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Mayor of Hiroshima
June 2, 2022
Interview with Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative on Nonproliferation of WMD to EU High Representative Javier Solana
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Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Arms Control Today’s international correspondent Oliver Meier sat down with EU nonproliferation chief Annalisa Giannella to discuss Europe’s nonproliferation and security policies and future directions. The interview was conducted as the European Union and three member states geared up for a new round of negotiations with Iran and European countries reckoned with unification setbacks and a disappointing nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty meeting. Giannella has served in her current position since October 2003and previously served as the European Council’s director for security and defense policy and the head of the division for security issues.

ACT: What do you see as the EU’s specific strength in combating proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and where do you think the EU could do better?

Giannella: The EU is a very strange animal. It’s something more and better than an international organization, something more comprehensive and more powerful—we have possibilities for internal action as well as external action. The fact that the EU also has a legislative power is a very strong advantagewhen we have to agree on very high standards for the protection of radioactive sources. Because the EU has this legislative power, we can issue a directive that is in fact a European law applicable in all member states. So that’s a strength vis-à- vis the EU member states. And then there is the strength we have for external action. What we are now doing—and this is linked with what we call the streamlining of nonproliferation policy into the external relations of the EU—is that we are linking our political objectives with the attraction of the European Union as an economic partner. This is why we succeed in including a nonproliferation clause in the [trade and cooperation] agreements with third countries or a group of countries. We succeed because we can accompany this with our offer of cooperation, not only in trade but also in political issues.

ACT: Can you tell us which countries have trade agreements with the EU that include such clauses, and, more specifically, where the negotiations with Syria stand.

Giannella : We have succeeded in getting a nonproliferation clause in the agreement with Albania, with Tajikistan, and with Syria as well. Actually, the agreement with Syria has been initialed, so it is practically concluded. The reason why it has not entered into force is linked with other events in the country and in the region. There are other political reasons that so far have not made entry into force of the agreement possible. But the agreement has been finalized and initialed, and the clause is there, and the clause is very much in accordance with the mandate given by the [European] Council in November 2003. And now we have an agreement for the inclusion of the [nonproliferation] clause in the agreement with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council[1] and in the renewal of the Cotonou Agreement (African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries). We are also negotiating with Mercosur.[2] Sobasically we are succeeding in getting this clause with all sorts of countries.

ACT: What is your impression of the consequences of the failed referendums in France and in the Netherlands for the Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP)[3] in general, and for European efforts to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in particular?

Giannella : For the fight against WMD, the consequences are more or less the same as for the rest of the Common and Foreign Security Policy [CFSP], which means that they are not at all dramatic. We have managed to develop our CFSP over the last few years, with the old treaties,[4] and if you look back, we have made a lot of progress. I remember in 1999, I was working for the preparation of the Cologne European Council, and nobody could believe at that time that we would be able to develop a defense policy.[5] And then after Cologne, we had [the European Council in] Helsinki, we had [the European Council in] Nice,[6] and now we have crisis management operations in the Balkans, in Africa, everywhere. So I think that we are rather successful so far in the development of this new policy for the EU. The negative consequences of the non-ratification of the constitutional treaty seem to be linked to the fact that instead of having a double-hatted minister, we will continue to have two political leaders: the high representative and the commissioner for external relations.[7] But this is a complication that we can overcome by increasing coordination. I’m not saying that this is an ideal situation, but it’s not necessarily a real obstacle to the development of the CFSP. I mean, if you go even at national level, you have a minister for foreign affairs, a minister for development aid, a minister for external trade, and they are not necessarily the same person, so these complications exist outside the EU.

ACT: Can you give us your assessment of the progress made so far by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the EU in the talks with Iran about its nuclear program?

Giannella : It’s very difficult to make an assessment because we are very much in the middle of the process. We are in a crucial phase because at the end of May, there was the ministerial meeting in Geneva at which our ministers took the commitment to present to Iran by the beginning of August a comprehensive proposal. So now we are in the process of finalizing our comprehensive proposal and we need to see what the reactions will be from the Iranian side. So, the process is very complicated, but I think that there are already some positive outcomes. The first positive outcome, I would say, for Iran, is that engaging in negotiations with us has assisted them in getting out of their total isolation. They were totally isolated, and now they are talking to the Europeans, they are enhancing their cooperation with Russia. Even the Americans I think [have] modified their language with respect to Iran. The IAEA’s negotiations with the EU has [caused] Iran not to be referred by the Board [of Governors] to the UN Security Council. So there are a lot of positive outcomes for Iran.

