EU Statement by Acting Head of Delegation Serrano on the General Assembly's Disarmament Debate

Jul 27, 2011

Follow-up to the 2010 High Level Meeting on "Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Negotiations"

(as delivered)

 

Mr President,


I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

 

I would like, first of all, to commend you, Mr President, for scheduling this debate at this very appropriate moment.

 

I have at the same time to express the EU's disappointment with the absence of progress since the High Level Meeting last September. We are nonetheless hopeful that our deliberations today will prove an opportunity to heed the calls made at that meeting for forward-looking and concrete discussion of future options - both for revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and for the review of practical ideas on how to pursue multilateral disarmament negotiations.

 

We are encouraged by the fact that the High Level Meeting and the General Assembly follow up resolution 65/93 have stimulated the reflection process both in Geneva and New York. Indeed, we have been encouraged by important positive developments in global disarmament and non-proliferation over the two last years - illustrated for example by Security Council Resolution 1887, the new START, the Washington Summit on nuclear security, the NPT Review Conference and the intensified international public debate in which you have been personally involved,  Mr Secretary General,  through your Five-Point Plan. The European Union warmly welcomes these developments, though we are naturally minded that renewed and constant effort will be needed to ensure the international community builds on the new momentum.

 

Indeed, now is the time to reinforce and revitalise multilateral efforts, since we all recognise that today's global security problems require co-operative and multilateral solutions. We in the EU are fully committed to maintaining and strengthening the momentum and committed to implementing agreed outcomes in full cooperation with other states, both because this is in keeping with our EU Strategy Against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and because this is more than ever a key condition of international peace and security.

 

Notwithstanding the positive trends overall, the European Union remains deeply troubled by the apparent dysfunctioning of a crucial part of the disarmament machinery: the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament. The adoption in 2009 of the Programme of Work in CD/1864 would have been an important breakthrough which would have allowed CD members to start negotiations on a multilateral and verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. For the European Union, launching these negotiations remains important and urgent. The EU thus continues to urge the last remaining state, so far unwilling to join the consensus, to begin negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Doing so would allow the CD to resume its negotiating role and thereby regain credibility and continue to pursue its fundamental purpose.

 

All CD Member States should, we believe, appreciate that starting FMCT negotiations is the beginning of a process of identifying and protecting specific national security concerns, rather than the outcome of such a process. As for the European Union, we consider the blockage of the whole CD forum by refusal even to start negotiations to be an unacceptable practice. It seriously undermines the principle of multilateral cooperation.

 

We also consider that there are confidence-building measures that can be taken immediately, without waiting for the beginning of formal negotiations. This is why we call on all states possessing nuclear weapons to declare and then uphold a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

 

The EU thus reaffirms once more its commitment to engage in substantive discussions on all the other core issues on the CD agenda.

 

And we deeply regret that despite clear manifestations of strong political will on the part of the majority of CD members and firm support for negotiations and clear calls from both the current UN General Assembly and the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the CD has not yet been able to build upon the momentum in global disarmament and non-proliferation. We acknowledge the security concerns of all states, but at the same time we firmly believe the consensus rule must not be subject to abuse.  The world cannot afford to stand still on the crucial issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, and to allow procedural issues to stymie real political progress. A review of working methods is therefore part of the EU's proposals to improve the functioning of the CD.

 

Mr President,

 

Let me use this occasion to reiterate the EU's longstanding attachment to the enlargement of the CD. The European Union supports the call made by the informal group of observer states to the CD, including some EU Member States, to appoint during the current session a special co-ordinator on expansion of the CD membership.

 

Consistent with the EU's engagement with civil society, we are also keen to explore ways to strengthen the voice of NGOs and to associate research institutions in the work of the CD.

 

The UNGA First Committee is another important body, where discussion of current topics and potential initiatives on non-proliferation and disarmament issues can fruitfully take place. UN member states share responsibility for maintaining the relevance of this forum, and we believe that the First Committee should therefore improve its working methods so as to be capable of debating contemporary security challenges and developing concrete measures to address them.

 

I would also like to make mention of the UN Disarmament Commission. We believe that its procedures and operating principles should also be thoroughly reviewed and enhanced. Greater involvement of civil society in the work of this body would also be welcome. The aim of the UN Disarmament Commission is to submit recommendations on the issues of disarmament and arms control to the General Assembly and, through it, to the Conference on Disarmament. Indeed, it is with great regret that the EU notes that both the deliberative and the negotiating bodies set up under the auspices of the General Assembly have been falling short of their agreed goals for more than a decade.

 

Mr President,

 

The Conference on Disarmament, in accordance with the mandate it received from the SSOD-1, should be the place to forge multilateral treaties shared by Nuclear Weapon States and Non-Nuclear Weapon States alike. However, given the continuing stalemate in the CD, the international community needs to reflect on options and, if necessary, identify other ways to ensure progress. In sum, Mr. President, the European Union is ready to engage with you and with all UN member states to identify ways and means to overcome the deadlock in the CD.

 

Let me summarize the European Union's concrete proposals:

 

-                We call on all CD member states to start negotiations on FMCT without delay and to begin work on the other issues on the agenda;

-                We call on all states possessing nuclear weapons to declare and uphold an immediate moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

-                We call on the CD the First Committee and the UNDC to review their working methods, and to reflect duly on this issue in their reports to the UNGA. We naturally encourage the UNGA to remain seized of the issue.

-                We call on the CD to include the current observer states as full members,

-                We call on the CD to explore ways to strengthen the contribution of NGOs in the CD and to increase contacts with research institutions.

 

In conclusion, we reaffirm our commitment to the United Nations and disarmament machinery able to deliver tangible results. We also stand ready to work with all delegations on further steps to make other operational suggestions and to envisage other concrete and operational options. The effective functioning of multilateral disarmament institutions is vital for our security. The long-term deadlock of core disarmament forums such as the CD poses a serious problem, which it behoves all states to overcome. Moreover, time is running out. The CD needs to resume its work without delay. We reiterate our call for substantive follow-up and for the disarmament machinery to do what it was created to do.

 

 

Thank you, Mr President.

 

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