Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  The European Council adopted the following texts on 15/16 December 2005.

    —  Six Monthly Progress Report on the implementation of Chapter III of the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

    —  Updated List of Priorities for a coherent implementation of the EU WMD Strategy

  I am writing to submit the documents to your committee for information in response to the Committee's request in your letter of 18 November 2005.[61] The range of projects and initiatives detailed in the Progress Report demonstrates that implementation of the EU WMD Strategy remains a high priority for the Union. The revised list of priorities take into account experiences gained from two years of implementation and the new challenges that have arisen since then. As a consequence of new factors and realities the EU will have to step up its efforts; to do this it will have to look at the necessary financial and human resources implications.

  During the UK Presidency, the Government led this review of both the WMD Strategy progress report and the priorities for its implementation. We were fully involved in ensuring that these priorities were indeed the most urgent and important and worked with the Council Secretariat, Commission and other Member States to guarantee this.

  The overarching aim of our EU Presidency was to improve the EU's contribution to multilateral counter-proliferation work through continued implementation of the EU WMD Strategy. Our general coordination of EU positions in numerous lobbying campaigns and multilateral meetings such as the UNGA First Committee was acknowledged to be strong and helped convey the EU's policies clearly and positively. We made good progress on existing initiatives: the EU agreed to renew Joint Actions in support of International Atomic Energy Agency and Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons efforts towards universalisation and full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Chemical Weapons Covention. We have also begun two major pieces of work on strengthening the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention which we expect to be completed early in the Austrian Presidency: a new Joint Action on universalisation of the BTWC and an EU Common Position for the BTWC Review Conference. We have agreed a new Strategy to combat illicit trafficking in SALW to complement the WMD Strategy. We launched a debate on future financing of WMD work to focus discussion on how best to channel limited EU resources for the period 2007-13.

  We feel that this is a good paper, showing good progress and development from the initial EU strategy. It also reflects considerable UK input. I thought that you and your committee would find much of interest in this report. I therefore attach a copy of the report and revised list of priorities for your information (not printed).

17 January 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 17 January 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 2 February.

  We welcome both the six monthly progress report on the EU's WMD Strategy and the updated list of priorities for its implementation, both of which we found extremely useful. We were happy to note that many of the points made in these two reports coincided with the recommendations contained in our earlier Report on the Strategy: "Preventing Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The EU Contribution" (EUC, 13th Report of 2004-2005, HL 96). However, we draw your attention to a few areas of continuing concern.

  The document notes (p. 3) that "The objective of the EU to preserve the integrity of the NPT regime remains valid, even more after the NPT Review Conference." Given the failure of that conference, why are no concrete proposals contained in the document as to how this might be achieved, even though it is described as "an important priority" (p. 29).

  The non-proliferation budget decreased in 2005 as compared with 2004 due to the smaller range of priorities. What is the exact amount of the 2006 budget and how will the EU reprioritise if funds are insufficient to cover all those activities noted in Annex B? We ask to be kept updated as to the ongoing discussions on the budget and the impact this will have on the funding of implementation of the Strategy.

  The document also notes (p. 24) that "there is a need to step up EU efforts. In order to ensure a focused and coherent action the EU will also have to look into the financial and human resources available to achieve this goal." Has any consideration been given to increasing the resources available for implementation of the Strategy, despite the reduced range of priorities?

  A draft paper covering the possible mission and modalities of a WMD monitoring centre has been prepared by the Office of the Personal Representative, Annelise Giannella, with a view to circulation to Member States before the end of 2005 (p. 22). We request that a copy of this paper be deposited since the absence of the planned centre was of particular concern during the Sub-Committee's inquiry.

  The document states (p. 23) that staff to staff contacts between the EU and NATO have continued to take place. Has there been any agreement on formal consultation and coordination in relation to non-proliferation?

  Finally, we take note that negotiations of a political agreement with Iran containing a WMD clause have been suspended and that Iran has been reported to the Security Council. Do you believe that tighter international controls should be put in place to prevent the spread of facilities for the enrichment of uranium, and what further steps should the EU take in this regard?

3 February 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 3 February 2006 in reply to my submission to you of the six-monthly Progress Report and updated List of Priorities for Implementation of the EU Strategy Against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. I am writing to respond to the six areas you raised as being of continuing concern.

