On Wednesday, October 21st, the European Parliament sent out a resolution (adopted by 641 votes in favour, 5 against and 47 abstentions) insisting on greater European commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. This resolution was aimed to address the many ambiguities currently associated with international nuclear arms security. Chief among what was outlined in the resolution was the call for Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, to reaffirm bloc and member state backing of the United Nation’s Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to establish a unified EU position in anticipation for the Treaty’s 2020 UN Review. These calls articulated in the resolution come in light of burgeoning concerns over the COVID-induced postponing of the NPT’s review conference. This suspension has been remarked as taking place at a most inopportune juncture, as recent evidence of disunity and distrust among nuclear arsenal-possessing states have revealed pervasive hurdles to the ratification of the NPT, and international security more generally.
Even though a unified position on part of the UN, regarding nuclear nonproliferation, has yet to be reached, Josep Borrell last week expressed his general solidarity on the matter of the UN’s suspension of the NPT review conference: “This pandemic that affects all of us should not stop us from continuing our diplomatic and political engagement to deliver results on this critical issue on the non-proliferation of nuclear arms and nuclear disarmament.” Moreover, Borell also stressed that the EU will “continue to recall on common positions with member states” and attempt to find “common ground and avoid further polarization.”
Nonetheless, the fact that the EU still lacks a unified position on the NPT’s ratification can be seen as largely amplifying existing concerns raised over the disunity and distrust among countries equipped with nuclear arsenals. These concerns are rooted primarily in the United States’ request for countries who have already ratified the NPT – which is just shy of the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force – to withdraw their support. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, has dismissed the United States’ justification behind this request as groundless. However, many of the U.S.’ “NATO allies,” who are also EU member states, have taken the side of the U.S.
The UN has regarded the NPT as an integral pillar of international peace and security, and a core component to the regime of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Thus, this surfacing opposition to, and delayed review of the NPT, becomes all the more concerning. This is on account of recent issues and state-transgressions surrounding nuclear arsenal, which are addressed comprehensively in the EP’s resolution. For instance, the resolution makes explicit reference to the several nuclear arsenal-possessing countries that have proposed (or are already undertaking) projects to modernize their nuclear arsenals or have modified their national military doctrines to reduce thresholds for their use.
The significance of the resolution’s aim to inspire a unified stance on the NPT across EU member states should not be overlooked. The EU is a greatly powerful global actor, and so it exerts a strong influence in determining the outcome and direction of diplomatic matters that have a profound effect on international peace. It may well be argued that the ratification of the NPT stands as an example of one of these diplomatic matters.
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