Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report



EU Common Position on the fight against ballistic missile proliferation.

Legal base: Article 15 EU; unanimity
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM and Minister's letter of 13 July 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
Adopted in Council: 23 July 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


9.1 The Missile Technology (Export) Control Regime (MTCR) seeks to control exports that could contribute to the development of long-range missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction. 33 countries, including all the EU Member States, participate.

The draft International Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation

9.2 According to the Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain), writing on 13 July on behalf of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Ben Bradshaw), the MTCR countries have long understood that export controls alone are not the total answer. On the basis of a British draft, the MTCR has developed a draft International Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation (ICOC) which incorporates a set of principles, commitments and transparency measures. These establish, for the first time, norms aimed at preventing proliferation of these missiles.

9.3 The Minister elaborates on his letter in an Explanatory Memorandum, also dated 13 July. He explains that the MTCR is engaged in an effort to attract support for the ICOC from the rest of the international community. In September, at its Plenary meeting in Ottawa, he expected the MTCR to aim to reach decisions on the process and timetable for moving the ICOC towards adoption, at an international conference, as an international instrument.

The Common Position

9.4 The draft Common Position refers to the adoption by the Göteborg European Council on 15/16 June of a Declaration on the prevention of proliferation of ballistic missiles[20] and the General Affairs Council Conclusions of 14 May 2001.[21]

9.5 The Common Position stresses that the issue of proliferation of these missiles is of concern to the EU. Strengthening international norms and political instruments to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is of "prime importance" to the EU and it sees an urgent need for a global and multilateral approach to complement existing efforts against proliferation.

9.6 The EU therefore strongly supports the draft Code, which has been drawn up by the members of the MTCR and distributed to all countries, inviting them to support it. The Common Position describes the initiative as the most advanced in this field and one which provides the best chance of achieving results in the short term.

The Government's view

9.7 The Minister makes it clear in his letter and his Explanatory Memorandum that the Government has played a leading role in this initiative. He comments that the Common Position formalises the strong support of the EU for the Code, which he says he expected would be adopted by the Council on 23 July.

Further developments

9.8 The Government has provided us with an unofficial text of the draft ICOC, which was endorsed by the MTCR in Ottawa. We understand that it will be discussed further, this time with non-MTCR as well as MTCR countries, and will form the basis of a draft political agreement. This will be a politically, but not legally, binding document, which it is hoped will be adopted at a conference before the end of 2002 in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the French Government has been given the task of taking forward attempts to secure wider participation from the international community.

9.9 The draft Common Position was adopted on 23 July as an 'A' point, that is without discussion in the Council.

Unofficial text of the draft ICOC

9.10 In the draft text revised at Ottawa, the principles include:

  • recognition of the need to prevent and curb the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and the need to undertake appropriate international endeavours, including through the Code;

  • recognition that participation in this Code is voluntary and open to all States; and

  • recognition that space vehicle launch programmes should not be used to conceal ballistic missile programmes.

9.11 The general measures include commitments:

    "— to ratify, accede to or otherwise abide by:

      (a) the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies;

      (b) the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects; and

      (c) the convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space;

    "— to curb and prevent the proliferation of Ballistic Missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, both at a global and regional level through multilateral, bilateral and national endeavours; and

    "— to exercise maximum possible restraint in the development, testing and deployment of Ballistic Missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, including, where possible, to reduce national holdings of such missiles, in the interest of global and regional peace and security".

9.12 To increase confidence, the subscribing states resolve to implement transparency measures, "with an appropriate and sufficient degree of detail". These are listed as:

    "i) With respect to Ballistic Missile programmes to:

      — make an annual declaration providing an outline of their Ballistic Missile policies. Examples of openness in such declarations might be relevant information on Ballistic Missile systems and land (test-) launch sites; and

      — provide annual information on the number and generic class of Ballistic Missiles launched during the preceding year, as declared in conformity with the pre-launch notification mechanism referred to hereunder, in tiret iii).

    "ii) With respect to expendable Space Launch Vehicle programmes, and consistent with commercial and economic confidentiality principles, to:

      — make an annual declaration providing an outline of their Space Launch Vehicle policies and land (test-) launch site;

      — provide annual information on the number and generic class of Space Launch Vehicles launched during the preceding year, as declared in conformity with the pre-launch notification mechanism referred to hereunder, in tiret iii); and

      — consider, on a voluntary basis (including on the degree of access permitted), inviting international observers to their land (test-) launch sites.

    "iii) With respect to their Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Vehicle programmes to:

      — exchange pre-launch notifications on their Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Vehicle launches and test flights. These notifications should include such information as the generic class of the Ballistic Missile or Space Launch Vehicle, the planned launch notification window, the launch area and the planned direction."

9.13 The text notes that implementation of these confidence-building measures does not serve as justification for the programmes to which they apply.


9.14 Efforts to curb the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction through international agreements are, of course, to be welcomed. Two Councils set out clearly the support of Member States for this attempt to "universalise" the draft International Code of Conduct and the Common Position goes no further than to formalise the EU's strong support for it. We note that it has already been adopted.

9.15 In view of the leading role which the UK played in this initiative, we can understand that the Minister decided that he should lift the scrutiny reserve. Nevertheless, we ask him to put his reasons on record in a letter to this Committee. At the same time, we ask him to provide us with an assessment of how effective this voluntary code is likely to be, commenting on which non-Missile Technology Control Regime countries are likely to sign up to it and to observe the commitments in it.

9.16 In addition, we ask the Minister whether the Government considers that other measures should be taken to protect the European Community, or individual Member States, against the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Should these measures include participation in the Nuclear Missile Defence System of the United States of America?

9.17 In the meantime we do not clear the document.

20  Press Release No. 200/01 of 15 June, Annex I. Back

21  Press Release No. 8441/01, page 18: CFSP: Council Conclusions on missile non-proliferation. Back

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Prepared 2 November 2001