As far as we are concerned, we are interested in getting from Iran what we call an "objective guarantee" that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, and this is not only because, of course, we don’t wish to see another state develop nuclear weapons, despite its commitments under the NPT. But also because we think that the region where Iran is situated is such a sensitive region, it is so unstable, there are so many tensions, and so if Iran should develop a nuclear military capability, that could trigger a [nuclear arms] race, and that would be a real problem for the whole international community. So I believe that it is already a positive outcome, in a certain sense that we so far have managed to stop the development of such a military program, and we have also helped Iran come closer to a normal situation. They are not yet in a normal situation because we need to get final assurance about their nuclear program. That is why we hope that the comprehensive proposal can trigger the last phase of the negotiation.

ACT: You already mentioned the objective guarantees that the EU is demanding. Is the permanent cessation of uranium enrichment the only way that Iran can meet that? And, connected to that, do Europeans support U.S. demands that Iran dismantle at least some of its nuclear facilities?

Giannella : We made clear from the beginning that enrichment and conversion, any enrichment-related activities are very sensitive, particularly because Iran has been concealing a lot of activities [from] the IAEA despite its safeguards agreements. We, and we being not only the Europeans but the rest of the world, cannot regard the carrying out of these activities by Iran as a normal activity. Of course, we know that the NPT allows the development of a civil nuclear program. The question is, does the development of a civil nuclear program imply necessarily these activities, because you can have a civilian nuclear program without necessarily producing nuclear fuel. You can get fuel from another country, like Russia in the case of Iran, for example. Then we can discuss fuel assurances, discuss cooperation in nuclear technology. But I think that the problem is to develop ways and means of assisting the development of a civilian nuclear program in such a way that it does not raise any concern in the other countries.

ACT: Russia has signed a deal to supply fuel. How does this play into your negotiations? Is Moscow’s deal complementing your negotiations or does it make them more difficult?

Giannella : Our cooperation with Russia is excellent in this case. And we are always in close consultation with the Russians, even in the preparations of our comprehensive proposal. So in our comprehensive proposal we take into account the fact that Russia has already concluded a contract with Iran for the supply of fuel for Bushehr I. We also take into account the possibility that Russia would supply Iran with a Bushehr II reactor. So all this is factored in as important factors. On the other hand, we understand that Iran does not necessarily want to depend exclusively on one country and would like to have other guarantees in order to have a power generation program that is totally safe. So cooperation with Russia is excellent. The cooperation between Russia and Iran is an important factor in our proposal, but we also take into account the legitimate concern of Iran not to depend exclusively on one country.

ACT: If things don’t go well in the negotiations, at what point do you think the EU would support a referral to the UN Security Council, and what in your view would be the purpose of such a referral?

Giannella : What has happened in Vienna so far is that the [IAEA] board has identified quite a number of failures by Iran to comply with its commitments. So far the board has refrained from referring the case to the Security Council, as it should do in a certain sense because the Security Council is the body in charge of these problems. But it has refrained from referring this case because there was this process of negotiation with the European countries which is promising and which everybody welcomes. And also because Iran has pledged to implement the additional protocol although they have not ratified it yet, but they have agreed to implement it, and they have shown some good cooperation with the IAEA. If the negotiation process is broken, then the board in Vienna will be faced with Iran’s failures without a solution to the lack of confidence that characterizes the international community’s perception of Iran. The positive element, which is counterbalancing the concealment by Iran, will not be there anymore. So clearly that can lead to a decision to refer the case to the Security Council. The Security Council, of course, is a new process. Everybody knows that the Security Council can adopt sanctions, but the Security Council also can decide to encourage, to frame the negotiations. The Security Council is a process. It’s not a one-shot event.

ACT: So you think they could be faced dealing with Iran in several steps once it was referred…

Giannella : Yes, of course, I don’t think it’s just one single event. But on the other hand, it is clear that the negotiations are, in my opinion, a very good chance for Iran to get out from the difficult situation. So Iran should not underestimate the fact that if it misses this opportunity, everything will be more difficult. Europeans are always in favor of a diplomatic solution, a political solution. If you read the WMD strategy, we say we want to fight against proliferation, but we want to address the root causes of proliferation: we try to understand why there are countries that are attracted by the development of a WMD program.

