Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Export Control

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) - Meeting of Experts on Cooperation and Assistance (MX1) - Key messages

Geneva, 30/07/2019 - 15:10, UNIQUE ID: 190730_11
Statements on behalf of the EU

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) Geneva, 29-30 July 2019 Meeting of Experts on Cooperation and Assistance (MX1) Key messages

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 and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

Allow me to thank you, on behalf of the European Union, for chairing this Meeting of Experts on Cooperation and Assistance and assure you of our full support and active participation in the forthcoming deliberations.

We agree that international cooperation and assistance are essential to support States Parties in their capacity building efforts, particularly in the domains of biosecurity and biosafety. We would like to encourage local and regional ownership to ensure long-term sustainability of activities, stronger partnerships between donors and beneficiary States, and further coordination among donors. Developing national action plans, with the involvement of relevant agencies and stakeholders, and enhancing international, regional and sub-regional cooperation will help to achieve effective and sustainable outcomes. We support in particular further South-South cooperation for detecting, reporting and responding to outbreaks of infectious disease, or biological weapons attacks.

We recognise the valuable role of the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) in facilitating the implementation of Article X and we call on States Parties to fully utilise the BTWC Cooperation and Assistance Database. The EU will continue to support the operation of the current database and seek ways to enhance its utility, in particular by better identifying and matching relevant needs and assistance offers, where appropriate.

The EU has a long track-record in providing cooperation and assistance relevant for Article X. On 21 January 2019, the Council of the EU adopted Decision (CFSP) 2019/97 in support of the BTWC that will provide another 3 million Euros to the ISU over the next three years to carry out specific assistance and capacity building projects in third countries, including on biosecurity and biosafety, infectious disease surveillance, detection and control. We are grateful to the ISU for the continued professional implementation of this and previous EU Council Decisions.

One of the projects under the new EU Council Decision, entitled 'Fostering Biosecurity Networks in the Global South', will contribute to capacity building through international cooperation in biosafety and biosecurity in the context of Article X of the BTWC. It will engage young policymakers, scientists and academics, building upon earlier successful initiatives such as Scholarship for Peace of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Two seminars will be organised in Geneva, one of them this week, bringing together youth from the Global South to expose them to the concept of multilateral disarmament negotiations and enabling their engagement with diplomats and high-level experts in the field. Particular emphasis will be placed on encouraging the participation of young women in the Global South. E-learning opportunities will also be provided.

Another recent EU Council Decision, which is in the process of being adopted, will support the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enhance biological safety and security in Ukraine in line with the BTWC and UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The following activities will be undertaken under this Council Decision: a) harmonisation of existing Ukrainian regulations on biosafety and biosecurity with international standards; b) establishment of the veterinary surveillance system sustainability in Ukraine; and c) awareness raising, education and training for life scientists on biosafety and biosecurity. We would like to express our appreciation to the OSCE Secretariat and the competent authorities in Ukraine for their valuable cooperation in this regard.

The EU continues to also support other initiatives and projects aimed at capacity-building in the areas of infectious disease detection, surveillance, diagnosis and containment. In the framework of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, three ongoing projects have to be particularly highlighted:

- Project 74 (MediPiet), aiming at enhancing health security in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions by supporting capacity building for prevention and control of biological, natural, or man-made health threats through the further roll-out of a sustainable training programme in intervention epidemiology;

- Project 75 (MediLabSecure), having an objective to strengthen and harmonize preparedness and response capacities on health threats related to (arbo)zoonotic viruses and their vectors in the target regions, and enhance awareness of the added value of integrated surveillance, risk assessment and early warning to prevent and control epidemics and epizootics, through the strengthening of the network of laboratories and public health institutions previously created by MediLabSecure; and

- Project 76 (StrongLabs), aiming to minimize potential biological risks related to climate change by improving the detection of, response to, and recovery from outbreaks and health emergencies.

More generally, the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative has continued to support the development of national and regional action plans, training workshops, risk assessment, testing and exercises, and creation of schools of excellence, involving eight regional secretariats and more than 60 countries.

We welcome the first annual “Global Forum on Scientific Advances Important to the BTWC” held in Geneva in December 2018, which offered opportunities for knowledge sharing under the Convention, and hope that there will be further opportunities for knowledge sharing under Article X throughout the remainder of the intersessional programme.

Finally, we would like to highlight that EU Member States have made several important contributions to the work of MX1, including the UK’s Working Paper on Capacity Building Through International Cooperation: The British Medical Journal’s Clinical Decision Support Training Initiative.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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