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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Interview with Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative on Nonproliferation of WMD to EU High Representative Javier Solana
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Interviewed by Oliver Meier

On Feb. 16, Arms Control Today international correspondent Oliver Meier spoke with EU nonproliferation chief Annalisa Giannella to discuss Europe's nonproliferation and security policies against the background of the new U.S. administration taking office. Giannella has served in her current position since October 2003 and previously served as the EU Council of Ministers' director for security and defense policy and head of the division for security issues.

ACT: What do you think will be the impact of the change in administration in Washington on European efforts to strengthen arms control and nonproliferation agreements?

Giannella: I think that it will have a revitalizing effect. Since the adoption of the European Security Strategy and the [weapons of mass destruction (WMD)] strategy,[1] we have been very active in supporting what we call effective multilateralism, in support of universalization but also of effective implementation of all the multilateral treaties and conventions, as well as supporting new treaties which would fill the gaps in the nonproliferation/disarmament regime.

We must say that, over recent years at least on some of these points, we have not had full convergence of views with the United States. The emphasis has always been on nonproliferation. There was no consensus on nuclear disarmament, for instance. On the Biological Weapons Convention, there was no possibility of agreement on a verification protocol. The EU has always been in favor of entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but the United States didn't want to ratify the treaty and join our effort to promote universalization.[2] On the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), the United States even put forward a proposal for initiating negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) but opposed the very idea of verification.[3]

However, there have been quite a number of areas where we had very good cooperation with the Bush administration, including Iran of course. For instance, we have both and sometimes jointly been supporting the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540.[4] We have been cooperating together with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the 1540 Committee in support of the resolution. We have been working in synergy in the area of export control assistance to third countries. We have regularly compared notes about the assistance projects that we launch for third countries. The problem we have had was basically with the way we viewed our support for some multilateral treaties and conventions.

With the Obama administration, we are looking forward to the fullest cooperation and synergy because, from what we read and see and hear about Obama's intentions, they are very much along the same lines as the EU approach. We see that now the United States will be in favor of entry into force of the CTBT, is in favor of a verifiable FMCT, and in addition we also have a very open statement in support of a call for a world without nuclear weapons and the intention to start negotiations for a phased, verifiable, irreversible, transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.[5] This will also contribute to establishing a much better atmosphere in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review process. We think that we have a better chance of getting very good results in the next few years with the United States and EU working together in the same direction.

ACT: Are there areas where you think differences will continue with the new administration or might even grow?

Giannella: It is very difficult to judge because so far we have not had very precise and detailed proposals from the U.S. side. So we have to base ourselves on what we have read in speeches by President [Barack] Obama, Vice President [Joe] Biden, and Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton. From what I have seen, I don't think there would be any divergence of views as far as weapons of mass destruction are concerned.

Maybe we will still have some slight differences on conventional weapons because the EU is in favor of and is actively promoting negotiations on an arms trade treaty.[6] I'm not yet sure that the Obama administration will be entirely supportive of this.

ACT: On the recent initiatives on arms control and nonproliferation that were taken during the French presidency, particularly during the December 2008 meetings, there was for example a new document, "New Lines of Action," which outlines a variety of measures. Mainly it seems aimed at improving internal coherence among EU member states.[7] I found very few initiatives to strengthen multilateral instruments. Why is this, and are there any additional initiatives planned to strengthen multilateral instruments?

Giannella: In fact, the document that was agreed under the French presidency, the New Lines of Action, is just an additional document. It is additional with respect to our WMD strategy, which remains valid, and with respect to the priorities for implementation of the strategy, which were also adopted by the same meeting of the [EU] Council [of Ministers].[8] So, you are right that the new Lines of Action is more an improvement of coherence among the EU member states, but we still have the list of priorities for the implementation of the strategy. We still have an approach based very much on work in support of multilateralism and also on cooperation with other countries. These documents have to be seen as a whole and as complementing each other.

ACT: Another additional instrument that was approved was a draft code of conduct for outer space activities.[9] This was also presented to the CD by the Czech presidency.[10] Can you explain the added value of the EU code in comparison to other instruments on space security? What is your time frame for agreement on a consensus document? In this context, how do you want to engage Russia and China particularly on this issue?

Giannella: I'm glad to have this opportunity to stress that the fact that the council agreed [to] this draft doesn't mean that the draft is a document that cannot be modified. The ministers gave an endorsement to this draft as a basis for consultations with third countries. So it is an official EU initiative, but of course the text is really very open to modification in the light of comments by partners. The purpose of this code is to enhance safety, security, and predictability of outer space activities. It is a code because the assessment, which was made within the EU, was that there was no consensus, for the time being, for a legally binding instrument. On the other hand, there are more and more activities in outer space, and therefore something needs to be done. We do not want this document to replace or to prevail over instruments which already exist and most of which are legally binding.

