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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.

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Mr. President, 

I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro  and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.

Mr. President,

Today we celebrate thirty years from when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea opened for signature on 10 December 1982 at Montego Bay, Jamaica, one of the most important instruments adopted in the twentieth century. The States that negotiated the Convention on the Law of the Sea, also for the best of reasons referred to as the “Constitution of the Oceans and Seas”, were prompted by the desire to settle, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, all issues relating to the law of the sea and by their awareness of the historic significance of the Convention as an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world.

The achievements the Convention embodies are immense. It crystalises the realisation of an old idea encapsulated in Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta’s seminal speech delivered on 1 November 1967 before the General Assembly, leading eventually to the adoption of the Convention. Important implementing instruments have been adopted such as the Implementing Agreement to Part XI that paved the way for the Convention’s entry into force in 1994, and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 1995.  Hopefully, a decision would also be agreed without delay to initiate negotiations for an Implementing Agreement on conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

Today, celebrating thirty years from that historical moment, the Convention is strengthening its near universality, with 164 States Parties, and embodies the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. Today, we pay tribute to the negotiators of the Convention from all States that participated in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, and to all those who contributed to its adoption, entry into force, and eventually, its universal acceptance.  We warmly welcome Ecuador and Swaziland, the two new parties to the Convention and to the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI. The EU therefore continues to call upon those States that have not yet done so to accede to the Convention, the 1995 Agreement, as well as to the Agreement on the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention.

Mr. President,

The EU considers that one of the major events held this year was the third UN Conference on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as Rio+20, and thanks the Government of Brazil for hosting the conference and their hard work which allowed for a successful outcome. The EU participated fully in the negotiations and is thus particularly pleased that the global community recognised the importance of oceans and seas and their resources and the associated threats with respect to continued sustainable development.  The EU is also pleased to see that all States agreed to reflect the outcome from this Conference in the Resolutions on Oceans and Law of the Sea and the Sustainable Fisheries. In particular, the EU wishes to highlight here some of the most important topics which were tackled in the outcome document, “The Future We Want”: marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, sustainable fisheries, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, marine pollution including marine debris and the impacts of climate change particularly sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

Once again this year, the EU demonstrated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as to the 1995 Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks by actively participating in discussions which led to drawing up the resolutions that have been submitted to the General Assembly today. The EU firmly believes that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a factor for stability, peace and progress, and that it holds special importance in a difficult international context. At the same time, the EU would like to reiterate the importance it attaches to preserving the Convention’s integrity and its pre-eminent role as the legal framework for all ocean issues and ocean related activities.

Mr. President,

Turning now to the Resolutions before us for adoption, on Oceans and the law of the sea and on Sustainable Fisheries, the EU would like to express its appreciation for the excellent cooperation by all delegations during the negotiations of both Resolutions.

We welcome the fact that the UNGA Omnibus resolution once again recognizes the scale of the challenge and the amount of effort required to combat piracy and armed robbery that affects a wide range of vessels engaged in maritime activities. Furthermore, the EU would like to reiterate its deep concern about piracy which is detrimental to the safety of persons and property, whether it is vessels attacked and sometimes hijacked, or prisoners held for ransom. In this context, the EU remains committed to combat piracy and undertakes efforts in that regard in particular in the framework of its operation EU NAVFOR ATALANTA.

Mr. President,

Other major challenges, such as the declining quality of the marine environment and the continued loss of marine biodiversity, persist. Marine biodiversity is being threatened and time is running out if we are to comply with the schedule established by the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (“Johannesburg Plan of Implementation”), as well as the relevant Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In this context, the EU would like to highlight its support for the initiatives to protect the marine environment taken, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, under the auspices of Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as in the framework of regional cooperation.

In various forums, the EU has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the loss of marine biodiversity, and supported the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group. The EU welcomes the meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group, convened in New York from 7 to 11 May 2012 in accordance with paragraph 168 of resolution 66/231, within the process initiated by the General Assembly in resolution 66/231, with a view to ensuring that the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction effectively addresses those issues by identifying gaps and ways forward, including through the implementation of existing instruments and the possible development of a multilateral agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The EU is satisfied with the exchange of views at that meeting and endorses its recommendations, and recalls that, in “The Future We Want”, States, building on the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group and before the end of sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, committed to address, on an urgent basis, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr. President,

At a time when the international scientific community must inspire the work of States and international organizations, the EU recognizes the relevance of the Regular Process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, and welcomes the fact that the recommendations adopted by the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole were endorsed in the omnibus resolution.  We also welcome the initiation of the second phase of the first cycle of the Regular Process and that the deadline for the first integrated assessment is 2014.  In this context, the EU also welcomes the regional workshops already hosted in Chile, China and Belgium.

The resolution addresses also the concerns raised by the issue of climate change and its effects on the oceans, seas and living resources. To respond to the debates within the international community, the resolution equally takes into account various issues relating to such phenomena as ocean eutrophication, acidification, fertilization, CO2 discharge into the atmosphere and greenhouse gases emissions. The international community must take an active role, in accordance with the Law of the Sea, in this preventive movement for the environment. In this regard, the EU welcomes the choice of topic for the 14th meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process, which will deal with ocean acidification Looking back, the EU is satisfied with the outcome of this year’s meeting concerning marine renewable energies which has been useful in providing an overview of developments in this field and which will help us to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which the EU believes are responsible for climate change.

The EU is appreciative of the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in discharging of its mandate. We also duly welcome the decisions of the 22nd Meeting of States Parties to the Convention regarding the work of the Commission.

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Mr. President,

Turning now to the Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, the EU would like to reiterate its strong commitment to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, which it considers operationalizes the general principles contained in the Convention with regard to the management of highly migratory and straddling stocks. For this purpose, while acknowledging the reserves of some States, we continue to believe that effective implementation of this Agreement is necessary for correct management of these stocks and consequently to exhort all States to become parties. In this respect, the EU welcomes the new parties to this Agreement, Morocco and Bangladesh.

Furthermore, the EU would like to express its strong belief in the role of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations or Arrangements (RFMO/As) in the sustainable management of the fisheries resource and highly values the performance reviews undertaken by a number of them. Therefore, the EU is pleased that this year’s resolution encourages the RFMOs/As to continue this exercise and to undertake such reviews on a regular basis.

Mr. President,

The EU views this Resolution as one which should highlight the most important and topical issues concerning sustainable fisheries. Thus, we are pleased to see that this Resolution acknowledges the need for proper management of Fish Aggregating Devices including data collection as well as the greater importance given to the protection of sharks.

The EU would like to reiterate once more its appreciation for the work done by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and particularly the work of the Committee on Fisheries. We hold that the work of this Committee complements what we try to achieve with the Sustainable Fisheries Resolution and consequently, have been happy to endorse the outcomes of the thirtieth meeting of this Committee including the work on deep-sea species, marine species occupying low trophic levels, the Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels and the guidelines to assist competent authorities in the implementation of voluntary instruments on the design, construction and equipment of fishing vessels and a new safety standard for small fishing vessels.

The safety of fishers and fishing vessels is indeed important for the EU consequently we welcome that this Resolution refers to the new Cape Town Agreement and we call upon States to become party to this Agreement so that it can enter into force at the earliest opportunity.

Lastly, Mr. President,

The EU would like to express its gratitude to the Secretariat and to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for the work done during the year, including the preparation of the annual report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, as an invaluable compilation of recent developments. We would also like to thank the coordinators of the two resolutions for their unrelenting efforts to reach a consensus.

Mr. President, thank you very much.


*Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.


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