The Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: “Lessons Learned” for the European Union Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

Marta 2010by Lucia Marta (ESPI Perspectives n°34, 2010)

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Concerns about the harm caused upon orbiting space objects – whether intentional or accidental – have increased in recent years, as well as the emerging awareness that the security and safety of national satellites – of vital importance for modern societies but at the same time so vulnerable – relies on a collective effort. In December 2008 the EU responded to these concerns by adopting a Draft Code of Conduct (EU Draft CoC) for outer space activities. According to some experts, many look at the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missiles Proliferation (HCoC) as a successful example of how “soft law” can be implemented and play a concrete role in an international security context. While it is certainly interesting to look at the two Codes in parallel (they are complementary and similar in some aspects but different in others), a closer look at the HCoC would unveil its limits. This important exercise can allow for the drawing of “lessons learned” and avoid the repetition of circumstances that may undermine the credibility, universality and implementation of the EU Draft CoC. The main aspects considered here include the universalisation of the EU Draft CoC and its chances to motivate a larger participation in it, its effective implementation by adhering states and the scope of the Code. Some recommendations to increase the chances of a universal and effective EU Draft CoC are put forward.