There are a number of conventions and treaties in the area of outer space, but subscribing states would commit themselves to full implementation of these instruments whereas nonsubscribing states would commit to take steps to accede or to adhere to these instruments. This is because we don't want to exclude the possibility for countries who may not wish to ratify to decide nevertheless to implement the provisions of these instruments. Then there are also transparency measures, confidence-building measures, notification, registration, et cetera. We believe that this code will improve the situation in terms of confidence building and transparency, and we think that this initiative is not a substitute. It does not stand in the way of negotiation of a treaty if everybody agrees on the idea of a treaty preventing weaponization of space, as proposed by Russia and China.[11]

Now, you ask me how do you want to engage with Russia and China as well as other partner countries. Actually, we have started to engage. We have already had a first round of informal consultations, and now after endorsement by the council, we have started a round of formal consultations which will involve not only the United States, Russia, and China, but also other main partners of the EU and space-faring nations. So we are consulting Canada, Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil, et cetera.

ACT: Do you have a time frame for these consultations?

Giannella: We were in Canada a couple weeks ago. We will be in Asia in March. There will be other countries that we will meet in the margins of multilateral meetings.

ACT: There's no target date, is there?

Giannella: We hope that if consultations go reasonably well and if the modified version can be accepted by most of the countries, we will be able to convene an ad hoc conference maybe at the end of the year or beginning of next year. Of course, all of this depends on how these consultations go.

ACT: The EU made legally binding its code of conduct on arms exports.[12] Why did it take so long to make the code legally binding, and what impact do you think the change in the legal character will have on actual exports from EU member states?

Giannella: As you know, the content of the common position [on arms exports] is 90 or 95 percent identical to the content of the former code of conduct. However, there are some improvements. The criteria [for arms exports] are the same, but the scope is wider in the sense that, for instance, the common position covers brokering and intangible transfers. But the fact that it is legally binding gives the instrument a different status, and it makes the EU a very credible actor as [a] promoter of the arms trade treaty. We are proposing to the international community the negotiation of a treaty governing the arms trade, and we are demonstrating that we ourselves are already committed to a legally binding instrument. This is a question of coherence. We could not propose a legally binding instrument if we did not already have legally binding commitments among ourselves.

ACT: Turning back toward the NPT, can you generally say what your expectations for the review conference are at this stage? Do you expect there to be a new EU common position to be agreed?[13] What specific issues might the EU try to focus on in that context?

Giannella: For the review conference, our position is classical and is largely the same although the text of our common position [on the NPT], which was adopted before the last review conference, will probably be adapted next year.[14] We think that the review conference has to address the three pillars in a balanced way.

We have to work on nonproliferation and peaceful uses. In this context, one of the issues on which we should focus is the multilateral nuclear fuel approaches. We have to work on those approaches because it is clear that there are more and more countries turning to nuclear energy for civilian purposes. It is also clear that it is for each country to make its own energy choices, and if a country is in compliance with the treaty, clearly it has the right to have nuclear energy for civilian purposes. We have to make sure that programs for nuclear energy are developed in such a way as to avoid any proliferation risk and to meet the highest standards in terms of safety, security, and nonproliferation. The only way we can do that is through multilateral nuclear fuel approaches.

We need to work on disarmament, and I think that the statements by President Obama give us very good grounds to hope that we can have progress on the nuclear disarmament pillar.

In addition, the EU has already put forward a paper on withdrawal because we want to better specify the procedure and the conditions for withdrawal. We want to work on export controls, we want to work on safeguards, on nuclear security, et cetera. We have a lot of items, but I think if we could have progress on multilateral nuclear fuel approaches and on disarmament, it would be a big success.

ACT: There is a new discussion on a nuclear weapons-free world. France and the United Kingdom have both explained their positions and expanded to some degree their positions on nuclear arms control during the last year.[15] Last December, French President Nicolas Sarkozy as acting EU president wrote a letter to Ban Ki-Moon explaining the EU's stance on nuclear disarmament.[16] How does this initiative in your assessment differ from past EU positions on nuclear arms control and disarmament?

