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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. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.

Three years after the adoption of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, the problem of small arms and light weapons worldwide has, unfortunately, not diminished in any significant way. While statistics on this issue vary, reliable estimates show that the global stockpiles of these weapons amount today to over 600 million units. The European Union remains convinced that the excessive and destabilising accumulation and transfer of small arms and light weapons threaten international security, as well as socio-economic stability, and have very serious humanitarian implications.

In conflict and post-conflict situations alike, the toll imposed on innocent civilians caused by the wide availability and use of small arms and light weapons remains dramatically high. They also represent a threat to peace-keeping forces and to members of non-governmental organisations, present on the ground, throughout the world. We owe it to them all to reduce this threat.

Mr. Chairman,

Many of the world’s conflicts are fuelled by the easy supply and availability of small arms. The ease with which they can be concealed and moved, their relatively low cost, and violations of Security Council arms embargoes make it extremely difficult to retrieve and remove these weapons from the equation. It makes sense, therefore, to do everything possible to stop their supply at source or to prevent their diversion from legitimate purposes.

The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is recognised as a primary factor in sustaining conflicts, exacerbating violence, contributing to displacement, fuelling crime and terrorism. Arms control activities, including, in particular, measures to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, remain an essential dimension, therefore, for conflict prevention and resolution, as well as for the success of peace-building efforts.

The experience of the last three years has confirmed that the success of efforts aimed at countering and eradicating the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons strongly relies on effective export control regulations and their effective implementation. It is evident, however, that loopholes still exist in this field, and that further action is needed.

The problem of the excessive and destabilising accumulations of small arms is a global one, requiring a coordinated response at national, sub-regional, regional and international levels. The response also needs to be comprehensive if we are to address effectively this complex and multifaceted issue, involving, inter alia, factors such as international and internal security, trade, civil-military relations, the role of weapons in societies, human rights and humanitarian concerns and the impact on development.

The Small Arms Survey 2003 puts it succinctly when it says that “the challenge is and will be to develop an adequate conceptual, political and practical framework, within which all relevant dimensions of the problem can be tackled.”

Mr. Chairman,

Through its political support and its financial contribution to small arms and light weapon initiatives the EU has proven the consistency of its engagement. The EU can justly claim to be one of the major international actors in the fight against the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

The EU Joint Action on Combating the Destabilising Accumulation and Spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons which was adopted by the European Council in July 2002 specifies the Union’s contribution to specific actions with a view to the provision of financial and technical assistance to programmes and projects in the field of small arms and light weapons. Further financial and technical assistance is provided through the European Development Fund and different EC instruments within the framework of projects addressing post conflict rehabilitation and the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of ex-combatants.

Mr. Chairman,

The European Union considers that the issue of marking and tracing is of primary importance in the action to eradicate illegal trade channels. Tracing, in particular through appropriate, permanent and indelible marking, is an essential element for effective action by national authorities. In this connection, the formulation of a legally binding instrument would contribute towards a global solution. It is clear that the international community must press ahead in the development of common marking standards as well as to agree on common procedures- both at the level of national legislation and international cooperation- to track small arms and light weapons or ammunition from their origin to the last identified user.

We recall that in 2002, the Secretary-General of the United Nations recommended that the Security Council might call upon member states to support the development of an international instrument to enable states to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons.

The European Union does not underestimate the challenge of work on making the marking and tracing of thousands of small arms and light weapons a reality but is convinced of the necessity of such an approach. We believe that we all share the concern for the suffering caused by uncontrolled flows and destabilising accumulations of small arms and light weapons. Therefore, the European Union welcomes the adoption of resolution 58/241 that established the OEWG to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit SALW. The European Union also welcomes the conclusions of the UN group of experts and is convinced that a multilateral, legally binding instrument in this field would yield considerable progress, first and foremost in enhancing the means and quality of establishing evidence against the illegal traders and those engaged in terrorist activities.

As the Secretary General of the United Nations has noted, tracing depends primarily on three factors: adequate marking, accurate and comprehensive record-keeping and international cooperation and exchange of information. We would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your excellent non-paper which provides a most valuable and comprehensive summary of the issues which we need to address over the next two weeks. We believe that this paper provides not only a useful point of departure but an important focus for our work.

