Sumario: November 16, 2004: STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE EUROPEAN UNION BY MR. ARJAN P. HAMBURGER, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE, PLENARY - 59TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Agenda item 49a and b: Oceans and the Law of the Sea (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and the European Community as a party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Candidate countries Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro, align themselves with this statement.
Today we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. For the European Union, the ratification today by another EU Member State, Denmark, adds a special touch to the celebration.
The Convention, and its Implementing Agreement are a milestone in the world's efforts to manage the world's oceans. Looking back at the achievements of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea we must agree that not only a wide variety of issues has been dealt with in the Convention, but also that the text of the Convention has proved to be flexible enough to deal with problems that have arisen after the conclusion of the Convention. It is worth mentioning that in many aspects the provisions of the Convention have acquired the status of international customary law.
1994 then saw the conclusion of "The Agreement" which greatly facilitated the entry into force of the Convention for many States. The two instruments, or should I say the two integrated instruments, have proven to be a remarkably useful tool for ocean's governance. In actual fact we believe that these instruments will serve well in the future, and there is no need to reconsider any of their provisions at this stage.
Even if a great many States have already expressed consent to be bound, we believe we must continue to strive for universality. We would call on all those States that have not yet done so to become parties to this Convention and the Implementing Agreement as soon as possible.
Being at sea has never been easy, and there are many tragic stories illustrating the dangers faced by sea-farers as well as by other persons on board ships. We regret to note that also today, in our modern world full of technology, many seafarers still face dangers, not only related to the safety of ships or the situation at sea itself, but also as a consequence of the prevalent dangers of piracy and armed robbery at sea. The European Union notes with great concern that criminal activities still threaten shipping, and imply danger for the seafarers as well as financial losses to the operators of commercial shipping vessels. It is imperative that all States do their utmost to prevent piracy and armed robbery at sea. In particular, there is a responsibility to prevent such acts from occurring in maritime areas under their jurisdiction, or when taking place from ships flying their flag. We commend the efforts in this respect by the International Maritime Organization, and also by a number of regional co-operative programs.
All States, especially coastal states to straits used for international navigation, should respect the right of innocent passage through such straits for every vessel. Also, Port States should do their utmost not to hinder the access to ports, thus respecting the freedom of maritime trade and the freedom of transit between ports irrespective of flag.
On the issue of security and safety at sea, we would also like to highlight the importance of addressing the issue of the transport of weapons of mass destruction by sea. As we recall the importance of Security Council Resolution 1540 on the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we also want to re-iterate the support expressed by the European Union for the Proliferation Security Initiative. This important initiative includes a willingness to cooperate on preventing the transport of weapons of mass destruction by sea.
Similarly, the revision of the IMO Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, and its Protocol on Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf should be noted. In these ongoing negotiations, important provisions are to be added to the existing instrument, enhancing the efforts against terrorism as well as providing for the penalization of the transport of weapons of mass destruction, dual-use goods and delivery systems, by providing clear and mutually agreed rules on boarding ships on the high seas. The European Union considers that an important aspect of these amendments is that they will provide a clear and agreed legal framework for intervening with shipping when well-founded suspicions of the shipment of weapons of mass destruction arise.
70 % of the surface of the earth is covered by oceans and seas. By the year 2025 more than 75% of the total world population is expected to be living on the coast, highly dependent on the sea and its resources. As the people responsible for the future of this planet, we have an obligation to ensure the viability of the ocean's environment, which is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to the over-utilization of marine resources, pollution and climate change. This will be a particular challenge for the 21st century. Proper oceans governance does require action that is forward-looking, and is based of the precautionary principle, rather than being merely reactive to the problems of today. As technology and science progress we face new challenges on how best to protect the oceans against destructive practices.
The European Union attaches great importance to ensuring the protection of the marine bio-diversity of the oceans, both in areas under the responsibility of coastal states as well as beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. In our region, this important work is already undertaken within regional sea conventions and programs such as Helcom for the Baltic Sea, the Barcelona convention for the Mediterranean sea, OSPAR for the North-East Atlantic, and the Black Sea convention. With respect to the maritime areas under the responsibility of the member States of the European Union, the European Commission is in the process of developing a strategy for the protection of the marine environment. This strategy will be finalized in 2005. Also we would like to highlight that pollution accidents at sea which have caused serious damage within the European Union, have accelerated the need for measures to protect sensitive coastal areas within the European Union.
While the Law of the Sea Convention sets out a global regulatory framework for areas under national jurisdiction and the high seas, the situation is less clear with respect to the protection of the bio-diversity of the high seas and the Area. The EU recognizes the need to regulate practices, including bottom trawling, which may be a threat to deep-sea marine biodiversity and to vulnerable marine ecosystems. It is our conviction that the legal framework and the implementation of measures to protect bio-diversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction need to be improved and addressed urgently by the international community. At this time, not enough is yet known about the marine environment in these areas and in particular the ecosystems of the deep sea. This strengthens the need to apply the precautionary principle in all activities carried out in deep sea areas. Thus we should strengthen our resolve to only act with the greatest care in such areas by giving full effect to the provisions of UNCLOS and other international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The European Union believes there is a need to begin a process aimed at addressing this matter. A process that should take into account the relevant provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and decisions of the 7th Conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This has to be done in a manner to give effect to the UNCLOS and other relevant instruments building on the conclusions of the joint Plan of Action of the WSSD, as well as on other related instruments. We note the decision in the Resolution on Oceans and Law of the Sea before us to establish an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to study issues relating to conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond the areas of national jurisdiction, and we look forward to participate in its work. The EU also welcomes the steps which the General Assembly has proposed in this year's annual Fisheries and Oceans' discussions, which call on States and regional fisheries management bodies to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive practices and to which concerted international action on Illegal Unregulated and Unreported fishing will also contribute.
Many discussions on ocean's governance have taken place in the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. This year we have participated in the fifth meeting, and during the next meeting in 2005 a decision will have to be prepared on whether the General Assembly would like to continue this process for a further three years. The EU could support in principle the continuation of the UN's ICP. However, while we have learned a lot about a great many issues related to ocean's governance, we recognize that there is room for improvement and that a detailed and independent evaluation of the quality and practical results of this Process should take place before deciding on the modalities of its possible continuation. It is important to establish whether this process has in fact led to a better understanding of the management of the oceans and to a better and more coherent approach of oceans' issues by States and relevant international organizations.
I will conclude my intervention by reiterating our appreciation for the annual report on Oceans and Law of the Sea produced by the Secretariat. It provides a wealth of information and presents an almost exhaustive compilation of relevant developments. Also I would like to reiterate on behalf of the European Union that we consider the General Assembly to be the place to discuss this report, as this is the most inclusive forum for the discussion of these matters.
Thank you, Mr. President.