Giannella: It is no secret that, on nuclear disarmament, the lowest common denominator between EU members was extremely low. The situation has started to improve over the last couple of years precisely because there has been a modification of the position in the United Kingdom and most recently in France. Now that the Obama administration is taking a very different position with respect to nuclear disarmament, this will also facilitate the further evolution of the French and British approaches because nuclear disarmament cannot take place on a unilateral basis. It has to be a negotiated process amongst the five [NPT nuclear powers]. The more Obama elaborates his approach, the more easily France and the United Kingdom will elaborate their own approaches and vice versa. It will be a mutually reinforcing process and will encourage Russia and China to move as well. Since the other countries in the EU have had no difficulty in being much more in favor of nuclear disarmament, this will help us to develop the EU position in a positive way.

ACT: One specific proposal that Sarkozy made in the letter to Ban Ki-Moon was the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons in general arms control and disarmament processes. Do you think if this were to happen, this would also affect the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in EU countries also?[17]

Giannella: It is premature for me to make comments on specific elements in the Sarkozy letter or in proposals made by other main actors. All these elements need a thorough examination, a thorough discussion. I think that the Sarkozy letter was meant to give a message that there is a new readiness to discuss these issues. How exactly the question of nuclear disarmament will develop, what exactly will be the elements for an agreement, it is too early for me and maybe for others to say.

ACT: There has also been a reversal of U.S. policies on CTBT ratification. What generally do you think Europe can do to speed up entry into force? Specifically, are there any lessons or experiences that Europe can offer to U.S. senators to convince them that U.S. security will be enhanced by approving the treaty?

Giannella: The EU has set a precedent because our own nuclear-weapon states, France and the United Kingdom, have ratified the CTBT very quickly. That means the CTBT does not necessarily entail any risk or danger even for countries which, after all, still believe in nuclear deterrence. Second, the EU has been working a lot in support of the entry into force of the CTBT. We have made demarches in support of ratification in countries which have not ratified, in particular in the countries listed in annex two of the treaty. Only a few months ago, we agreed on an energetic action plan in support of its entry into force.[18]

That is not all. We believe that the monitoring system of the CTBT has to be credible. We have also tried to use that leverage in our campaign. The fact is that the CTBT monitoring system can also be very useful for civilian purposes, for civil protection purposes. It can help, for instance, to give an early warning of tsunamis or earthquakes. So, it can be very much in the interests of each and every country to make use of this monitoring system. The EU is contributing financially to some activities which help the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to maintain credibility and to further develop the monitoring system. Over the past two or three years, the council has adopted a couple of decisions by which we have supported training courses for monitors, for improvements of the monitoring system including radionuclides, noble gas, and many other things. We believe that an effective monitoring system is an important element in making the CTBT attractive.

ACT: The Obama administration has offered direct dialogue with Tehran without preconditions, which has long been the EU position. What is your assessment of Iran's reaction to the new U.S. position on this dialogue?

Giannella: I don't know whether the offer of the United States is to have direct talks without preconditions. If "without preconditions" is being taken to mean that there is no need for Iran to suspend or freeze enrichment activities, I am not sure if this is what is meant by the U.S. administration. I have understood the U.S. administration position as being that they are ready to be more directly involved with Iran in each and every phase of the negotiations on the nuclear issue and that they also want to have a direct channel of communication covering not only the nuclear issue but also other important issues such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, et cetera. This is very positive, this can only increase the possibility, the hope, for positive developments in the EU-3 Plus 3 process with Iran. But I'm not sure that there will be such a dramatic change in the U.S. position that it might deal on the nuclear issue only bilaterally and at no condition. This is not our reading. The preconditions are set in UN Security Council resolutions.

The other question is how the Iranians have reacted to the new statements by the U.S. administration. I think the reaction is typically Iranian. Instead of saying, "Okay, happy to see that now we have an interlocutor who is ready to talk to us. We are ready to talk as well, and maybe both of us should calm down our rhetoric," we hear "The Americans should apologize for what they have done in the past." Iranians are very difficult people to deal with, and I hope that American statements are not misinterpreted in Iran as unconditional acceptance that Iran need take no steps in order to the meet the criteria of the Security Council.

ACT: Now Iran's enrichment program is gaining speed and is proceeding much faster than many experts had predicted. Do you think direct dialogue can actually wait until after the Iranian presidential elections in June? What will be the EU-3's and EU's role in the context of such new talks?

Giannella: There is this debate about whether we should or should not wait until the presidential election [in Iran]. It is clear that it is difficult for Iran to take a bold decision in a transitional period. On the other hand, when we think about the data concerning the development of enrichment in Iran, they have already produced more than 1.000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, they already have 4,000 centrifuges in operation, they have 2,000 more centrifuges under test, et cetera. That means that, in a few months, they will have produced a quantity of enriched uranium which could be then enriched further to highly enriched uranium and would be enough to produce one nuclear device. Of course, other elements are needed to weaponized, et cetera, but in a few months Iran will reach a really important threshold.

