European Union External Action

EU Statement – United Nations 1st Committee: informal session of the Disarmament Commission on Outer Space

New York, 16/04/2019 - 20:58, UNIQUE ID: 190417_14
Statements on behalf of the EU

16 April 2019, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, delivered by the Romanian Presidency of the European Union, at the informal session of UN Disarmament Commission WG-II (outer space)

Mr. Chairman


I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.


The European Union and its Member States continue to promote the preservation of a safe and secure space environment and the peaceful use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. The EU recognises outer space as a global common good, to be used for the benefit of all. Strengthening the safety, security, sustainability and peaceful nature of outer space activities is best achieved through international cooperation.


Space is a driver of job creation, economic growth and innovation for the benefit of all people. The EU, its Member States and ESA together have developed strong and unique space capacities and industry, and the EU has a large budget for space, most of which is dedicated to the European Global Navigation Satellite systems, Galileo and EGNOSS, and the European earth-observation system, Copernicus. These flagship programmes have made impressive progress recently and the data and services they produce are available on a full, open and free-of-charge basis to users world-wide.


An important reason for this investment effort is that we believe that space science, applications and technologies have a great potential to help us tackle major global challenges such as climate change, disaster management, food security, environmental protection, efficient management of natural resources and transport development. In this respect, we are looking forward to continue our work on the "Space 2030" Agenda and its implementation plan with a view to mobilising space for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals and targets.


We reiterate that the United Nations Charter, the five UN Treaties on outer space and five UNGA sets of principles, as well as other related documents and resolutions adopted by the UNGA, constitute the cornerstone of international space law, and the space activities must take place within a multilateral rules-based system.


We underline that UNOOSA, COPUOS and its Subcommittees are the unique international platform for international cooperation in space, including on the development of international norms and standards regulating space activities.


We remain convinced that transparency and confidence-building measures can make an important contribution to the security, safety and sustainability of activities in outer space. Efforts to pursue political commitments, through a comprehensive approach, dealing with both civil and military aspects of space activities, and as a complement to existing international law, remain relevant.


We also remain strongly committed to the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Preventing an arms race in outer space and preventing outer space from becoming an area of conflict are essential for the strengthening of strategic stability and for safeguarding the long-term use of the space environment for peaceful purposes.


We support the implementation of the preamble and the 21 guidelines on which consensus was reached during the mandate of the Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities in COPUOS. The EU invites all UN Member States to embark on their implementation.


We remain concerned about the continued development of all anti-satellite weapons and capabilities, particularly terrestrially based, and underline the importance of addressing such developments promptly and as part of international efforts to prevent threat to objects in outer space.


We reiterate our view that any new legally-binding instrument on arms control and outer space would need to be comprehensive, effective and verifiable, covering also ground-based assets targeting outer space assets. We remain clear that the Russian / Chinese draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) would be insufficient as a basis.


We are concerned that the initiative “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space” (NFP) does not adequately respond to the objective of strengthening trust and confidence between States. Notably, this initiative does not address the difficult issue of pertinently defining what a weapon in outer space is.


The rapid growth in amount of human space-activity, coupled with the increased diversity of space operators, makes it ever more necessary to develop new norms and rules governing human activity in space, ensuring compliance with existing international law and transparency and confidence building measures. In this context, a commitment by all relevant actors to responsible behaviour is essential.


While we do not exclude the possibility of a new legally binding instrument in the future, we continue to believe that the most realistic near term prospect lies in agreeing on a voluntary instrument to establish standards of responsible behaviour across the full range of space activities and related challenges, such as space debris, space traffic management and collision avoidance, with the related commitment needed for responsible behaviour. Globally shared principles of responsible behaviour should increase international cooperation in space, commit to mutual non-interference in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, facilitate an equitable access to outer space and increase transparency in the conduct of space activities.


Such voluntary norms should be negotiated within the UN framework in an inclusive and cooperative manner, building on the 21 guidelines agreed by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.


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