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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. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Associated Countries – Cyprus and Malta, align themselves with this state-ment.

This year sees the commemoration of the first two decades of the life of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Its entry into force eight years ago was of the greatest importance for the establishment of a comprehensive international legal framework for ocean governance. This year also took place the World Summit on Sustainable Development, ten years after the Rio Summit. The EU believes that the results of the Johannesburg Summit constitute a framework for actions to be taken in the following years, to be further developed and implemented by the Member States, the UN System and its organizations.

The agenda item “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” underlines how the oceans and the rule of law have become inseparable. The Convention, reaffirming rules of customary law and previous conventions, at the same gave birth to the new law of the sea and inspired important international agreements governing the oceans in numerous aspects, in particular management of ocean resources and protection of the marine environment. Given its comprehensive role for the legal regime of the world’s oceans, universal acceptance of the Convention as well as all related agreements is highly important. It is also essential that all Parties act in strict conformity with the Convention. In this regard, the EU remains preoccupied by States having made declarations that appear in fact to be reservations excluding or modifying the legal effect of certain provisions of the Convention. As the Convention clearly states in article 309 that reservations may not be made, such declarations cannot have any legal effect. Further, the EU does not accept the implementation by States Parties of national legislation not consistent with the Convention.

The EU believes that the results of the Johannesburg Summit constitute a framework for actions to be taken in the following years, to be further developed and implemented by the Member States, the UN System and its organizations.

The EU notes with satisfaction that the institutions established under the Conven-tion keep functioning well. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which has a crucial role to play in maintaining the integrity of the Convention as a whole, keeps consolidating its role. The International Court of Justice’s docket still includes a considerable number of cases concerning maritime delimitation disputes. The International Seabed Authority continues its considerations relating to the regulations for prospecting and exploration for polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts in the Area. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has concluded its work on the very first submission.

In view of the importance of the smooth functioning of these bodies, the EU wishes to reiterate the imperative need for States Parties of paying their contributions on time.

The EU attaches great importance to the Trust Funds referred to in Part XVI of this year’s draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, namely those established for the purpose of assisting States in the settlement of disputes through the Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and to facilitate the participation by the largest possible number of delegations in the sessions of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans. EU Member States, such as the United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland have already contributed to these Trust Funds.

The EU welcomes the achievements of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place in Johannesburg in August/September this year. The Summit resulted in remarkably improved prospects for a more action-oriented implementation of Agenda 21, and in particular on its chapter 17 on the oceans. The EU contributed significantly to the outcome of the Summit and is determined to play an active role in the continued process. Among others, through its international scientific cooperation in the 6th Framework Programme for Research, the European Union will offer opportunities for research on marine protected areas in response to the WSSD decision to restore degraded aquatic ecosystems by 2015.

Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro new international legal instruments have been adopted. However, this legislation does not suffice to prevent existing problems from growing, and new ones from arising. Still we have too much pollution, over-fishing, maritime safety problems as well as rising crime rates and many other preoccupying issues. To some extent, this is due to the insufficient level of implementation and enforcement by States of international law already in existence.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development this year agreed on important decisions in connection with the oceans such as the decision to establish an effective, transparent and regular inter-agency coordination mechanism on ocean and coastal issues within the UN system; the need to strengthen the IOC as a focal point for research; the targets and timetables approved as far as biodiversity; fish stocks; establishment of a network of marine protected areas by 2012; the establishment under UN of a regular process of reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment by 2004.

The lack of implementation of international rules has, however, not been an obstacle to commit states to develop action plans in EU that meet the requirements of international rules on integration of environmental concerns into the common fishery policy.

Still one of the most preoccupying problems related to oceans and the seas has been and still is the deteriorating state of marine living resources, mainly due to over-fishing.

In the EU we have taken several steps to achieve a better balance between the fluctuating marine fish resources and the fishing effort, the most important being the revision of the Common Fisheries Policy before the end of this year. We take some important steps towards a better management system and fleet and structure policy. We also look at our control and enforcement.