ACT: Could you give us your assessment of the EU’s performance at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York in May, and why you think that the EU was not able to successfully affect the outcome of that conference[8]

Giannella : I am of the opinion that our performance was not bad at all. First of all, the fact that the [European] Council had been able to adopt a Common Position before the opening of the review conference was already a success, because if you look at the starting positions of our member states, which are very different for political reasons, historic reasons, and because of differences of status in the UN, it was a real effort, a real achievement to have that Common Position. I also noticed that a number of third [world] countries analyzed our Common Position and indicated that [it] could have constituted a good basis for a compromise in the review conference itself. And we had very favorable comments from Japan, Russia, China, and many EU partners--including big partners, because the Common Position of the EU constitutes a point of balance between the nuclear-weapon states, the non-nuclear-weapon states, the anti-nuclear-weapon states, etc. And there is evidence that our Common Position was welcomed both by members of NATO and by members of the New Agenda Coalition,[9] in particular by Brazil and South Africa, so the spectrum of countries who were supportive of our Common Position was very wide. We didn’t succeed, unfortunately, not because of our performance but because tensions were too high and because there were other participants at the review conference who did not necessarily have the same objective as the EU and maybe were not convinced as we were that a successful outcome of the conference was needed, was really an objective to pursue actively.

ACT: The EU has made several proposals to strengthen the NPT. What can be done to implement these proposals before the next review conference in 2010?

Giannella : We can continue to work to strengthen the NPT as we continue to work to strengthen other treaties and conventions because we can use all the opportunities we have in the context of our political dialogue. We can use also our participation in the export control regimes, we can work on the multinational approach for the fuel cycle, There are a lot of opportunities and forums to work on specific aspects, and we will continue to do so. But also what happens with Iran, what happens with India, there are a number of developments in the world on which we need to reflect in depth, and see how to move forward from there.

ACT: On many disarmament issues, the U.S. position is fundamentally different than the EU position. Do you think the trans-Atlantic gap on disarmament issues will continue to grow?

Giannella : Well, I think the situation on CTBT [the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty][10] and [a proposed] FMCT [fissile material cutoff treaty] is not necessarily the same.[11] On CTBT, clearly the EU member states have a different position from the United States. We have a common position on CTBT, and on that basis we even carry out démarches to Washington to convince it to accede to the treaty and to allow the treaty to enter into force. On FMCT, I would say that our positions are not that far apart because we are in favor of commencing the negotiations without prior conditions, so we don’t necessarily link the negotiations of an FMCT to the verification mechanism. So I think on the FMCT we could find common ground with the Americans.

But generally speaking, I would say that it is true that there is not necessarily a convergence of views between the EU and the Americans on disarmament. Suffice it to say that on the occasions of our summits we have joint declarations on nonproliferation, but disarmament is not mentioned. So we agree on a sort of common agenda to fight against proliferation, but we don’t have elements related to disarmament in this declaration. On the contrary, if you look at our strategy against proliferation—it is called “Strategy Against Proliferation”—it in fact includes some elements of disarmament.

Still, there is clearly somewhat of a gap. I don’t know whether this gap will grow. Of course, we would prefer to increase the convergence of views between us and our major partner. We have agreed now to conduct specific consultations in the field of compliance. I don’t know, maybe closer cooperation in the field of compliance can help us in allaying the concerns of our American friends. And maybe we’ll have more cooperation in the area of disarmament as well.

ACT: I believe that the European Council is preparing a joint action on steps needed to bring the CTBT into force and to support the work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Could you update us on that and let us know how the European Union can contribute to the upcoming Article XIV conference to facilitate CTBT entry into force, which is planned at the United Nations in September?

Giannella : For the joint action, it is too early to tell you, because we have not been working on that so far. I mean, there is this idea that will be developed under the Austrian presidency [which will run from January to June 2006], and this is due to the fact that we simply don’t have enough resources, whether human or financial, to launch too many joint actions in a short period of time. In July, a few days ago, we had the adoption by the [European] Council of a new joint action in support of the IAEA. We are preparing a renewal of the joint action in support of the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], which would be adopted in autumn. We are preparing a number of initiatives in the area of export controls, and so simply we don’t have time and we wouldn’t have the financial resources either for such a joint action, but it is planned for the Austrian presidency. We will start preparation at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. So I can’t tell you much more at this point.

