The UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security met from 6 October to 5 November 2014 in New York. On this occasion, the Principal Adviser and Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Disarmament Mr. Jacek Bylica gave a statement on behalf of the EU at the general debate on 7 October, highlighting several topics of key importance for the EU.

On the good news side, it was pointed out that the Arms Trade Treaty will enter into force in December 2014 (23 EU States have ratified the Treaty so far), and that the removal and subsequent destruction of the declared Syrian chemicals constitute a significant step (the EU contributed 17 million euro for the joint UN/OPCW Plan for the destruction).

Unfortunately, profound concerns remain, including the violation of several commitments by the Russian Federation, many DPRK provocative actions throughout this year, Syria's non-compliance with its Safeguards Agreement, or the repeated use of a toxic chemical as weapon in Syria since April 2014. As to the ongoing Iranian crisis, the EU welcomed the Joint Plan of Action between Iran and the E3/EU+3 but expressed deep concerns about the fact that the IAEA is still unable to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in the country.

The EU continues to support effective multilateralism as the cornerstone for action in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament. It will be very interesting to see how the new EU High Representative address that issue in the foreseeable future.

Benjamin Hautecouverture
EU Non-Proliferation Consortium / Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS)

September/October 2014, Issue No. 17

The World continues to face major threats to international peace and stability

In a time of new and serious threats, non-proliferation and disarmament cannot be seen in isolation, neither from each other, nor from the broader strategic context.
Ambassador Jacek Bylica is Principal Adviser and Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Disarmament at the European External Action Service (EEAS). Prior to joining EEAS in 2013, he was Head of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-proliferation Centre (WMDC) at NATO International Staff in Brussels. In this capacity he also co-chaired the NATO-Russia Council’s Working Group on Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation.
The EU Non-Proliferation Consortium had its third international conference in Brussels beginning of September. How useful are these events from an EEAS perspective?

We deem them most useful. In 2010 the EU created a network of think-tanks to encourage political and security-related dialogue and discussion of measures to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The Consortium, currently comprising some 60 think-tanks from across the EU, publishes papers, organizes workshops and other events.

The Conference is the largest, flagship event of the Consortium, reaching out to a global audience. Already three were held: in February 2012, September 2013 and September 2014. Funding is already secured for the next one in Autumn of 2015. This year's Conference brought together some 300 officials and academics from around the World. It serves as a forum for discussion, searching for solutions, and as a great networking opportunity.

If we have any particular EU agenda in this event it is the promotion of effective multilateralism. EU believes in the search for international solutions to international problems. We support, both politically and financially, with tens of millions of Euros, international treaties in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament, and international organizations implementing them.

The tensions with Russia over Ukraine influenced the issues examined during the September Conference. What impact has had this crisis on the nuclear non-proliferation regime so far?

For a number of years one could argue that by abandoning WMD programmes or even weapons a State could in fact enhance its security. This argument was based largely on the Budapest Memoranda of 1994. In the one devoted to Ukraine, signed also by the President of the Russian Federation, the nuclear-weapon-States confirmed iter alia their commitment to:

  • respect the independence, sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;
  • refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine;
  • refrain from economic coercion against sovereign Ukraine.

EU remains committed to the rule of law in international relations, including in disarmament and non-proliferation. We strongly condemned the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Russian aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea.

Russia is a great nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council bearing special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Her actions and attitudes have a major impact on the international situation, including on the global non-proliferation regime and disarmament prospects.

More generally, what are your personal views on the evolution of non-proliferation and disarmament over the past year and what to expect henceforth?

Unfortunately, the World continues to face major threats to international peace and stability, in fact some of these threats and risks seem to have increased over the last year. Non-proliferation and disarmament are part of the solution to these problems but should not be seen in isolation, neither from each other, nor from the broader strategic context.

One can sometimes hear that non-proliferation is mainly the preoccupation of Western countries while disarmament is dear only to the so-called developing world. Personally I do not share this simplistic view. Reductions have happened in the NPT nuclear-weapon-States, including the two which are EU Members. At the same time, costly and destabilizing arms races, including those involving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, are taking place for example in Asia.

In the EU we have both nuclear-weapon-States and countries which are very reluctant to use nuclear energy even for peaceful purposes. This gives us a broad range of views and sensibilities. It is absolutely necessary that we mobilize our collective energy and a sense of responsibility for advancing the NPT agenda when it is clearly under strain. Next year's NPT Review Conference will be one of these moments.

Interview conducted by Benjamin Hautecouverture