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Reply by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council to an Oral Question with Debate: Global Treaty to Ban Uranium Weapons

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

On behalf of the Council I thank you for the parliamentary question on the global treaty to ban uranium weapons. As you may be aware, an agreement on a special multilateral instrument in the area of non-proliferation and disarmament, which would regulate depleted uranium ammunition, has not yet been reached.

As you may know, the effects of depleted uranium weapons have been discussed by the United Nations. At the end of 2007, the UN General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution entitled "Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium". The EU Member States voted differently on the resolution (5 votes in favour, 4 votes against, the rest abstained) which indicates a lack of consensus on this issue within the Council.

Allow me now to answer your concrete questions:

As regards the first question relating to the European Parliament’s 2006 Resolution on biological weapons and inhumane conventional weapons, I would like to stress that the EU is, has been and will be very active in our ongoing efforts to implement the Biological and Toxicological Weapons Convention. Based on the Strategy against the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and a Common Position, the Union played a key role at the second Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 2006. The EU will also play an active role in the expert programme until the next review conference in 2011.

Concerning the Conventional Weapons Convention, the EU and its Member States also actively participate in the ongoing negotiations to address humanitarian issues concerning cluster munitions. The Member States are committed to negotiating a legally binding instrument that addresses concerns about all aspects of cluster munitions by the end of 2008.

Regarding your second question, I should explain that depleted uranium ammunition has not yet been integrated into the EU Strategy on Weapons of Mass Destruction. There is an ongoing debate on whether these ammunitions could be covered by the definitions of weapons of mass destruction. Some argue that depleted uranium is already regulated by the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Others consider that Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons should be expanded in order to address also the challenges posed by depleted uranium shells and warheads.

In reply to your third question, I should explain that the definition of the type of military equipment including ammunitions used in the course of EU operations is the responsibility of Member States. As there is no multilateral agreement on this issue, the Presidency cannot provide any further information on the use of depleted uranium.

The security of soldiers and civilians (the fourth question) deployed in EU operations is the responsibility of the chief of operations, according to the operations plan approved by the Council. Hence, the chief of operations has to take the measures he or she deems necessary, taking into account operational constraints. As far as civilian missions are concerned, this is the responsibility of the Head of the mission, under the authority of the Commander for civilian operations.

As regards your last question on established dialogue between the EU Council and the USA, non-governmental organizations and civilians, I can only say that so far this issue has not been specifically raised during the Council's dialogue with the US, nor has such a dialogue been conducted with the other stakeholders mentioned in the question.

I am looking forward to hearing your discussion.

Thank you.


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Date: 21.05.2008