ACT: Related to the review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) coming up at the end of next year, can you update us on what the EU is doing? Specifically, is the EU going to be placing the verification gap in the convention on the agenda of the review conference?

Giannella : First of all, clearly the preparation of the review conference of the BWC is a high priority for us. And we have already started under the UK presidency, and we will continue next year. We have also started preparation of a specific joint action in support of the BWC. We have the joint action in support of the IAEA, which is linked to the NPT, and we have a joint action in support of OPCW, which has been adopted in support of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and now we would like to have a joint action in support of BWC. The specific problem we have there is that there is no agency that we can support, and that makes our projects more complicated. Because in the case of IAEA and OPCW, we finance, we support activities that can be implemented by the agency. In the case of biological weapons, we have to invent a mechanism that will allow us to implement this joint action. And we are planning to have projects in order to assist countries in drafting legislation to comply with the convention, etc.

As far as the verification mechanism is concerned, you know that there are a lot of problems that are not internal to the EU. So the situation is rather complicated. Of course, we will take advantage of all our channels of political dialogue in order to close the gap as much as possible. And we will work as much as possible on, I will not say alternative solutions, but maybe intermediary solutions. If we can’t get a verification mechanism, there are best practices for laboratories. There are other measures that are not as compulsory or, I would say, as spectacular as a verification mechanism but can help us to improve compliance with the convention.

ACT: There have been calls to cease the work of UNMOVIC this year. And the EU WMD strategy makes its goal to maintain UNMOVIC’s verification and strategy experience. Can you tell us what the EU is doing to make sure this goal is achieved?

Giannella : I can’t tell you too much in detail, but what I can tell you is that generally speaking we are in favor of having some verification and inspection expertise in the UN, but this specific point is under discussion in our working groups, so I can’t be more specific, but clearly we are working on it.

ACT: A couple of months ago the EU seemed to be drifting toward lifting the China arms embargo. Where do you see discussions on this topic going, and do you see any movement on it during the British presidency?

Giannella : Well, on the arms embargo, as you know the European Council has said two or three times already that in the end this arms embargo should be lifted. So I think this trend has been set. Now, I cannot tell you exactly when this decision will be taken formally, because this will depend on a number of factors, but clearly, we are always moving in that direction, and we are working in that direction.

And we work from different angles. We work from the point of view of export control. As you know we have been reviewing our code of conduct, we have been reinforcing our code of conduct. And now, the code of conduct is ready in the form of a Common Position, which is a legally binding instrument. But in addition to being a legally binding instrument, the substance of the rules of the code of conduct have been reinforced and complemented. As you know, we have also been working on the toolbox, which is a set of transparency measures and mutual controls that will apply to exports to countries previously under embargo. This is the export control side. So we have been making a lot of improvement for ourselves, but it is also to reassure our partners.

Secondly, always from the angle of perceptions of other partners, we have agreed with the United States and Japan to hold regularly a strategic dialogue on Asia and in particular on East Asia, and this is already underway. We already had not only the visit of [ EU High Representative Javier] Solana to Washington but we also had a meeting at the assistant secretary of state level, which took place in June, and we had a very comprehensive and very open exchange. This proved, by the way, that our approach to the region and to China is not different at all because both the United States and the EU see China as an important country with which we have to engage. And engagement is the only way to make progress on a number of issues. Engagement is the only way to be sure that China becomes more and more a responsible actor on the international scene.

And the third angle, which is not the last one, is the human rights angle since the embargo was decided upon as a sanction following the Tiananmen events.[12] We are continuing our very, very close and structured dialogue with China on human rights, and we continue to consider that China needs to make an important move in this field.

So the decision to lift the embargo will be taken in the light of these three aspects. But as I said, the trend has been set, and it is for our political leaders to assess the balance of these three.

ACT: May I ask two questions on the G-8 Global Partnership Against Weapons of Mass Destruction?[13] First of all, the European Commission has pledged $1 billion toward the global partnership. Can you tell us where the commission stands in meeting this pledge and why it has fallen short?