  The next formal opportunity to work directly in an NPT context will be the First Preparatory Committee of the new Review cycle. This will probably take place during April 2007 (the dates are not yet fixed). In the interim, it is important that other aspects of the wider nuclear non-proliferation regime receive attention. To name action being taken in just a few areas:

    —  support for the IAEA—the EU is currently discussing a new Joint Action in support of their work;

    —  work on breaking the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament and beginning negotiations on an Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty—discussions at EU level continue in Geneva;

    —  the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material where Member States are taking a lead in seeking early ratification by their own Parliaments in order both to strengthen the regime and to set an example when lobbying other states to do likewise;

    —  UNSCR 1540—where the EU is taking forward outreach on export controls

  The amount spent through CFSP on non-proliferation projects dropped in 2005 from 2004 not because of a smaller range of priorities but because of other demands on the limited CFSP budget, notably the mission to Aceh. As I discussed during my evidence session with Sub-Committee C on 2 February, we were very pleased to have secured a much-needed uplift in the total amount available for CFSP. We very much hope that this additional money will allow more to be spent on non-proliferation projects in 2006. The List of Priorities for Implementation of the EU WMD Strategy lists six projects as Absolute Priorities, with a total cost of 27.9 million euros. At this early stage in the year, I cannot state categorically that all will be funded, given the inherent unpredictability of crises which may require responses funded from CFSP, but we very much hope that there will be sufficient money available to fund at least the majority and are supporting the Austrian Presidency in moving forward this agenda. The European Council approved one of the projects in December under our Presidency, the Political and Security Committee has recently agreed a second, and the EU working groups on Global Disarmament (CODUN) and Non-proliferation (CONOP) will consider three more over the next month. We will, of course, submit these for scrutiny in the normal way.

  As your letter rightly highlights, resources are not simply a question of money. Human resources are also critical to the successful implementation of the EU WMD Strategy. We would like to see more such resources available for both the Commission and the Secretariat. We were pleased that the Commission was able to find quickly a successor to Marc Deffrennes, who left his post in January this year after many years of excellent service to the non-proliferation agenda. His successor, Vincent Metten, is well-placed to continue Marc's work. However, as his appointment is for one year only, we will continue to impress upon the Commission the need to ensure sufficient human resources are in place, particularly with the introduction of the Stability Instrument, which should lead to increased Commission funding available for non-proliferation projects.

  On the Secretariat side, you refer to Dr Giannella's proposals for an EU WMD Centre. A draft paper has not yet been circulated to Member States, as hoped for in the List of Priorities, though we have had informal consultations with Dr Giannella. We understand that discussions continue between the Secretariat and Commission and look forward to seeing a joint draft paper. I will ensure that the Committee receives a copy, as I am aware of your concerns. We continue to support the principle of such a centre, but getting the detail right, particularly with the complicated institutional issues involved, remains essential, and we are keen to avoid duplication with other bodies.

  One of these bodies is clearly NATO. Staff-to-staff contacts are continuing, though there has not been any formal consultation and co-ordination in relation to non-proliferation. We are aware of the need to improve this, and remain seized of the issue: we secured invitations for representatives of the NATO WMD Centre to attend the Interparliamentary Conference to discuss the results of the Commission- and UK-funded Pilot Project on WMD and Small Arms and Light Weapons in December last year. We are considering how to improve co-ordination further and will keep the Committee informed of any significant developments.

  You asked also whether tighter international controls could be put in place to prevent the spread of facilities for the enrichment of uranium. As you know, Art IV of the NPT grants all Parties to the Treaty the inalienable right to develop research, produce and use nuclear energy, provided they are in compliance with Articles I, II and III of the Treaty.

  Control over the spread of technology does exist and all EU member states are active participants in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group which continues to work on strict guidelines both for the sale of goods and the spread of technology. Particularly relevant to your question is the work currently underway in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group designed to strengthen the guidelines on the transfer of Enrichment (and Reprocessing) technology. There would be little advantage to the EU undertaking a separate process apart from this.

  I hope these responses go some way to answering your questions. In many of these areas work continues, and so I have not been able to provide as definitive a set of answers as I would otherwise wish. We will keep the Committee informed of progress in these important areas.

27 February 2006

Letter from Kim Howells MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  The European Council adopted the following text on 12-13 June 2006:

    Six Monthly Progress Report on the implementation of Chapter III of the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

  I am writing to submit this document to your committee for information in response to your request of 18 November to Douglas Alexander. This Progress Report is not accompanied by an updated "List of priorities for the implementation of the EU WMD Strategy" because the priorities endorsed by the Council in December 2005 are still valid.

  It is worth noting that the Progress Report is shorter than previous versions as it now concentrates on main developments and trends rather than containing an exhaustive repetition of all the items that are mentioned in the Strategy. However, the range of projects and initiatives detailed demonstrates that implementation of the EU WMD Strategy remains a high priority for the Union.

  You may note from the Progress Report that a draft note has been circulated to Member States about the agreed EU WMD Centre. I know this topic is of interest to your committee. Discussions are still in their very early stages and we await a more substantive and detailed document on the modalities of such a Centre. I will keep you informed of progress.

  The report highlights recent Council Joint Actions in support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) activities, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).

  The report also calls attention to the EU Common Position for the BTWC Review Conference which was adopted by the Council on 20 March 2006, whose purpose is to strengthen the BTWC and to promote the successful outcome of the Sixth Review Conference.

  We feel that this is a good paper, showing useful progress and development over the reporting period. I thought that you and your committee would find much of interest in this report. I enclose a copy (not printed).

11 July 2006

61   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp259-260. Back

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