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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 welcomes the focus of discussion at this year’s Informal Consultative Process. It offers us an ideal opportunity to build on the efforts of recent years to enhance co-operation on sustainable use of the oceans, including at last year’s ICP and the General Assembly debate on Oceans and the Law of the Sea last autumn, and at the Seventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur in February.

Under the Plan of Implementation adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg in 2002 all States have committed themselves to undertaking a series of concrete actions and measures:

  • to maintain the productivity and biodiversity of important and vulnerable marine areas, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction;
  • to develop and facilitate the use of diverse approaches and tools, including the ecosystem approach, the elimination of destructive fishing practices, the establishment of marine protected areas consistent with international law and based on scientific information, including representative networks by 2012, and time/area closures for the protection of nursery grounds; and
  • to develop national, regional and international programmes for halting the loss of marine biodiversity, including in coral reefs and wetlands.The Plan of Implementation also calls for a more efficient and coherent implementation of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the achievement by 2010 of a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity.

    The European Union has already taken several measures towards meeting these objectives of the Plan of Implementation. In 2002 we adopted our 6th Environmental Action Programme to cover the period to 2012. The Programme aims to protect, conserve and restore the structure and functioning of natural systems and habitats in order to halt the loss of biodiversity, including the diversity of genetic resources, both in the European Union and on a global scale. This will require greater focus on prevention of biodiversity loss and on implementation of the precautionary principle.

    We have also recognised that there is scope for improving internal policy coherence by further integrating sustainability goals into EU policies. The 2002 reforms of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy will lead to the progressive implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management that respects safe biological limits and requires the application of the precautionary approach in taking measures to protect and conserve living aquatic resources.

    The European Union will shortly adopt a comprehensive thematic strategy for the protection and conservation of the marine environment with the overall aim of promoting sustainable use of the seas and conserving marine ecosystems. The Strategy will set out the actions required to ensure that all human activities with an impact upon the oceans and seas are managed so that marine biological diversity and important habitats are conserved and use of them is sustainable. It will apply to activity in the seas around Europe but will also address the impact that the European Union makes on the rest of the world’s oceans and seas and it will guide the development and implementation of the ecosystem approach across Union policy and action, drawing on existing work in other fora, including within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    In this connection the European Union welcomes the outcome of the Seventh Conference of Parties to that Convention. There it was concluded that there is now an urgent need for international cooperation and action to improve conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, including the establishment of marine protected areas consistent with international law, and based on scientific information, including in areas such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold-water corals and other vulnerable ecosystems. The European Union supports this conclusion. Already this year measures have been taken to close the deep water coral system known as the Darwin Mounds off the coast of Scotland to fishing. Similar measures concerning areas off the Azores and the Canary Islands are in preparation.

    We believe that the General Assembly should move now to invite all states to implement, on a case by case basis and where justified on a scientific basis, including the application of precaution, an interim prohibition of destructive practices under their jurisdiction or control that have an adverse impact on vulnerable ecosystems located beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. When this and other measures are justified, and in order to ensure a co-ordinated response, they should be taken through regional fisheries management organisations where competent.

    In the absence of a universal instrument several relevant global and regional international organisations are competent to regulate different types of human activity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (such as fishing, navigation and mining for instance). Co-ordination of the measures available to these organisations, or already taken by them, to achieve protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction in an integrated manner is essential. Such co-ordination will be facilitated by the development of a fuller appreciation of the dangers faced by these ecosystems and the measures we already have at our disposal.

    The European Union looks forward to completion of the reports sought by the General Assembly last autumn, to be compiled by the Secreatry General in collaboration with the relevant global and regional bodies, concerning the threats and risks to vulnerable and threatened marine ecosystems and biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Once the reports have been completed the European Union believes that the General Assembly should request the Secretary General to convene an inter-agency task force comprised of relevant agencies, organisations and programmes of the United Nations system. It should be asked to formulate specific proposals for co-ordinating measures for the identification of individual vulnerable marine ecosystems beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and also proposals for improving co-ordination of measures to protect such ecosystems. Its proposals should be the subject of a report to states by the Secretary General which should made available in time for next year’s ICP. States in turn may decide to take further action through the General Assembly.

    There is at present no single legal instrument under which vulnerable marine ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction may be identified and protected in an integrated manner. Nor is there one detailed comprehensive legal regime regulating the conservation and management of the living resources of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction or of the genetic material of such resources. In principle the European Union would support the development of an instrument, within the framework of the Law of the Sea Convention, that will provide for the conservation and management of marine biological diversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, including the establishment and regulation, on an integrated basis, of marine protected areas where there is a scientific case for establishing these areas.

    Additionally the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in consultation with the International Seabed Authority and others and in collaboration with relevant international organisations, has been asked by the Conference of Parties to that Convention to compile a comprehensive study of the genetic resources of the seabed and ocean floor in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. This study will consider methods for identifying, monitoring and assessing these resources, will compile information on their status, including the threats they face, and will identify options for their protection. When this report has been completed a new task force could also be asked to bring forward proposals for better co-ordination of protective measures concerning these resources.

    Thank you, Mr. Co-Chairman.

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