In some respect too much money has been invested in the fishing fleet and it has resulted in over-capacity because there is less available fish to make investments profitable. It leads to violation of fishing rules and over-exploitation of fish resources. Reducing global fishing over-capacity has to be solved. The EU wishes to reiterate its concerns on over-fishing.

The EU welcomes the strengthening of regional fisheries bodies and encourages them to further develop measures to combat IUU fishing. The regional bodies themselves must respect the law of the sea and be open to all States and entities – including the European Union – still having a real interest in the fisheries concer-ned. Finally, the EU wishes to stress that, in general, success of reducing IUU fishing depends above all on the willingness and ability of States, coastal, flag as well as port States, to accept and implement the relevant international instruments.

The reduction and control of pollution also requires further action by the international community. We must never forget that when we reduce pollution it does not disappear. However it goes without saying, that our efforts to reduce pollution should continue. Any small amount of pollution will add to the total pollution. And nature is not always able to decompose all accumulated poison which can be returned to us in different shapes such as dioxine in fish and polar bears causing reproduction problems. The EU favours the development of an integrated approach to coastal zone management and to the catchment basin as a whole that takes into account the ecosystems concerned. This is reflected in the 6th Research Framework Programme of the European Communities. Within this Programme, research dedicated to understanding the functioning of marine ecosystems will be carried out. This research will help to minimize the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems, thereby contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources in marine ecosystems and the protection of genetic assets. Combating pollution is also one of the key issues in the Marine Thematic Strategy. At the international level, UNEP continues to be the main focal point and major player in this field.

The EU is deeply concerned about the serious impact incidents at sea have on the marine environment. In the case of the most recent incident of wreckage of the oil tanker PRESTIGE off the coast of Spain we have seen yet another serious pollution caused by an old single hull tanker. It is of utmost importance that maritime safety policy is improved to reduce the risk of incidents, avoid loss of human lives and prevent marine pollution. A number of important initiatives have been taken as a result of other serious incidents for example the ERIKA. Nevertheless the PRESTIGE incident clearly shows that there is a need for further measures to pursue and improve maritime safety in order to reduce the risk of serious marine-based pollution. Maritime safety and pollution prevention are common goals that should go beyond national or regional differences. The EU therefore strongly supports the International Maritime Organisation as the prime regulator of maritime safety and prevention of maritime pollution. The EU wishes to help identify weaknesses and gaps in the international regulations and their implementation and to address them in the appropriate forum. The same goes for the strengthening of the regulation of maritime security, where intensive negotiations are currently on-going within the IMO.

Under UNCLOS ships of all nations enjoy the right of transit passage or innocent passage through international straits, which may not be impeded. On the other hand, a coastal State has a legitimate right to protect itself from pollution by adopting laws relating to the safety of navigation. These measures include designation of sea lanes and traffic separation schemes, which have to be approved by the IMO. Yet, the concept of compulsory pilotage regimes within international straits remains controversial. The EU wishes to support sustained efforts through the relevant channels to elevate the status of certain international straits from recommended to compulsory pilotage.

As the General Assembly noted with deep concern over the last years, the marine environment continues to degrade as a result of pollution by dumping of hazardous waste. The entry into force of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter should not be delayed. The EU urges all States to ratify the 1996 Protocol, so that it can replace the 1973 Convention as the sole international global regime regulating the dumping of waste at sea.

Efficient governance of oceans, based on the principle of sustainable development and protection of the marine environment, requires sufficient understanding of all aspects of oceans and seas. Marine science is therefore an essential element for a sound decision-making process, in particular regarding the management of marine ecosystems, the integrated management of oceans and coastal areas and maritime operations. The approach to understanding needs to be integrated, interdisciplinary and intersectoral. In this respect we thank FAO and Iceland for organizing the Reykjavík Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem 1-4 October last year and Norway for sponsoring it. The Conference is an important contribution to develop the integration of an ecosystem approach into fishery policy. And we expect some useful contributions to this process from the FAO Expert Consultation on Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management 16-19 September 2002 in Reykjavík, Iceland. In the EU we will pay attention to the environmental concerns when we negotiate new fisheries agreements.

