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former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
EU Details Plans for Space Code
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Timothy Farnsworth

The European Union in late July provided details on its process of adopting an international code of conduct for outer space activities, clarifying why the process is not directly tied to any of the various existing UN forums and what the EU’s planned timetable is for negotiating the agreement.

In a July 31 statement to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, Jirí Blažek, second secretary in the EU delegation to the UN office in Geneva, explained why the EU decided to use an ad hoc process for negotiating a code rather than using existing UN forums such as the CD or the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. “[T]hese bodies only gather a limited number of countries, and we would like all countries wishing to participate [in] this process to be able to do so,” he said. The EU wants “to act swiftly for practical reasons, on a project which is non-legally binding, based on the acceptance of voluntary rules,” he said.

The code would establish “a political framework, which is absolutely compatible and complementary with other existing initiatives” including efforts in the United Nations, Blažek said. According to the statement, a “formal link could be established” between a future code and the UN.

Blažek also explained the timetable for negotiating a code. The EU introduced the latest draft June 5 in Vienna before more than 40 countries, officially launching a new phase in the process that seeks to expand the group of countries involved in the talks. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

The next international experts meeting on the draft code is expected to take place in New York in mid-October to coincide with the convening of the UN General Assembly First and Fourth Committees, he said. (The First Committee deals with disarmament and other international security issues; the Fourth Committee covers “special” issues, including the peaceful uses of outer space.) This meeting will be a negotiating session and will be open to all UN members, Blažek said.

Blažek also said the process could require up to three experts meetings; a diplomatic conference could take place in 2013 “if negotiations go smoothly,” he said.