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Conference on Disarmament - Working Group on the "Way Ahead" - EU Statement on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space


Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, 14-16 June 2017
Working Group on the "Way Ahead"
EU Statement on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space


Proposals for multilateral non-legally binding instruments on Space Security

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, let me congratulate you on the assumption of the role as co-facilitator and thank you for your efforts to lead us through the substantive discussions on the Agenda item 3 - Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.

The European Union and its Member States continue promoting the preservation of a safe and secure space environment and the peaceful use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. The EU recognises the outer space as a global common good, to be used for the benefit of humankind.

The EU and its Member States are increasingly engaged in outer space. The EU has developed two ambitious Space programmes, Galileo and Copernicus, which complement national space programmes and provide services free of charge which can contribute to realising the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals. These two programmes already deliver services that benefit millions of people. Furthermore, European space actors increasingly engage in international cooperation to help other countries mobilise space for sustainable development.

Our new Space Strategy for Europe, issued in October 2016, sets out Europe's ambitions in space and confirms that we remain an active and globally engaged partner to promote and protect the sustainable and peaceful use of outer space by all nations.

Preventing an arms race in outer space and preventing outer space from becoming an area of conflict is essential to safeguard the long-term use of the space environment for peaceful purposes.

The growth in amount of human space-activity, coupled with the increased diversity of space operators, also makes it both more complicated and more necessary to develop new norms and rules governing human activity in space.

We remain convinced that transparency and confidence-building measures can make an important contribution to the security, safety and sustainability of activities in outer space. The EU, with its initiative on a Code of Conduct, first proposed in 2008, demonstrated leadership and willingness to work with the international community on space issues. Efforts to pursue political commitments, such as a multilateral code of conduct to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space, are still relevant. It should be recalled that they were also endorsed by the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on TCBMs in outer space, which the UN Secretary General set up in 2010 in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 65/80.

In this context, we would like to encourage all States to work together to elaborate common guidelines such as principles of responsible behaviour in outer space, which could complement existing initiatives. Such principles should be designed in a way that they are agreeable by a vast majority of spacefaring nations.

Globally shaped principles of responsible behaviour should address the full range of space activities and related challenges such as space debris, space traffic management, collision avoidance and prevention of an arms race in outer space and should hence serve long term goals: to increase international cooperation in space, to commit mutually to debris mitigation and to non-interference in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, to facilitate an equitable access to outer space and increase transparency in the conduct of space activities.

The EU therefore calls for increased international cooperation in order to establish agreed standards of responsible behaviour in outer space to preserve the integrity of space environment for all. The EU continues to believe that a non-legally binding agreement negotiated within the United Nations could be a way to proceed.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



Proposals for multilateral legally-binding instruments on Space Security


Mr. Chairman,

As highlighted yesterday, the EU and its Member States attach great importance to the development and implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures as a means of strengthening security and ensuring sustainability in the peaceful use of outer space. In this context, EU Member States voted in favour of UN General Assembly Resolution 71/42 regarding the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS).

The prevention of an arms race in outer space and the need to prevent outer space from becoming an area of conflict are essential conditions for the strengthening of strategic stability. It will also allow all States to benefit from peaceful uses of outer space and the many opportunities for development that these can provide.

We remain concerned of the continued development of all anti-satellite weapons and capabilities, including terrestrially based, and underline the importance of addressing such developments promptly and as part of international efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space.

We maintain reservations regarding the updated draft on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) and reiterate our view that a new legally binding instrument would need to be comprehensive, precise and verifiable.

We are equally concerned that the initiative “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space” (NFP) does not adequately respond to the objective of strengthening trust and confidence between States. We believe that initiatives aiming to prevent an arms race in outer space should contribute to fostering a climate of mutual trust and transparency between States. The very idea of "not to be the first to place" is ambiguous and may entice States to prepare to be second or third. Moreover, this initiative does not address the difficult issue of defining what a weapon in outer space is, which could easily lead a State to mistakenly assess that another State has placed weapons in outer space.

We believe it is more useful to address the behaviour in, and use of, outer space to further discussions and initiatives on how to prevent space from becoming an arena for conflict while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the space environment. We encourage States to support initiatives to this end, such as the idea to elaborate principles of responsible behavior in outer space (PORBOS), without excluding the possibility that this may one day result in new legally binding norms.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Statements on behalf of the EU


Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Export Control
Editorial sections
UN Geneva
Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Export Control