I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, the Countries of Stabilisation and Association Process and Potential Candidate Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine align themselves with this statement.
First of all, I would like to congratulate all members of the Bureau on their election. At the same time, I would like to reiterate that we are confident that the Bureau of the Open-ended Working Group towards an arms trade treaty, under the wise leadership of Ambassador García Moritán, will meet the expectations of the Member States.
The European Union attaches great importance to the development of a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty – a legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfers of conventional weapons guiding the trade in conventional weapons on an international level.
We are convinced that the undertaking of a legally binding commitment to observe commonly agreed standards, consistent with existing responsibilities of states under relevant international law and in full respect of their sovereignty and internal institutional and legal frameworks, would be a major contribution to tackling the undesirable proliferation of conventional weapons. We believe that such a treaty is both feasible and necessary in order to provide common international standards for the trade in conventional weapons and ammunition.
The EU is convinced that the United Nations is the proper forum that can deliver a truly universal instrument. The principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations are central for the creation of such an instrument.
The strong support for resolutions 61/89 and 63/240 at the General Assembly demonstrates the international will to embrace the idea. The EU and all of its individual Member States are committed to playing an active role in the work of the Open-ended Working Group established by the resolution 63/240.
The EU strongly supports the UN-based process leading towards an international Arms Trade Treaty that would address the undesirable proliferation of conventional weapons that clearly requires action by the whole international community. The principle objective of an international ATT is to prevent irresponsible arms transfers by adopting common international standards for, export, import and transfer of conventional arms.
The fight against the illicit trade in ammunition continues to be an urgent task inseparable from the weapons themselves. Uncontrolled stocks of ammunition contribute to the risk of trafficking and proliferation and to the lengthening and intensification of armed conflicts. In addition, they are a threat to security, health and the environment.
Transparency in the field of conventional weapons is a key component for combating the uncontrolled dissemination of such weapons and for promoting an atmosphere of trust and security.
A properly regulated arms trade will be of benefit to the business community, as well as peacekeepers, law enforcement and security forces, and most important of all, ordinary people whose hopes for the peaceful future are unfortunately frequently dashed.
In order to provide a more effective answer to these serious challenges, on 8th December 2008 the European Union adopted the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP that reinforced and made legally binding the previous political commitments of its 1998 Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Bearing in mind the importance of the cooperation with other States and regional organisations in this matter, the Council of the European Union approved on 19 January 2009 a project aimed at supporting the process leading towards an Arms Trade Treaty. The project was launched in Geneva last week, and will continue throughout next year in the form of regional seminars and other relating events. The overall objective of the project is to raise awareness, promote discussion and facilitate the exchange of views among UN Member States, and other relevant actors.
The start of the UN process is a good step forward. But there is still a long way to go. To make it work we all need to get involved now. Cooperation in work towards the ATT should be seen as an opportunity to put the arms trade on a solid and responsible footing.
We believe that the Open-ended working group should start its substantial work as soon as possible and, following the terms of its mandate as provided by resolution 63/240, focus on the identification of areas where consensus could be developed to start building the base of a future instrument.
We call upon member States to, in so doing, draw from the very valuable input provided by the report of the Secretary General prepared with the assistance of the Group of governmental experts in 2008 in order to identify without protracted deliberation all existing workable approaches to the issues on the table.
In conclusion we wish you, Mr. Chairman, and all members of the Bureau success in your endeavors. You can count on the full support of the European Union countries.