Africa and the EU

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, Meeting of States Parties 2019 - EU Statement

Geneva, 04/12/2019 - 12:00, UNIQUE ID: 191204_12
Statements on behalf of the EU

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention - Meeting of States Parties - Geneva, 3-6 December 2019

Mr. Chair,

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

Let me start by congratulating France on its chairmanship and commend you for securing the holding of the 2019 Meeting of States Parties (MSP) despite the difficult financial situation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).

The EU reaffirms its strong support for the BTWC, the global norm against biological weapons and a key pillar of the rules-based international system that facilitates multilateral cooperation. We recall our longstanding efforts to strengthen this important Convention, promote its universalisation and enhance its implementation. We congratulate Tanzania on becoming the 183rd State Party. We call on all other States not yet party to accede to the BTWC without delay and all States Parties to faithfully comply with their obligations.

The EU’s priorities within the BTWC include enhancing national implementation and compliance, promoting confidence-building and transparency measures such as peer-reviews, voluntary visits and other initiatives, facilitating cooperation on science and technology, operationalising Article V consultative provisions and Article VII provisions on assistance, response and preparedness, as well as promoting universal adherence to the Convention.

While verification remains a central element of a complete and effective disarmament and non-proliferation regime, we recognise that there is no consensus regarding verification at this stage. In this regard, we recall, inter alia, the UK’s Working Paper on: Institutional Strengthening of the Convention: Reflections on the 2001 Protocol and the Verification Challenge. The EU supports the ongoing efforts to enhance transparency and building confidence in compliance with the Convention and to the effective implementation of the object and purpose of the BTWC. For this purpose, we invite all States Parties to submit regular, timely and comprehensive Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU), increase sharing of information and best practices on national capabilities, activities and actions for implementation, and consider conducting or participating in peer review initiatives and voluntary visits to relevant facilities and other transparency and confidence-building initiatives. The purpose of such initiatives is not to replace legally-binding verification measures, but to strengthen national implementation and thereby the BTWC.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women is an important cross-cutting priority for the EU and in this regard, we encourage active and equal participation of women and welcome the first ever side event on gender issues that took place in the BTWC context in August, and inclusion of the gender dimension in the annual UN General Assembly Resolution on the BTWC.

Mr. Chair,

The ongoing intersessional process of the BTWC, with technical expert discussions on all relevant issues, has contributed to increasing our collective understanding of the risks and ways to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons.

The reports from the five Meetings of Experts (MX) as well as the summaries prepared under the responsibility of respective Chairs provide a wealth of suggestions and ideas that should be used as a stepping stone in the preparations of subsequent intersessional meetings ahead of the Ninth Review Conference in 2021. We would like to thank the MX chairs for identifying concrete proposals and we encourage the MSP Chair to compile them for consideration by States Parties.

We recall that a number of practical initiatives remain on the table, such as a database for assistance under Article VII, related guidelines for applying for assistance, the establishment of a systematic and structured science and technology review process, and a Code of Conduct for scientists. Such proposals have been subject to discussion for several years in the BTWC and they have come to enjoy broad cross-regional support. We encourage taking further action on these suggestions as well as on any other proposal that would merit consensus during the 2019 MSP.

A timely decision is expected from the Meeting of States Parties on the modalities of the Ninth Review Conference in 2021. The EU and its Member States are in favour of a substantive preparatory process, with two preparatory committee sessions, similar to the previous review cycle. We consider that in light of the lessons learned from previous review conferences, two weeks should be sufficient to review the implementation of the Convention and adopt additional understandings with a view to strengthening its provisions. Rather than prolonging the duration of the Review Conference, it would be more important that all States Parties demonstrate the necessary political will to achieve consensus on a final document.

The continued accumulation of arrears is creating a situation where it is increasingly difficult for this important Convention to function properly. We recall that the purpose of the Working Capital Fund, as set up in 2018, is to provide short-term financial liquidity at the beginning of the calendar year and in no way subsidize non-payments or arrears. Once again, we urge all States, which have not yet done so, to honour their financial obligations without delay.

The EU and its Member States are also concerned with the interpretation given by the UN Secretariat to some of measures agreed by the BTWC Meeting of States Parties last year with respect to the administering of the finances of the Conventions, in particular with regard to the withholding of credits that are due to States Parties that paid their contributions in full. We remain open to further discussing this matter with the UN Secretariat to find a sustainable solution.

Mr. Chair,

On 21 January 2019, EU Ministers adopted a fifth consecutive EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/97 in support of the BTWC which provides for a budget of 3 million EUR to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) for the period of 2019-22. This allows the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) to facilitate six new projects in support of universalisation; capacity building for national implementation including three peer review exercises; fostering biosecurity in the Global South; developing tools for outreach, education and engagement; as well as increasing preparedness to respond to biological attacks. It will also support the BTWC intersessional programme and the preparation of the Ninth Review Conference in 2021.

The following activities have already been carried out under the EU Council Decision and we thank the BTWC ISU for the continued professional implementation of these and other projects:

- The First Global South Biosecurity Diplomacy Workshop, which took place on 3-4 August 2019 in Vevey, Switzerland, brought together 20 young scientists from 14 countries in the Global South and allowed them to follow the discussions during the Meeting of Experts on science and technology (MX2). The ISU will organise a side event in the morning of 5 December 2019 to report on the outcome of the Global South Biosecurity Workshop as well as the EU-funded regional S&T workshops.

- Secondly, a Regional Universalisation Workshop for the Pacific was held in Wellington, New Zealand, on 21 September 2019. The three BTWC non-States parties – Kiribati, Micronesia and Tuvalu – participated actively and we welcome their ongoing ratification processes.

- Thirdly, the EU’s financial support to the BTWC sponsorship programme has enabled 10 experts from developing countries to attend the 2019 Meetings of Experts and another 10 experts this year's Meeting of States Parties.

Upcoming activities in 2020 include, inter alia, a Universalisation Workshop in Africa and a Peer Review Exercise in Eastern Europe. The beneficiary countries for the Extended Assistance Programmes are Botswana, Jamaica, the State of Palestine, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam and for the National Preparedness Programmes Fiji, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Other EU-funded activities relevant in the BTWC context include a new EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/1296 of 31 July 2019 in support of strengthening biological safety and security in Ukraine in line with the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. This three-year project will be implemented by the Secretariat of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the financial support will amount to 1.9 million EUR.

New EU projects are also under preparation in support of strengthening biological safety and security in Latin America in accordance with UNSCR 1540 as well as in support of the UN Secretary General's Mechanism for investigation of the alleged use of chemical, biological and toxin weapons. The EU remains a strong supporter of both UNSCR 1540 and of the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism.

Furthermore, we would like to highlight the achievements of the cooperation developed in the framework of the EU CBRN risk mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative. It aims at reinforcing national CBRN policies and regional cooperation, and offers support for CBRN capacity building, including through large-scale cross-border exercises to already more than 60 countries, with the budget of 130 million EUR for 2014-20. We encourage all partner countries to carry out CBRN risk and needs assessments, based on the proven methodology, and prepare national CBRN action plans, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and other relevant international instruments. An EU-funded side event on 4 December 2019 will present biosafety related activities in the Caucasus in the framework of the CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative.

Thank you, Mr. Chair


* The Republic North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.