An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Brussels, 18 December 2018
Check against delivery!
Thank you very much. I am really pleased to welcome you to Brussels and to be here with you. I see many friends around the table. I am glad I finally managed [to join you] because with Sibylle [Bauer, Director of Studies of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Armament and Disarmament Programme] we were just saying that I have been trying to join you for several years
We are addressing today something that is extremely important for the European Union’s work and I think that throughout these years our work has moved forward in parallel, from an institutional and a non-institutional perspective.
I would like, first of all, to thank the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium and all the think tanks that are part of it because I think that your commitments and your ideas, your work have contributed to shaping our policies and our strategies to a large extent.
Today, the European Union is recognised as a global point of reference for non-proliferation and disarmament. I say this with some pride but also with some worries, because sometimes you become a point of reference when others are not anymore.
Still, we exercise our role. We have an unparalleled diplomatic and technical expertise in this field - and this is also thanks to your work to understand the challenges we face, how they evolve and to come up with solutions, and sometimes innovative solutions.
We have gathered here because I believe we share the assessment that non-proliferation and disarmament are a matter of national and international security. This is the starting point for our work and our European approach is this - to treat disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation as tools of security policy, first and foremost, to look for negotiated diplomatic solutions, to even very serious security challenges.
Actually, I believe that the more serious the challenge is in terms of security, the more it is a diplomatic and political solution that is needed - like we have done in the case of the Iran nuclear programme and I come back to that later.
Unfortunately, this idea is less popular today than it used to be just a few years ago and I believe this entails a very serious risk. Too many governments today have chosen the path of militarisation and there is a visible trend towards the re-militarisation of security policies. The use of military power is today sometimes considered more effective than the patient search for multilateral agreements and win-win solutions.
We are here today because we understand, I believe, the immense risks of this approach. Our world is more complex, is more fragile than it has ever been. The Cold War era is definitely over, and for good, simply because the number of global powers and nuclear states is higher than in the past. There is not just one nuclear balance to take into account but several overlapping nuclear balances.
During the Cold War, the logic of deterrence was based on a simple idea somehow - that two rational actors would avoid decisions that could lead to disastrous consequences for everyone, including for themselves. It is clear that this logic is no longer that simple and probably cannot be applied anymore. The concept of nuclear deterrence has changed, I believe, dramatically. There are way more than two nuclear actors, certain regimes may act in ways that defy rationality, and even the rational actors sometimes act in a non-rational manner today.
We all know that nuclear proliferation increases the risks for security and that nuclear proliferation also increases the risk that nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of non-state actors, namely terrorist networks and organisations. We definitely do not want to see new arms races, particularly in regions that are already extremely unstable and violent.
Like never before, our security depends on non-proliferation and crucially, I believe, on disarmament. I applaud the UN Secretary-General for unveiling earlier this year his Disarmament Agenda which aims to integrate disarmament into the priorities of the whole United Nations system and you are right that the cooperation with the United Nations in this field in particular, in all fields I have to say, but in this field in particular, is key.
We all know that the post-Cold War security architecture is far from perfect and most international agreements are also far from perfect, like everything in life, like any human thing. But this is no reason to move backwards and dismantle what we have achieved so far. The INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, for instance, is one of the key agreements which ended the Cold War, contributed to making our continent Europe more secure.
Now we have serious concerns about Russia's compliance with the [INF] Treaty. These have been reiterated very clearly recently by the NATO Foreign Ministers on the 4 December. Rose [Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary-General of NATO] and I were there those days; and I expressed similar concerns as the NATO Foreign Ministers did.
These concerns need to be addressed in a very substantive and transparent way - not by words but by deeds. We do not need a new arms race in Europe, some of us still remember the one in the early 1980s. So let us try to turn this current crisis that we would not like to see develop in a negative manner into an opportunity – and not to dismantle but to strengthen the [INF] Treaty and to move forward on the path towards disarmament.
The only way forward on all non-proliferation and disarmament issues is to enforce the existing agreements, to modernise and universalise the current architecture and to expand it with better rules and better guarantees. This is somehow the translation in the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament fields of our attachment to the rules-based global order. What we need is more of an architecture and more controls and rules to be checked, rather than dismantling what we see is not perfectly functioning or not functioning.
This is why the European Union and its Member States are a driving force - and will continue to be - to preserve and strengthen the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation architecture.
