European Union External Action

2018 Session of the Conference on Disarmament - EU Opening Statement

Geneva, 23/01/2018 - 15:32, UNIQUE ID: 180123_12
Statements on behalf of the EU

2018 Session of the Conference on Disarmament Geneva, 23 January 2018 EU Opening Statement

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia[*], Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

Let me start by congratulating Sri Lanka on assuming the first Presidency of this year’s CD session. You can count on the EU’s support to achieve a successful start of the session.

We thank the UN Secretary General and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs for their messages and their continued support and engagement to bring the CD back on track.

The EU reaffirms its commitment to treaty-based nuclear arms control and disarmament and underlines the need to renew multilateral efforts and revitalise multilateral negotiating bodies, in particular the Conference on Disarmament.

We all are concerned and affected by the current ever changing and challenging security environment, marked by international tensions, military build-up, regional conflicts and the global threat from terrorism. All of the above are putting strains on the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. We must endeavour to stop this worrying trend, restore dialogue and trust, and move from confrontation to cooperation to be able to solve global challenges. 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.

The illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) represent a growing and serious threat to international peace and security and undermine the global non-proliferation regime. The EU has repeatedly condemned the nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches carried out by the DPRK in outright violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions. We welcome the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2397 and call on all States to fully and effectively implement the restrictive measures with regard to the DPRK. This latest UN Security Council resolution is being transposed into EU legislation, and the EU’s rigorous autonomous sanctions were further strengthened by EU Foreign Ministers yesterday [22 January 2018].

We once again urge the DPRK to completely abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in order to achieve a lasting peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means. The recent high-level talks held between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK are an encouraging signal, but urgent efforts are required by the DPRK to address the international concerns regarding its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and to comply with its international obligations, including returning to compliance with the NPT and the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. We also urge the DPRK to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). There is a need to foster trust, de-escalate tensions and prepare the ground for a credible and meaningful dialogue, aimed at pursuing the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.  

Unified international pressure, combined with dialogue and incentives, can help to solve even the most pressing proliferation crises, as we saw in the case of Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a result of nearly 13 years of diplomatic effort facilitated by the EU and it was unanimously endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The unity of the international community is essential to preserve a deal that is working and ensuring that the Iranian nuclear programme can only serve peaceful and civilian ends under robust IAEA safeguards. The JCPOA strengthens the global non-proliferation regime on the basis of the NPT, thus being an important asset for regional and international security. We expect all Parties to continue to fully implement this agreement.

We are united in our support for the NPT, which remains the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament in accordance with Article VI of the Treaty and an important element in the future development of nuclear energy applications for peaceful purposes. These three pillars are equally important and mutually reinforcing. As we approach the Second Preparatory Committee session of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, an important cycle in all aspects, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty, our priority is to uphold, preserve and further strengthen the NPT as a key multilateral instrument for reinforcing international peace, security and stability, promote its universalisation and strengthen its implementation. In this vein, the EU will play a constructive and active role to follow-up to the obligations and commitments assumed under the NPT or undertaken during the previous Review Conferences on all three pillars. By chairing the first two Preparatory Committee meetings, EU Member States made it evident that both the spirit and the letter of the NPT remain highly important for the EU's non-proliferation policy.

The EU recalls that all NPT States Parties are committed to pursuing policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons. We stress the need for concrete progress towards the full implementation of Article VI of the NPT, especially through an overall reduction in the global stockpile of nuclear weapons, taking into account the special responsibility of the States that possess the largest nuclear arsenals.

We emphasise the importance of preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and call upon the Signatories of this Treaty to actively engage in a dialogue on how to ensure its full and verifiable compliance. The INF is a landmark arms control agreement which resulted in the elimination of an entire class of weapons, including some 3000 nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles from the European continent. It is vital for our security and a tangible contribution by the Signatories to the fulfilment of their obligations under Article VI of the NPT.

We note that by 5 February 2018 the United States and the Russian Federation are set to meet the central limits on strategic arms of the New START Treaty. We encourage the Parties to extend the Treaty and seek further reductions to their arsenals, including strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons. In particular, we encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to include non-strategic nuclear weapons into arms control and nuclear disarmament processes, pursue further discussions on confidence building, transparency, verification activities and reporting, and reduce the operational readiness of their nuclear weapon systems to the minimum level necessary. We call on all States concerned to take appropriate practical measures in order to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war. 

