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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and the European Community as a party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Candidate Countries Croatia ? and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.

Mr. President,

2007 marks the twenty fifth anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention has made an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world.

The Convention sets out the legal framework for all activities in the oceans and, since its adoption, it has been of paramount importance with respect to ocean affairs.

As new challenges emerge and the relevance of the oceans and seas is becoming more and more widely acknowledged, the EU would like to reiterate the importance it attaches to maintaining the integrity of the Convention and to the pre-eminence of its jurisdictional framework.

The European Union would also like to stress the importance of the principle of freedom of navigation and the rights of innocent passage and transit passage in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In this respect, the EU reaffirms its view that the laws and regulations adopted by States bordering straits used for international navigation relating to transit passage through straits, in accordance with the Convention, shall not discriminate in form or in fact among foreign ships or in their application have the practical effect of denying, hampering or impairing the right of transit passage. In addition, the EU would like to stress that port States should exercise their sovereignty in relation to the management of their ports in a manner that is non-discriminatory and consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant international law.

Mr. President,

The EU is deeply concerned about the threats that piracy and armed robbery pose to crews and ships engaged in international traffic. We find it very important that the international community, through the relevant bodies of the UN, is actively engaged in combating acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Another challenge is combating environmental degradation of the oceans and seas. This has become an urgent priority; an unprecedented effort is needed to achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biological diversity, as called for at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Concrete, comprehensive and timely action is required.

The European Union has, in various fora, expressed its serious concern on the issue of conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and remains fully supportive of the initiatives taken by the General Assembly in this regard. We look forward to the convening of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction next spring. The EU sees it as an opportunity to carry forward the work of the GA in this field and we hope it will lead to concrete conclusions and recommendations for prompt action by the international community.

Our commitment to developing a concrete, coherent and integrated approach to the sustainable management and conservation of the oceans and their resources is demonstrated by the recent adoption of an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union, a common endeavour shared by European Institutions, Member States and stakeholders. The first, and most important part, deals with an integrated approach, seeking joint solutions to stimulate economic growth while at the same time preventing environmental degradation.

A key process set out in the Resolution is the Informal Consultative Process (ICP). We welcome the timely debate on “Maritime security and safety”, which will take place during ICP 9, next June. The debate should focus, as a matter of high priority, on threats to maritime security and safety posed by piracy and armed robbery at sea. Furthermore, the menace that maritime terrorism may pose should not be overlooked. Another relevant issue in the context of the 2008 ICP topic would, in our view, be the debate on illegal migration by sea. We look forward to a constructive debate on these issues in the next ICP.

The EU attaches also particular importance to the problem of climate change and we are seriously concerned about its adverse effects, namely on the marine environment and marine biodiversity. We see it as a timely and relevant appeal that the Omnibus Resolution encourages the enhancement of efforts in reducing the effects of climate change.

The Resolution duly notes with satisfaction the progress in the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In this regard, and taking into account the anticipated heavy workload of the Commission, owing to an increasing number of submissions, the EU fully endorses the request of the States Parties to the Convention to strengthen the capacity of DOALOS, acting as secretariat of the Commission.

A positive development that deserves mention is the establishment by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea of a Chamber for Maritime Delimitation Disputes.

The Resolution also duly notes the work of the Ad Hoc Steering Group for the “assessment of assessments” and its second meeting. The EU reiterates its view of the Assessment’s relevance for improved cooperation between the UN agencies and other bodies and as a basis for improved oceans policy-making.

Mr. President,

The EU wishes to express its appreciation of the excellent cooperation that led to the drafting of the Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries now before us for adoption. Among the many important and pressing issues addressed by the Resolution, the EU attaches particular importance and priority to the General Assembly’s calls and recommendations relating to combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities, or IUU fishing.

Profit is what drives those that plunder the seas illegally. Importing States need to adopt effective measures to stop their markets being used in marketing fisheries products stemming from IUU fishing: such action would mean IUU fishing loosing its economic base. The EU is ready to do its part of the job and is already working on measures to this end, including also effective port controls. We welcome the way in which the Resolution underlines the importance of these issues and encourage our international partners to work cooperatively to support each other’s efforts and also reinforce collective action through the FAO and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and Arrangements. The EU stands ready to assist developing countries in their capacity-building needs to tackle IUU fishing and help build sustainable fisheries.

The EU welcomes the significant expansion in participation to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement seen over the last eighteen months. The EU reiterates its attachment to universal adherence to the Agreement. We fully support every effort to establish a dialogue with those States that have expressed difficulties in joining this key instrument. The EU remains convinced that such difficulties can be addressed within the context of the Agreement through the flexibility it offers for finding solutions that take into account regional specificities in fishery management and control. We invite our partners to embark in this dialogue through the informal consultations of States Party to the Agreement next year.

It is now common knowledge that “sustainable fisheries” means “sustainable oceans”. The EU is in the process of implementing the calls made by the General Assembly last year with regard to addressing destructive fishing practices in the high seas and in our own waters. We are also working to strengthen our regulatory regime in respect of the conservation and management of sharks. In this regard, the EU welcomes the emphasis placed by the General Assembly in this Resolution on shark conservation. This is probably one of the areas where fisheries management truly needs effective strengthening to face the impact of an extremely hungry and lucrative shark fin trade. Serious discipline is required if we are to conserve species that play such a fundamental regulatory role in the marine food chain. The EU looks forward to reviewing the follow-up provided by States to the GA’s calls in this respect, in two years time.

Mr. President,

We would like to express our appreciation to the Secretariat, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, for the work done over the past year, namely for the preparation of the annual report on oceans and the law of the sea, an invaluable compilation of recent developments. We would also like to thank the coordinators of both resolutions for their enduring efforts to reach consensus.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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