This is also why I have tried over these years to keep, and I will continue, a constant focus on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty and its entry into force. The [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban] Treaty is already contributing today to our collective security because it has created a global monitoring system for nuclear tests that no single country could have set up alone and it could play a crucial role as we work towards the full verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
I have discussed this many times with Lassina Zerbo [Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Organisation] and I believe that they have contributed already a lot to the work done in these last couple of years on the Peninsula. North Korea's accession to the [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban] Treaty could create the conditions for a solution to the Korean issue and I raised this in my talks on the Korean Peninsula recently. North Korea would prove its commitment in this way to verifiable denuclearisation and it would also benefit from cooperation with other signatories to the Treaty. It would create the conditions for a win-win solution that is the only way to settle the Korean nuclear issue, once and for all.
I know that some think this approach is idealistic or even unrealistic. Just a little bit more than one year ago, summer 2017, only very few of us and definitely us in the European Union worked to start a political process for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Back then, many believed we were being naïve. Clearly, that was not the case and sometimes I believe the most pragmatic thing to do is to aim high and try to achieve things that seem impossible to be achieved. Still, we are not there but I think the path has been open now.
Bilateral agreements can represent an essential step in the right direction but the only way to guarantee non-proliferation in the long term, in a sustainable manner, is through multilateral agreements that are agreed and recognised by all and are endorsed and monitored by the relevant international organisations - just like our nuclear deal with Iran where its implementation has been verified 13 times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I would like to thank the Agency for an excellent work they have been doing over the years.
We all know that the agreement with Iran only deals with nuclear non-proliferation. That was clearly the mandate that the [UN] Security Council gave to the - at the time - High Representative [of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy]. It is for historians now to discuss if it was a wise choice or not but that was the mandate that was given at the time by the Security Council to the facilitator of the negotiations.
I believe that today, all of us, or maybe almost all of us, are equally worried by other aspects of Iran's policy. I think of the ballistic missiles programme, for instance. I believe this programme has a destabilising effect in the entire Middle East, which is a region that does definitely not need further destabilisation and I believe it has pushed other countries into a dangerous arms race.
As a European Union, we definitely want to address Iran's ballistic missiles and we want to address the arms proliferation in the region. To do so, we need the nuclear deal to be preserved. Thanks to the nuclear deal we now have new channels to engage, and engage even in a constructive manner, as some recent developments in Yemen have shown, with Iran to discuss regional issues, to discuss also security matters.
With no nuclear deal any negotiation with Iran would be much more difficult, not easier. We would risk, on top of everything, a nuclear arms race in the region and this is, I believe, a nightmare scenario that everyone, I hope, wants to avoid.
Dismantling the nuclear deal with Iran would not make us more secure, just like dismantling all multilateral frameworks for non-proliferation and disarmament can do no good. I know that this perspective of dismantling what seems not to be perfect may look attractive in the short term but I also know how difficult it is to reach an agreement, in this case to reach a solid and comprehensive non-proliferation agreement. It took us twelve years to negotiate the Iran deal, and in this twelve year countless sleepless nights.
It takes a lot of courage, I believe, to seek compromise. I believe it takes much more courage to seek compromise and agreement in the world of today than to seek confrontation and clashes. But there is no other way to reach agreements that can stand the test of time.
Again, I have to stress this: the nuclear deal with Iran - nobody believed it would have been possible - was possible; nobody would have believed it would have been implemented - it has been implemented; and now two years and a half after we signed it, it has been certified 13 times by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] as being fully implemented on the nuclear commitments Iran took. This was also a bet that not many were ready to take back at the time.
I think this is the result of a lot of courage of those involved in the negotiations and a lot of political capital invested in it and a lot of consistency. This is why, for security reasons, we have tried to do our best to preserve it over time.
This is what brings true security in our view. Security stems from multilateral solutions and mutual confidence that normally is not there when you start negotiating or addressing an issue but can be built over time, based on verifiable multilateral agreements.
Security does not need to dismantle the achievements of the past, especially when this is done over political reasons, but to build on them with patience and courage. Security needs, I believe, non-proliferation and disarmament more than ever today.
We are not naïve - I know that sometimes the Europeans are perceived to be naïve - on the contrary, we are pragmatic. We have experienced on our own skin the wounds of war and destruction. And this is why we know that the most pragmatic thing to do in difficult times is to keep working in a stubborn manner, towards the most ambitious of goals that is today a world free of nuclear weapons.
Now, I know that it certainly does not look likely today. It may seem even impossible but a deal with Iran also seemed impossible. Negotiations with North Korea seemed impossible. And let me add, peace in Europe after centuries, thousands of years of war seemed impossible just one hundred years ago.
So let me conclude by quoting Nelson Mandela that used to say: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. So maybe this is the way forward also for our work.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I165832