Concrete results in marine scientific research will depend highly on capacity-building at both the national and regional levels, and the transfer of technology. In the EU we will encourage a better cooperation and coordination of marine scientific research in fisheries and environment. Current efforts to strengthen capacity- building should be continued and kept under review, in order to ensure that emerging problems and priorities are addressed. Furthermore we need to elaborate better co-ordinated data-collecting systems. Improved data will improve our understanding of how marine ecosystems function and help us to manage them bet-ter.

New scientific methods and findings emerge gradually and it is important that those involved in scientific programmes maintain an ongoing dialogue among themselves as well as in relation to governments and international organizations. The International Science and Technology Cooperation (INCO) of the EU is a good example of practising scientific and technological partnership for sustainable development. The need for coordination at international level is being addressed through bi-regional Science and Technology dialogue e.g. with Asia (ASEM), ACP, Latin America and the Caribbean (REALC).

Progress in marine scientific research and monitoring will depend on strengthened global action to ensure that marine science is conducted towards the needs of the policy makers. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is the main focal point in these fields and we therefore welcome the Johannesburg decision to strengthen the IOC. Initiatives such as the Global Ocean Observing System, which is promoted by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the World Meteorological Organisation, The United Nations Envi-ronment Programme and the International Council of Scientific Unions, are to be encouraged. In this regard we welcome the decision to be taken by the General Assembly to establish a mechanism of regular reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment by 2004 as recommended by WSSD. The General Assembly at its 56th session granted observer status at the UN to the International Hydrographic Organization. The Parties of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea celebrated its centenary in Copenhagen in October this year, adopting a Declaration on the future ICES strategy reaffirming inter alia their commitment to the organization and to strengthening its role.

The EU also strongly encourages an increased cooperation between the United Nations Environmental Programme and other UN agencies and programmes, in particular the IOC as far as marine science is concerned, as well as between UNEP and relevant regional organizations, NGO’s and other actors in ocean affairs.

Piracy and armed robbery have been on the international agenda for many years now. The considerable number of incidents has caused serious international con-cern and many actions have been taken over the years to deal with this problem. The crimes of piracy and armed robbery are indeed a serious threat to seafarers and international commercial shipping that require continuous focus and new efforts from States and international organisations.

Considering that most acts of piracy and armed robbery and other crimes take place in territorial waters and ports, the coastal States have, in view of their exclusive jurisdiction over these waters and ports, a special responsibility to prevent these criminal acts and prosecute their perpetrators.

The ability to make effective responses to piracy and armed robbery is substantially enhanced when regional cooperation arrangements are in place. This cooperation should build upon the experience in judicial co-operation gained in other areas and might also include essential other issues, such as the development of measures for prevention, for reporting incidents, and for enforcement.

Some coastal States have taken initiatives to prevent and combat piracy and armed robbery. These efforts are very important to prevent further increase in the number of incidents and they show that a number of countries handle this matter seriously. The EU welcomes these initiatives and strongly urges the coastal States that have not already done so to adopt legislation to ensure that there is a proper framework for responses to incidents of armed robbery at sea and to reinforce their regional cooperation in this matter.

One of the recent initiatives in the efforts to combat piracy was the EU – ASEAN Experts’ Meeting on Maritime Security in Manila in February 2002. The result of the meeting was a number of constructive proposals for further international and regional cooperation.

The ability of States to make effective responses to the many challenges in ocean affairs is substantially enhanced when regional cooperation arrangements are in place. At the global level, the International Maritime Organization needs to continue to play the leading role and should remain the forum for developing effective responses to incidents of piracy and armed robbery. The EU welcomes the actions undertaken so far by the IMO, such as the development of a Code of Practice for Investigations and the preparation of amendments to SOLAS adding special mea-sures to enhance maritime security, and encourages the IMO to continue its work. The EU urges States to support the efforts of the IMO, as well as corresponding initiatives in other organisations, such as the ILO and the WCO.

