Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Non-proliferation and disarmament: what role for the EU? (EU)

"But we clearly need to do more. We need to move from ad-hoc actions to a more comprehensive, long-term approach. The EU has a number of excellent strategy documents, on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Landmines and, I hope after next week's Council, on Small Arms. But we must match these well-thought-out documents with practical responses that live up to our words. We must build on what has been done so far and fill in the current gaps."


Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood policy

Non-proliferation and disarmament: what role for the EU?

Inter-Parliamentary conference on Strengthening European action on Non-proliferation and Disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, small arms / light weapons and explosive remnants of war

European Parliament, Brussels, 8 December 2005


Honourable Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First let me thank the European Parliament for hosting this conference. I would also like to thank Parliament for its foresight two years ago in supporting a pilot project to look at European action on disarmament and non-proliferation. Taking the European Security Strategy as the starting point, Parliament rightly anticipated the need to examine the EU's role in this important but highly complex and unstable area. And in particular how the Community can contribute. As we discussed during the debate in Strasbourg two weeks ago on Weapons of Mass Destruction and Arms Exports, these are issues of great concern to European citizens.

I would also like to thank the UK government for their support to the pilot project, the authors of the two sets of reports which form the basis for this conference, as well as our other partners. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute have done an excellent job in their reports, and their thoughtful and helpful contributions will be of great help to us as we consider how to move forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The purpose of this conference is to discuss Europe's role in dealing with what is possibly the most complicated international security environment the world has ever known.

Balance of power politics, containment, deterrence and mutual assured destruction are less evident than they used to be. And the assumption that any "enemy" is a clearly identifiable state is gone.

Instead, there is growing mistrust, unpredictability and uncertainty in the international arena. The threat of terrorism has given new resonance to the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Non-state actors are willing to go to any lengths to achieve their ends. New incentives must be found for states like Iran and North Korea who seem otherwise bent on pursuing nuclear weapons. And 40,000 tonnes of chemical agents are stockpiled in Russia, which asks us for international assistance to destroy them.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of today's conflicts are internal and are being fuelled by the accelerating illicit spread of small arms. As Secretary General Annan's Report on Small Arms puts it, "At least 500,000 people die every year as a result of the use of small arms and light weapons. Of the estimated 4 million war-related deaths during the 1990s, 90 per cent of those killed were civilians and 80 per cent of those were women and children, mostly victims of the misuse of small arms and light weapons." And explosive remnants of war and landmines threaten people with death or serious injury on a daily basis.

This changing security environment has produced a new concept - human security. This recognises that states are responsible for protecting their people, not just their borders. Human Security has been close to my heart since my time as Chair of the Human Security Network. The inclusion of the "responsibility to protect" in the UN Summit's outcome document was an important sign of its growing international acceptance. Central to this concept is the understanding that development and security are mutually reinforcing and interdependent. We need to work on both to be effective on either.


What then does this changed security concept and environment mean for the EU? Should we be considering renewed operational principles to guide our action?

We cannot ignore the dangers. We have a responsibility to Europe's citizens to respond as effectively as possible. Security is one of our citizens' most pressing worries. At a time when our citizens are asking themselves what the EU is for, we need to be doing all we can to show that we are acting to meet those fears.

And nor can we ignore the fact that our partners around the world expect us to act. Earlier this year a survey of 20,000 people world-wide revealed that 68 per cent see Europe as a force for good in the world.

So the timing of today's conference could not be better. It's the ideal way to kick-off our reflections about what, in practice, the EU's institutions can do.

It's not a question of starting from scratch, on the contrary. Unfortunately, our work does not always receive the visibility it deserves ' an issue about which I feel strongly, as I know does this Parliament. Perhaps unknown to some we have for many years now been supporting international science centres in Russia and Ukraine to give former weapons scientists and engineers employment. We have been developing methodologies and equipment for nuclear material accountancy and control, and financing land-mine clearance programmes around the world.

But we clearly need to do more. We need to move from ad-hoc actions to a more comprehensive, long-term approach. The EU has a number of excellent strategy documents, on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Landmines and, I hope after next week's Council, on Small Arms. But we must match these well-thought-out documents with practical responses that live up to our words. We must build on what has been done so far and fill in the current gaps.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The current international environment is not conducive to negotiating new multilateral legally-binding instruments. So it is essential that we boost the effectiveness of our existing international disarmament and non-proliferation regimes. And that means ensuring full compliance and implementation. Otherwise, as UN Security Council Resolution 1540 makes clear, they are meaningless.

Here, the Commission has an important role to play ' even without a formal presence. Some countries have the political will to implement treaty requirements but not the means. So we do a great deal to support implementation. We are active in areas such as dual-use export controls, a vital front-line in the non-proliferation battle. We already have a common legal basis, but we need to strengthen the effectiveness of those controls. We want to build upon our current support to former weapons scientists, and administrative, legal and border management programmes. And we want to add assistance and training for building the necessary infrastructure for weapons destruction and security in biological laboratories (in accordance with dual-use instruments and international norms).

We will take the reports' recommendations very seriously, and look at how we can improve our performance. I take note for example of the recommendation that we should focus more on our Neighbourhood than we have done until now. I agree that working with our Neighbours on common security issues like Weapons of Mass Destruction must be a priority.

President Barroso has confirmed his personal commitment to the G8 Global Partnership against the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery. And I fully endorse the need for an integrated, coherent, and long term approach to development and security or we will never have a sustainable solution. We must strive to diversify and increase the complementarity of the arsenal of tools and responses at our disposal. These reports will, I hope, help us develop realistic objectives and targeted means.

But above all, we must ensure that all EU actors work smoothly together. The challenges are so huge that everyone ' Parliament, Member States, Council and Commission ' must play their part if we are to have any hope of addressing them.

For a start, there is a large amount of finance involved. Hardware must be destroyed and treaties implemented ' and this costs money. Finding the necessary financing to make disarmament possible is fundamentally important, and will take our combined efforts to achieve.

A coherent approach also requires a wide range of policy tools ' from international diplomacy and coercion, to export controls and development assistance - working complementarily with one another. I firmly believe the best results come from a combination of different tools ' both CFSP and Community instruments ' working in close cooperation together.

All parts of the EU must optimise their contribution to tackling this challenge.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me sound one note of caution - our ability to play a proper role beyond 2007 will depend greatly on the outcome of the discussions between Council and Parliament on the proposed instruments for financing Community actions. The Commission has made sensible proposals. These find support in the two studies. But the decision is now up to Council and Parliament. I very much hope that the outcome will be in the best interests of the European citizen.

In the current climate within the EU, it is especially important that we prove to our public that the EU can act effectively to meet their concerns. We need to focus on action, not words. Unfortunately the international security situation is such that there is more than enough work for us all. And we have a collective responsibility to make the best possible use of the resources available and work together as efficiently as possible. Let our watchwords going forward be complementarity and effectiveness.

I look forward greatly to hearing about your discussions today. And I look to all of you for your support in giving European citizens the kind of EU they want. An EU which brings them a safer, more cooperative world.

Thank you.

Von: 08 December 2005, http://europa.eu.int

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