Giannella : I am not sure that it has fallen short, because there is a debate about whether the actual actions undertaken by the European Commission match entirely their commitment both in financial terms and in terms of type of projects. I know there are a number of projects in the area of nuclear safety, which are not considered as relevant for the G8 Global Partnership. Of course there we can have divergence of views, but I think that the commission is trying generally to meet its commitment. I would also underline that the commission has put forward for the next budget cycle I would say very important financial resources for nonproliferation projects, which would be devoted mostly to the G8 Global Partnership. Now there are difficulties within the [European] Council on the new financial cycle, and this is not only linked to the nonproliferation but to wider political and economic problems.[14] But, you know, if the commission may have some difficulties in meeting its commitment, this is the case also for other partners of the G8. So I don’t think it’s fair to single out the commission. I think the EU and its member states, and in particular those member states that are members of the G8, are deploying very substantial efforts to assist Russia to disarm and to dismantle.

ACT: The scope of the Global Partnership is being expanded, and some would like to see it fund projects in Libya, for example, and Iraq. Where do you see Europe’s position on this?

Giannella : As you know, the European Commission has always participated in the meetings of the different working groups and senior-level working groups on nonproliferation; we (the European Council) have started to participate recently. I don’t think we have a final European position on that. What I can tell you is that we are already planning some projects in support of Ukraine, for instance. We don’t have, at least at this stage, a European position on a possible expansion of the global partnership to countries outside the former Soviet Union.

1. The Gulf Cooperation Council is an organization founded in 1981 that includes six Persian Gulf states: Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qata and aims to unify its participants economically and politically in a manner similar to the European Union.

2. Mercosur (Mercado Común del Cono Sur) is a 1991 free trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Chile and Bolivia are associated members.

3. In referenda, French and Dutch voters rejected a proposed EU constitution earlier this year. The Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union is the guiding structure for the EU’s foreign policy. It is referred to as the “Second Pillar” of the Treaty of Maastricht, which established the EU in its modern form. It was substantially altered by the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force in 1999. It sets out in broad terms what the foreign policy goals of the EU should be, including support of UN resolutions and to ‘preserve peace and international security.’ For more information, see Johanna Spear, “The Emergence of a European ‘Strategic Personality,’” Arms Control Today, November 2003.

4. Ibid

5. The Cologne European Council was a meeting of the European Council in June 1999, at which former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana was appointed Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the CFSP.

6. The European Council meetings in Helsinki and Nice in December 1999 and December 2000 respectively took further steps to achieve the goal of giving the EU an independent military capability, in particular in the area of crisis prevention. The decision to give the EU such a capacity for autonomous action had been taken at the European Council in Cologne in June 1999.

7. Currently, two officials share responsibility for the European Union’s foreign policy. Benita Ferrera-Waldner is is the EU Commissioner for External Relations, working for the EU Commission. Javier Solana is the EU Council’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU Constitution proposed to unify these two posts and to create the post of Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, who would be responsible for the representation of the Union on the international scene.

8. For an analysis of the NPT Review Conference see Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Meeting Sputters,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, pp. 22-23.

9. The member states of the New Agenda Coalition are Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden. These countries frequently issue joint proposals to advance nuclear disarmament.

10. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions anywhere. It has been signed by 175 countries and ratified by 122 states. The treaty, however, will not take full legal effect until 11 key states, including the United States, ratify the accord. See “The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers” at http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/ctbtsig.asp.

11. A fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would outlaw production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. A nuclear weapon cannot be made without one or the other. In July 2004, the Bush administration changed the U.S. position announcing that it does not believe the agreement can be crafted to protect against cheating. This has further complicated the commencement of negotiations on such an accord. See Wade Boese, “Bush Shifts Fissile Material Ban Policy,” Arms Control Today, September 2004, pp 20-21.

12. On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government violently suppressed pro-democracy protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen square. Hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were killed by government troops. As a consequence, the EU imposed an arms embargo vis-à-vis China.

13. The Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is an initiative launched in June 2002 by the G-8, the world’s eight richest and most powerful countries. The initial participants pledged $20 billion over a 10-year period to this effort, including $10 billion from the United States, and have to date primarily funded projects in Russia.

14. In June 2005, a first round of talks on the EU’s long-term budget for the period 2007-13 failed.