BWC Action – The BWC and the European Union

The European Union (EU) is supporting the Biological Weapons and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) through a Council Decision (BWC Action) and previously, EU Joint Actions. Such Actions are time-limited projects that require coordinated action by EU Member States whereby human and financial resources, know-how, equipment, and so on are mobilised to attain the specific objectives set by the EU Council. The Actions also commit the Member States in the positions they adopt and in the conduct of their activity.

The Geneva Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is the implementing agency for the BWC Action, which aims to support the BWC and the work of the BWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) on the international, regional and national levels through three major projects: universality and national implementation; confidence in compliance; and strengthening international cooperation and encouraging international discussion on the future of the BWC. The Geneva Branch of UNODA was also the implementing agency for the preceding EU Joint Action, which entailed four projects focused on: promotion of universalisation; BWC national implementation; submission of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs); and, support to the 2007-2010 BWC intersessional programme. The first EU Joint Action in Support of the BWC was implemented by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and was addressing universalisation and national implementation.

The European Security Strategy of 12 December 2003 identified the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as one of the main threats to our collective security. Despite the successes of international treaties and export control regimes to slow the spread of WMD, the threat only continues to grow as advances in biological sciences and technology enable easier production of more threatening biological agents.

The European Union (EU) strongly supports all multilateral instruments devoted to disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Under the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction of 12 December 2003, the EU is addressing the threat of proliferation of such weapons based on three principles: effective multilateralism, prevention, and cooperation. To implement the Strategy, the EU is actively pursuing the measures listed in Chapter III, in particular those related to reinforcement, implementation and universalisation of the BWC.

On 20 March 2006, the Council adopted the Action Plan on biological and toxin weapons. The Action Plan provided for an efficient use of Confidence Building Measures, by EU Member States undertaking to annually submit their CBMs, and the UN Secretary-General investigation mechanism for alleged use of chemical and biological weapons, by EU Member States submitting lists of relevant experts and laboratories to the UN Secretary-General to facilitate investigations.

In the Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy of 11 December 2008, it was stated that the risk for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by both states and terrorists has increased since 2003 and has brought the multilateral framework under pressure. It was noted that efforts to prevent, by working through the UN and multilateral agreements, by acting as a key donor and by working with third countries and regional organisations to enhance their capabilities to prevent proliferation should be continued with political and financial action. It was also noted that more work is needed on specific issues, including among them EU support for measures on bio-safety and bio-security.

For the BWC Seventh Review Conference, held in December 2011, the EU had identified three priorities for reviewing the BWC: promoting universalisation, supporting national implementation and building confidence in compliance (Council Decision 2011/429/CFSP of 18 July 2011).

Documents, Council of the European Union

A Secure Europe in a Better World. European Security Strategy, Brussels, 12 December 2003

EU WMD Strategy (2003)

EU Council Supplementary Action Plan (2006)

EU Common Position relating to the 6th Review Conference of the BWC (2006) – Council Common Position 2006/242/CFSP of 20 March 2006 relating to the 2006 Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

EU Common Position relating to the 7th Review Conference of the BWC (2011) – Council Decision 2011/429/CFSP of 18 July 2011 relating to the position of the European Union for the Seventh Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction (BTWC)