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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. Co-Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The European Union thanks the Secretary General for the advance text of his Report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. Its early circulation has allowed all delegations time for its consideration and has greatly facilitated our discussions this week. We commend the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for their work in the preparation of the Report. As in previous years, on the issues its addresses it is both a broad and comprehensive account of recent developments and trends. It will be of value in particular to the General Assembly in its role of providing, where required, policy guidance through its annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea, in particular in relation to areas where international coordination and cooperation should be enhanced. As we said earlier this week the Report has also been very useful in our consideration of matters within the Panel Discussion and for this we wish to thank all those involved in DOALOS.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention. The view of the President of the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea, expressed at the opening for signature of the Convention in 1982, that its conclusion represented a monumental achievement of the international community, second only to the Charter of the United Nations itself, remains valid. The Convention has established itself as the framework of legal principle within which all activities in and on the oceans are addressed. Moreover, because the problems of ocean space were correctly identified as being closely interrelated and therefore need to be considered as a whole, the Convention provides a means of addressing all ocean issues, including new challenges, in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

The goal of universal participation in the Convention therefore remains as important as ever and the European Union urges all states that have not already done so to ratify or accede to it at the earliest opportunity.

The Secretary General has again this year identified our two principal challenges for the future as being full compliance by all states with their obligations under the law of the sea, and enhancement of co-operation, both inter-agency and between states. The European Union endorses this view.

We support the efforts of DOALOS in monitoring developments with respect to implementation of the Convention by states, including through the establishment of a database of national legislation regarding maritime zones and boundary agreements. We note the Secretary General’s comments in his Report on the duties of States Parties to give due publicity to laws and regulations adopted by them concerning innocent passage through the territorial sea and through straits used for international navigation. He has commented also on the disappointing performance of States in arranging for deposit with him of charts and co-ordinates showing straight baselines and maritime boundaries.

We agree that all states should review the relevant provisions of the Convention and arrange to make the appropriate deposits with the Secretary General where this has been overlooked. We share the view that the tenth anniversary of entry into force is an appropriate moment at which all states should review their national legislation and ensure that it is in conformity with the Convention.

States should also consider establishing national marine policies that deal with all aspects of oceans affairs in an integrated manner within their national administrations, so as to adopt an intersectoral, interdisciplinary and ecosystem based approach to oceans and seas management.

The European Union notes the omission from the Secretary General’s Report of sections dealing with Marine Science and Technology and the Settlement of Disputes. We look forward to information on these subjects in the addendum to his Report to be made available in advance of the General Assembly, together with the additional information requested by the General Assembly in paragraph 52 of its Resolution last year on the threats and risks to vulnerable and threatened marine ecosystems and biodiversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

We note that piracy continues to pose serious difficulties for commercial and other ships in some parts of the world. The European Union urges all coastal and port states to ensure the protection of shipping from piracy in waters under their jurisdiction.

Mr. Co-Chairman,

At last year’s meeting of the Informal Consultative Process there was agreement that improved implementation and enforcement by some flag States of their responsibilities and duties under international law is urgent and essential to maritime safety as well as sustainable marine resource management. The General Assembly accordingly requested the Secretary General, in co-operation with others, to prepare a comprehensive elaboration of flag state duties. The Consultative Group on Flag State Implementation was established on foot of this request and the advance text of its Report is welcome.

The European Union welcomes the information submitted for the Report by the specialised agencies and the other international organisations that collaborated in the Consultative Group. Their submissions served to highlight both the benefits of better flag state implementation of relevant obligations as well as the damage caused where there is a continuing failure. An obvious example is the finding by the IMO of a dramatic reduction in the casualty rate for merchant shipping in recent decades due to much improved implementation of relevant IMO ship safety regulations. On the other hand we share the deep concern of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in relation to the serious problems of re-flagging and flag-hopping as a means of avoiding compliance with generally accepted international rules and practices and of engaging in fishing practices and activities that undermine the effectiveness of international conservation and management measures.

The flag state plays a central role in the preservation and protection of the marine environment. It also has the primary responsibility in ensuring safety of life at sea. It remains vitally important therefore that all flag states honour the obligations they have assumed. And while the importance of the role of port state authority as an effective means of encouraging implementation of flag state obligations is growing, it can never replace the primacy of the flag state role. We therefore welcome the development within the IMO of a Voluntary IMO Member Audit Scheme that will assess how effectively states implement and enforce relevant IMO Conventions. The European Union encourages all states to volunteer to be audited in accordance with the Scheme. In the context of the safety of navigation, we wish to note the important role within the European Union of the recently established European Maritime Safety Agency.

It is because some flag states are unable to implement their obligations that the General Assembly recommended last year that these states consider declining to grant the right to fly their flag to new vessels, or suspending their registry or not opening one at all, until they have established an effective maritime administration. The extent of the problems identified in the Consultative Group’s Report means that the General Assembly’s prescription remains a valid one for flag states failing to implement their obligations.

In many cases financial advantages resulting from non-implementation of safety and anti-pollution requirements are compounded by a failure of enforcement by flag states. A significant deterrent must be found if this is to change. The European Union is therefore attracted by the ideas under consideration within the OECD of involving insurance markets and other actors so that the costs of failing to comply with applicable rules can be significantly increased. We encourage the OECD to develop these ideas in collaboration with other relevant organisations. Initiatives such as the IMO’s Voluntary Audit Scheme, which we note permits of the possibility that it may some day become mandatory, are also to be encouraged.

We thank those involved in the preparation of the detailed tabulation of flag state duties set out in the Consultative Group’s Report. This can serve as a very useful tool to all flag states as they re-examine their arrangements for the implementation of their obligations. All flag states should now be encouraged to do so.

While acknowledging that the Report is not exhaustive, we note however that one or two important flag state duties appear to have been omitted from the tabulation and we suggest that, for the sake of completeness, these should be included. Specifically we suggest the inclusion of the duties of flag states to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, such as included inter alia in the Chemical Weapons Convention. Parties to that Convention are obliged to prohibit natural and legal persons in any place under their jurisdiction as recognized by international law from undertaking any activity prohibited under the Convention, including enacting penal legislation with respect to such activity. Other non-proliferation instruments make similar provision.

Finally, we hope that the valuable co-operation and co-ordination undertaken by the relevant specialised agencies and other international organisations in preparing the Report of the Consultative Group will continue within the framework of the UN Oceans Network once that is established.

Thank you, Mr. Co-Chairman.


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