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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this Statement.
Let me start by congratulating you, Mr Chairman, for the impressive work you have done in preparation of the Eighth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and your determination to master consensus for successful outcome of this important event. We thank the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) for their tireless efforts and wish to all delegations fruitful deliberations.
The European Union is a staunch and consistent supporter of the strengthening of the BTWC. All 28 EU Member States are parties to the Convention. We reiterate our conviction that the Convention is a key component of the international non-proliferation and disarmament framework and the cornerstone of efforts to prevent biological agents and toxins from ever being developed and used as weapons.
Mindful of that we have been engaged from the outset in the preparatory process leading up to the Review Conference in a pro-active and constructive manner on the basis of the EU's common position laid down in Council Decision 2015/2096/CFSP adopted in November 2015.
The European Union is strongly committed to a successful Eighth Review Conference and provides substantial contribution to this end. In particular, a series of EU-sponsored regional workshops for Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America were organised by the ISU. We hope that they have increased common understanding of key issues and challenges and have facilitated building consensus on the need for, and measures required for, reinforcement of the Convention.
The European Union will continue working to ensure that the following priorities are addressed during the Review Conference: building and sustaining confidence in compliance; supporting national implementation; promoting the universality of the Convention and supporting the UN Secretary-General's Mechanism for investigation of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons.
Our objective remains to contribute to a full review of the operations of the BTWC, with a view to supporting a new substantive work programme that addresses the limitations of the previous intersessional programmes, as well as to support a Ninth Review Conference of the BTWC to be held no later than 2021. We are therefore supporting all efforts aimed at establishing stronger structures that would enable a much better functioning of the Convention, including the ability of States Parties to decide upon and to take collective action between Review Conferences. We also support a process of more frequent and focused assessment of relevant scientific and technological developments which may have implications for the Convention.
The EU Council Decision on the Eighth Review Conference spells out a broad range of specific measures for consideration by States Parties with a view to strengthening the BTWC. The EU's common position was presented in detail at the first session of the Preparatory Committee in April and distributed as a working paper. We will therefore emphasise in this statement concrete action taken by the European Union in support of priority issues. At the same time, we remain ready to provide further information on these and other topics, as appropriate, during the upcoming discussions.
While recognising that there is no consensus at this stage regarding verification which remains a central element of a complete and effective disarmament and non-proliferation regime, we will work towards identifying options that contribute to an increase in confidence in compliance with the Convention and to the effective implementation of the object and purpose of the BTWC.
In this regard, the European Union and its Member States are of the opinion that States Parties should seize the opportunity of the Review Conference to consider enhancing the effectiveness of the consultative procedures under Article V. This could be achieved through updating the procedures for multilateral consultations that have been previously agreed, but also reaching agreement on other mechanisms, drawing from the options outlined in the dedicated EU working paper circulated ahead of the Review Conference. If these sorts of measures were to be adopted, this might allow States Parties to select a method of consultation commensurate to the gravity of the problem identified.
The European Union is consistently promoting and supporting strengthened implementation of the BTWC, including through the adoption of robust national implementation measures; effective export controls in a manner consistent with national law and practices; training, education programmes and awareness raising among relevant professionals in the private and public sectors to promote a culture of responsibility; as well as outreach to and engagement with non-governmental stakeholders.
The European Union and its Member States are also supporting the concrete implementation of Article X of the BTWC through multiple and diverse assistance programmes and are willing to continue working on common understandings for effective action with regard to cooperation for peaceful purposes in the Convention's framework, especially by better identifying relevant needs and opportunities to match them with assistance offers. In this context, at the second session of the Preparatory Committee in August we submitted an EU working paper containing an overview of the implementation of Article X and related assistance provided by the EU and its Member States.
We believe that the past intersessional process has helped to identify promising avenues for work, which the EU has consistently supported, such as the establishment of a database on Article VII and a better assessment of new scientific and technological developments of relevance to the Convention. Moreover, the organisation of various voluntary transparency exercises – such as the peer reviews – contributed to make the BTWC progress in a workable and pragmatic way. We believe that these ideas should deserve more attention and be further discussed during the Review Conference. The EU is ready to contribute to this discussion.
The European Union and its Member States support furthermore universal adherence to the Convention and calls on all States not party to the Convention to adhere thereto without further delay. Pending adherence of such States to the BTWC, we encourage them to participate as observers in the meetings of the States Parties to the Convention and to implement, on a voluntary basis, its provisions. We welcome all those who have joined us in the last year. We recommend as well the adoption of an action plan on universalisation, coordinated by the ISU and evaluated during dedicated sessions at the intersessional meetings. In line with this priority the European Union has carried out a demarche on universal adherence to the BTWC with States signatories and States not party to the Convention in the run up to the Review Conference.
Last but not least, the European Union supports efforts to strengthen the UN Secretary-General's Mechanism for investigation of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons, in particular by ensuring the continued effectiveness of its provisions and taking practical steps in this regard. Such practical measures could consist in providing support for training programmes and for hosting exercises as well as developing an analytical laboratory system.
Since 2006 the European Union has provided substantial financial support of circa EUR 6,3 million to BTWC core activities through four dedicated assistance programmes. The last such Council Decision, adopted in January 2016, provides funds for BTWC activities in the areas of, inter alia, universal adherence to the BTWC; enhancing interaction with non-governmental stakeholders on science and technology; developing national capacities for BTWC implementation; strengthening the UN Secretary General's Mechanism; and enabling tools for awareness raising, education and engagement. Further information about the upcoming projects to be implemented under this Council Decision will be provided at a lunch-time side-event jointly organised by the ISU and the European Union on Friday, 11 November 2016.
Let me assure you once again that the European Union and its Member States have a strong interest in a successful Eighth Review Conference and will spare no effort to this effect.
*The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.