The EU believes that the new instrument should require States Parties to adopt common standards in SALW marking that enables the identification of the manufacturers and of serial numbers worldwide. To this end, the manufacturer’s unique mark should be applied to the essential components of each weapon, the destruction of which would make it definitively inoperable.

Tracing of small arms and light weapons must be based on comprehensive and accurate record keeping on the manufacture, holding and transfer of small arms and light weapons, including- for international transactions – information on the issuance and expiration dates of relevant authorisations, on countries of export, import and transit, on final recipients and on description and quantity of relevant arms.

The new instrument should, in our view, foresee increased cooperation between Member States and exchange – on the basis of confidentiality – of information relevant to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons. Such cooperation should be extended to the United Nations Security Council in the context of its arms embargoes, and to UN peacekeeping missions.

Mr. Chairman,

The EU regards the UN Register of Conventional Arms as a global transparency and confidence-building measure, and welcomes the recent decision taken on expanding its scope. The widest participation by member States in the Register would greatly enhance its value, and the EU therefore reiterates its call on all States to submit timely returns of their imports and exports to the Register, including information on military holdings and procurement through national production.

Stopping the flow of small arms at source through efforts aimed at preventing their diversion from legitimate purposes implies the implementation and enforcement of national laws and regulations controlling the manufacture, production, import, export, possession, and trade in small arms and also through cooperative efforts at sub-regional, regional and global levels. In this regard, the EU co-sponsored resolution A/RES/58/55 on “Promotion at the regional level in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of the United Nations programme of action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” at last year’s First Committee, which reaffirms the importance of ongoing efforts at the regional and sub-regional levels.

Export controls are an essential tool in helping to curtail illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. One measure to improve control over the export and transit of small arms and light weapons would be to enhance the effectiveness of end-user certificates. The European Union continues to advocate enhanced international action in this area.

Controls on brokers and on brokering is an area of particular concern and one to which the EU is paying priority attention. Illicit brokering and trafficking are recognised as among the main factors fuelling the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons around the world. I therefore wish to draw your attention to the adoption by the European Union, in June 2003, of a common position on arms brokering, requiring member states to introduce legislation in order effectively to control the activities of brokers.

The European Union believes that the work of the OEWG will make a significant contribution to the full implementation of the 2001 UN Programme of Action and to the success of its First Review Conference in 2006.

Mr. Chairman,

The EU would also recall that the 1999 UN Report of the Group of Experts on the problem of ammunition and explosives (A/54/155) found that measures to control small arms and light weapons would not be complete if they did not include ammunition and explosives. The report recommended, inter alia, the adoption by States of rules for the collection of data on production, stocks and transfers of ammunition and the establishment of a common minimum standard for the marking of ammunition.

The EU further notes that the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms has recognised ammunition to be a cause of concern in conflicts affected by small arms and light weapons. The EU repealed Joint Action 1999/34/CFSP accordingly, replacing with a new Joint Action (2002/589/CFSP) adopted on 12 July 2002 which includes a number of references to ammunition of small arms and light weapons. Ammunition is also covered in both the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

The EU is convinced that illicit trafficking in ammunition can have equally devastating consequences as illicit trafficking in weapons. Ammunition and weapons are often obtained from the same sources and are sold by the same people through the same channels. We believe that our current deliberations on an international instrument on marking and tracing of illicit SALW offer an important opportunity to make progress also in respect of illicit trafficking in ammunition and we would welcome the views of other participants in this regard.

Finally, the European Union underlines the important contribution that civil society and other actors, particularly the arms industry, can provide towards the establishment of effective mechanisms for tracing illicit SALW.

Mr. Chairman,

The European Union in particular wishes to commend you for your very useful and comprehensive consultations over the past several months. We wish to assure you of the EU’s continued support for your work. We would also like to thank the Department for Disarmament Affairs for its invaluable assistance to this Working Group.

I would like to assure you of the preparedness of the European Union to work closely with you and other delegations during this meeting to make good progress on discussions of an international instrument to enable states to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons. We very much hope that these discussions will be fruitful and that these will pave the way for further negotiations early next year.

Thank you.


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