. Given the expiration in early February 2021, we strongly call for the extension of the New START Treaty as well as negotiations of broader follow-on agreements. In this regard, the EU welcomes the increased transparency shown by some nuclear-weapon states on their doctrines and the nuclear weapons they possess and calls on others to do likewise. We encourage China to actively contribute to this process.

We reaffirm our resolute commitment to and continued support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), as a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231. We acknowledge the issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and the re-imposition of its sanctions. We welcome President-elect Biden's positive statements on the JCPoA, and look forward to working with the incoming US-Administration. At the same time, we remain deeply concerned at Iran’s actions inconsistent with the JCPoA, in particular continued accumulation of low enriched uranium, deployment of advanced centrifuges, enrichment of uranium up to 20% at the underground facility in Fordow, preparations for uranium metal production. We strongly urge Iran to stop these actions and refrain from any further steps that are inconsistent with its JCPOA commitments and return to full JCPOA implementation without delay. Continued full and timely cooperation with the IAEA remains critical.

The EU will continue to address all proliferation crises in a resolute way. The DPRK’s reaffirmation of its intention to retain and further develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, continue to undermine international work for building trust and establishing lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, free of nuclear weapons. We call on the DPRK to return to meaningful negotiations and in the meantime stick to a moratorium on nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, refrain from further provocations, and take concrete and credible steps towards building trust and confidence and abandoning all its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, as required by the UN Security Council. The EU stands ready to support future diplomatic initiatives. Until the DPRK stops the development of its nuclear and missile programmes, the EU will continue to work with countries around the world to ensure that the substantial UN sanctions in place are fully implemented and respected by all. We urge the DPRK to sign and ratify the CTBT without delay and to return to compliance with its obligations under the NPT and the IAEA safeguards.

Thank you, Mr. President


[1] The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process