Several episodes of international terrorism have outraged the international com-munity and shown the terrorists’ incomprehensible contempt for human lives. In-ternational terrorism is on the international agenda – also when it comes to maritime security – and the international community has shown its will to combat terrorism. The IMO has once again proved itself to be an effective UN organisation, and the amendments to enhance maritime security are expected to be adopted as soon as December this year. The EU strongly supports these international initiatives on maritime security.

The EU appreciates the work of IMO and other international organisations to combat these illicit acts and ensure the safety at sea and urge the organisations and States to give continuous priority to this issue to enhance the safety of our seafarers, the safety at sea and trade in the areas affected. The EU calls upon States to become Parties to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and its Protocol, as well as the Convention against Organized Transnational Crime and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and urges their effective implementation.

Several incidents involving the rescue of illegal migrants in distress at sea all underline the necessity of finding more binding and enforceable solutions. It is indeed a topic, which raises concern and needs urgently to be dealt with by the international community. Apart from the human tragedy involved, which can affect any region in the world, the growing number of persons found in distress at sea raises a wide range of political and legal questions, pertaining inter alia to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1974 Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea. This difficult issue, which involves various levels of competences, should be addressed in a comprehensive and serene manner with the aim of finding adequate international long-term solutions. The EU, recognizing the work being done at both the IMO and the UNHCR, therefore calls for strengthened international cooperation, which should be focused on providing information in order to prevent persons from undertaking hazardous journeys by sea, preventing ship owners and masters from illegally transporting migrants by sea, and on developing and harmonising procedures to deliver persons in distress at sea quickly to a place of safety. In this regard, a possible debate on the latter issue at a future session of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans might be helpful.

The complexity of the international regime of the oceans and seas is enormous. International coordination and cooperation is becoming even more imperative to ensure implementation of all existing norms in a coherent manner and assess the needs for future action at national, regional, interregional and global level. The General Assembly, conscious of the close relationship among aspects of oceans, recognized this by creating an informal process to discuss ocean matters in an integrated way, based on the Convention and Agenda 21, and to suggest particular issues to be considered by the Assembly.

The Informal Consultative Process on oceans, which held its third session from 8 to 15 April 2002, has again very satisfactorily fulfilled its mandate by providing a substantial input for a better understanding of oceans and highlighting issues for common action. The EU welcomes the decision to be taken by this Plenary to continue the Informal Consultative Process for another three years in accordance with resolution 54/33 and looks forward to participating actively at its meeting next year. We welcome a stronger focus by the ICP on concrete and practical issues, including developments on issues discussed at previous meetings.

The EU had expected the Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas of the Administrative Committee on Coordination to play a major role for the improvement of inter-agency coordination and cross-sectoral cooperation on ocean affairs within the UN system. From the report of the Secretary General we have learnt, however, that the Subcommittee has been dissolved.

We believe more constructive thinking ought to be given to improved inter-agency cooperation and coordination within the existing UN system without letting the process become institutionalized or bureaucratized. The resolution to be adopted invites the Secretary-General to establish within the UN system an effective, transparent and regular inter-agency coordination mechanism on ocean and coastal issues. We look forward to seeing constructive developments in this regard.

Finally, I would like to thank the Secretary General and the Secretariat, in particular the Division on Oceans and Law of the Sea, for his comprehensive and valuable report on oceans and the law of the sea. The report traditionally serves as a basis for the debate in the General Assembly and also for the discussion within the framework of the Informal Consultative Process on oceans. In this context, the EU underlines the importance of the input to the report on oceans and the law of the sea provided by intergovernmental organizations, specialized agencies and funds and programmes of the United Nations engaged in ocean affairs.

I thank you, Mr. President.


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