Conflict Prevention, Peace building and Mediation

Group of Experts on Amended Protocol II - Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons - EU Statement

Geneva, 30/09/2020 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 201001_2
Statements on behalf of the EU

Madam President-designate, Madam and Mr. Coordinator,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[1], Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.

I would like to start by commending Colombia and France for their continued strong commitment as Co-coordinators to improve international cooperation and coordination on matters relating to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

The EU remains fully committed to reducing the suffering and the harm caused by mines, booby-traps, and other devices in accordance with the provisions of Amended Protocol II and we invite all States who have not yet done so to join this important instrument of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

We are deeply concerned about the continued severe global impact of IED attacks and their indiscriminate use and effects, in particular in the perpetration of terrorist acts. The use of improvised explosive devices against civilian populations and infrastructure, including health-care systems, produces alarming humanitarian harm, especially in urban settings, and requires an urgent response. Efforts to enhance prevention, preparedness and response are needed to tackle the global threat. Also, efforts to step up clearance are important given the humanitarian impact of IEDs and their overall negative consequences for the security, stability and development of fragile States. The latter activities need to be done in conjunction with the efforts in other disarmament conventions, such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which contains an obligation for States Parties to clear all types of anti-personnel mines, including anti-personnel mines of an improvised nature.

Amended Protocol II is the only IHL instrument which explicitly addresses the use of mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM). Many High Contracting Parties have expressed their continuing concerns on the humanitarian impact caused by the indiscriminate use of these weapons. While acknowledging that MOTAPM are legitimate weapons, Parties are obliged to ensure that they are used in accordance with IHL and that all feasible precautions are taken to protect civilians from the effects of these weapons. We believe it would be appropriate for States Parties to further discuss how to ensure compliance with Amended Protocol II also with respect to MOTAPM. The EU supports adding MOTAPM on the agenda for the CCW Annual Conference and we continue to believe that expert discussions within the CCW, and particularly within the framework of APII, on this issue would be of benefit to all.

Multilateral work to counter IEDs

We reiterate our support for the relevant UN General Assembly Resolutions and the 2016 political declaration on IEDs within Amended Protocol II, which have helped to build global awareness of the wide-ranging aspects of the IED threat and the importance of a comprehensive approach. We recall the recommendations by the UN Secretary-General in his report A/75/175 on the UN coordinating task force on a whole-of-system approach to improvised explosive devices established by the Mine Action Service. In bringing together representatives of security, political, humanitarian, development and counter-terrorism entities, this task force is facilitating a common understanding of the threat and enhancing consistency in the use of related terminology.

Mechanisms for reporting incidents related to improvised explosive devices are critical to generating the data and analysis required to inform policies, programmes and activities to counter this threat. Information-sharing among States, international organizations and the private sector is central to effectively tackling the issue of the prevention of the use of improvised explosive devices. There is still a need for deepened information-sharing, as well as expanded data collection.

We welcome the new version of the CCW Questionnaire on Improvised Explosive Devices and encourage the High Contracting Parties to actively contribute to this and to the existing guidelines, best practices and other recommendations aiming at addressing the diversion or illicit use of materials that can be used for IEDs. The EU has recently contributed to the  compilation of national or regional guidelines, best practices and other recommendations aiming at addressing the diversion or illicit use of materials that can be used for IEDs through two important  documents, namely Regulation (EU) 2019/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors, amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 and repealing Regulation (EU) No 98/2013, as well as the Guidelines for the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2019/1148 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors (2020/C 210/01). We support further involvement of industry in the exchange of information on national measures, best practices, and lessons learned. We welcome the information hub established by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which offers a useful compilation of resources for further work.

Furthermore, the EU welcomes the Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Capability Maturity Model and Self-Assessment Tool, developed by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/67. The tool will assist States to self-identify gaps and challenges in their national preparedness, with a view to supporting the development of prevention and response strategies to counter the threats posed by IEDs and invite States to use this Self-Assessment Tool.

EU Regulation on the marketing and use of explosives precursors

It is critical to increase awareness of the need for action to mitigate the acquisition of dangerous precursor materials, including in the private sector. It is also important to increase engagement by relevant private sector actors in limiting the flow of explosive precursors to unauthorized end users.

As set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2370 (2017), we call upon all States to adopt and implement more stringent national measures to prevent the supply of weapons and explosives precursors to terrorists. The EU has already undertaken a number of concrete actions in this regard, in accordance with the European Agenda on Security and more specifically in the EU Action Plan against the Illicit Trafficking and Use of Firearms and Explosives.

The purpose of the EU-wide harmonised rules and closer cooperation between EU institutions, EU Member States and other relevant stakeholders, such as industry and Europol, is to reduce the risk that chemical substances are used for the illicit manufacture of explosives.

With a view to improving the EU counter – IED capabilities, a Regulation on the marketing and use of explosives precursors, amending Annex XVII to the Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 and repealing Regulation (EU) No 98/2013 has been adopted and entered into force on 1 August 2019.  The new Regulation, which will apply from 1 February 2021 onwards, includes several measures to strengthen the existing rules. Firstly, it will expand the scope of the earlier Regulation by adding new substances to the list of restricted explosives precursors. Secondly, current registration regimes would discontinue, as registration has proved to be weaker from a security perspective than licensing or a prohibition for members of the general public. Thirdly, it introduces more comprehensive procedures and criteria for issuing licenses, which include verifying the legitimacy of the request, security screening and a criminal record check. In addition, these measures should facilitate greater awareness raising and information sharing along the supply chain. Lastly, they will make clear that the restrictions also apply to online sales. Online marketplaces will also be obliged to detect and report suspicious transactions. The regulation further strengthens the system to prevent the illicit manufacture of explosives, as a response to the evolving threat that terrorism and other serious criminal activities pose to public security.

The European Commission has developed "Guidelines for the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2019/1148 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors (2020/C 210/01)", intended to assist Member States’ national authorities, economic operators, and online marketplaces in the application of the Regulation. Furthermore, the European Commission will report, by 2 February 2026, to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the application of the regulation, through an evaluation. Let me also note that EU customs is the gatekeeper for the passage of goods across the EU external border and remains committed to playing an active role in the appropriate control of explosives precursors at import and export.

International cooperation and assistance by the EU

As far as international cooperation and assistance are concerned, the EU will continue to support national capacity building efforts to address the IED threat. The EU is actively involved in particular in Iraq, where we support the work of the Iraqi authorities and the activities of UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and several operators to mitigate explosive threats in the country. Furthermore, the EU Delegation in Iraq continues to chair a dedicated Explosive Hazards Management donors meeting. As part of the counter-terrorism cooperation between EU Member States and non-EU countries, on 27 and 28 November 2019, the EU jointly with Europol organized its 17th Joint Referral Action Day. This joint action was coordinated in The Hague and mainly targeted inter alia manuals and tutorials explaining how to build IEDs in the context of terrorism.    

Finally, I would like to point out that a European Commission representative, Ms. Charlotte Renckens, from the Directorate-General on Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), gave an expert presentation on the EU regulation on the marketing and use of explosives, hence providing concrete examples of the EU's strong and long-lasting commitment in the field.

Thank you, Madam President-designate, Madam and Mr. Coordinator,

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