Promoting universalisation and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a top priority for the EU. The CTBT is of crucial importance for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It has become a solid and effective instrument, with a robust verification system. We call on all States, in particular those Annex 2 countries which have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the CTBT without any preconditions and delay. We welcome the reaffirmation of the importance of the CTBT through UN Security Council Resolution 2310.

Mr. President,

The EU and its Member States remain deeply concerned by the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament and its persistent failure to agree on a programme of work. The Conference on Disarmament is the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum and should fulfil its crucial role to negotiate multilateral disarmament treaties, in accordance with its mandate. We appeal to the incoming Presidencies and all CD members to exert their utmost efforts to break the impasse and follow the successful example of the UN Disarmament Commission which was able to find consensus last year after many years of deadlock.

The EU encourages the CD to build on substantive discussions which were held last year in the Way Ahead Working Group. Although we regret that due to diverging views no consensual recommendations were reached, the technical nature of these exchanges proved useful to gain a better understanding of various positions and concerns with the aim to build common ground for substantive work on all core items. Let us not lose time in a protracted procedural debate, but allow work to continue to identify areas of convergence so that we would be better prepared to start negotiations when the overall context so allows. We could take stock and identify the role and priority of the CD's core subjects in the international security and disarmament context and consider scope, objectives and legal arrangements of possible treaties or other agreements. The programme of work could include such a process.

As laid out in Action 6 of the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan, we agree that the Conference on Disarmament should establish a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament, within the context of an agreed, comprehensive and balanced programme of work.

Our longstanding priority is to immediately commence negotiations in the CD of a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, on the basis of document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein.

 In this context, we support the work of the High Level Expert Preparatory Group, led by Canada, whose mandate is to make recommendations on substantial elements for a future FMCT, without prejudice to national positions in future negotiations. 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 nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

I would like to take this opportunity to announce that EU Foreign Ministers on 11 December 2017 decided to provide support to African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries to facilitate their participation in the FMCT consultative process, established by the 2016 UN General Assembly Resolution. The technical implementation of this EU project, worth more than 1.2 million Euros, has been entrusted to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) through its Geneva Branch, its Regional Disarmament Branch and the three regional centres for peace and disarmament that will reach out to as many stakeholders as possible over the next three years.

Nuclear disarmament verification will be another key area of work in 2018. We welcome the establishment of the Group of Governmental Experts on the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament. We also look forward to further work in other fora, such as the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV).

With regard to negative security assurances, the 2010 NPT Review Conference recommended that the Conference on Disarmament begin discussion with a view to elaborating recommendations on all aspects of the issue, without excluding an internationally legally binding instrument. The EU recognizes the legitimate interest of non-nuclear weapon States in receiving unequivocal security assurances from nuclear weapon States as part of binding and agreed security arrangements. The EU calls on all nuclear weapon States to reaffirm existing security assurances noted by UN Security Council Resolution 984 (1995) and recalled in UN Security Council Resolution 1887 (2009) and Resolution 2310 (2016).

The EU stands ready to contribute actively to the objectives of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in outer space as demonstrated by the earlier EU proposal for an international code of conduct. We note that a new Group of Governmental Experts will be convened to discuss substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. While we do not exclude the possibility of a legally binding norm in the future, we firmly believe that best near term prospects for the security, safety and sustainability of outer space activity lie in responsible space-faring and other nations endeavouring to agree on voluntary principles of responsible behaviour in outer space.

Furthermore, I would like to reiterate EU Member States’ longstanding commitment to the enlargement of the Conference. We underline the importance of furthering substantive consultations on the expansion of its membership and strongly support the appointment of a special coordinator in this respect.

We also encourage enhanced interaction between civil society and the CD and we hope that further steps can be taken towards broadened contribution of NGOs, academia and research institutions. We look forward to receiving further information on the next Civil Society Forum announced for 2018.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to emphasise that promotion of gender equality, gender consciousness, empowerment of women and prevention of sexual and gender based violence is an important horizontal priority for the European Union. We believe that the active and equal participation and leadership of women in decision making and action, including in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, is crucial in achieving peace, security and sustainable development. 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.

Thank you, Mr. President


[*] The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.