Against this background, I think that we should not wait. It would be better not to wait. How many chances we may have to pressure Iran into making a major policy change I don't know, but I would not wait. My personal opinion is that we should not waste time.

ACT: The other side of the new U.S. position on this is that if Iran does not accept the new offer, more sanctions will be needed. What steps do you see member states and the EU as a whole taking to heighten pressure on Iran, and what can the EU do to engage Russia and China more on this?

Giannella: As you know, we have been implementing the Security Council resolutions very fully, and not just fully but always a little beyond the letter of the Security Council resolutions. We have been a little tougher or more comprehensive. Now we are re-examining the list in order to see whether any updating is needed. This is already a way of increasing pressure. We share the U.S. position that we have to work on the dual-track approach, which means that, on one hand, we have to be open to negotiations and, on the other hand, as long as Iran does not meet the UN Security Council requirements, we have to increase pressure.

What do we do to engage Russia and China? We regularly have meetings with them together with the Americans, and I hope that the increased readiness by the United States to engage directly with Iran, to be involved in all phases of negotiations with Iran, will make Russia and China more ready to adopt new sanctions if Iran continues to refuse to engage.

ACT: You don't sound very optimistic on this.

Giannella: Clearly we haven't had maximum convergence of views on this element over the last two months, but don't forget that the U.S. position was also much more prudent in terms of negotiations. So maybe we will find a new balance with more openness to negotiations and pressure.

ACT: On Russia particularly, at the Munich security conference, Javier Solana said that the Medvedev proposal for a new European security architecture should be taken seriously and that there should be an engagement and a debate on this issue.[19] Could you specify what this means for the security dialogue of the EU with Russia, what specific topics the EU could become engaged on, and how the division between old and new EU members, if you like, in terms of approaching Russia can be overcome?

Giannella: I hesitate to respond to your question because this is really beyond my remit. I am responsible for disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control. What I can tell you is that, in my area of competence, we do have very good cooperation with Russia, and we are looking forward to improve it even more. We work and consult a lot with Russia on nonproliferation [and] disarmament issues, and we also have good practical cooperation with Russia on disarmament projects. We consider and we treat Russia as a major partner of the EU.

ACT: One of the areas of cooperation is the Global Partnership, which is due to expire in 2012.[20] There is going to be a discussion starting on whether to extend the Global Partnership and maybe also to support its geographical expansion. Do you have a position on this already?

Giannella: We are basically in favor of some geographical expansion because we think the objective of Global Partnership cannot be limited to Russia and the former Soviet Union. If there are proliferation threats, [Group of Eight (G-8)] members should address them. On this issue, we do have an open discussion with Russia in the context of the G-8.

ACT: Thank you very much.



[1] Council of the European Union, "A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy," December 12, 2003, www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/78367.pdf; Council of European Union, "EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction," December 12, 2003, register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/03/st15/st15708.en03.pdf.

[2] The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions anywhere. It has been signed by 180 countries and ratified by 148 states. The treaty will not take full legal effect until nine key states, including the United States, ratify the accord. See Arms Control Association, "The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers," February 2008. [at http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/ctbtsig.asp... numbers do not match up, I will work on this]

[3] A proposed fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would outlaw the 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. policy position on an FMCT, announcing that it does not believe an 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.

[4] Resolution 1540, adopted in April 2004, is a legally binding effort that requires all states to implement a variety of domestic measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and related materials.

[5] "Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-Elect Barack Obama," December 2008, special section.

[6] In 2006 the UN General Assembly voted to work toward establishing "common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons." A UN group of governmental experts on August 26, 2008, adopted by consensus a report that called for further study within the UN in a step-by-step manner and on "the basis of consensus" of an arms trade treaty. See Jeff Abramson, "Arms Trade Treaty Discussion Creeps Forward," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 53-54.

[7] Council of the European Union, "Council Conclusions and New Lines for Action by the European Union in Combating the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems," 17172/08, November 23, 2008, available at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st17/st17172.en08.pdf.

[8] Council of the European Union, "Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy: Providing Security in a Changing World," S407/08, December 11, 2008, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/reports/104630.pdf.

[9] Council of the European Union, "Council Conclusions and Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities," 17175/08, December 17, 2008, http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st17/st17175.en08.pdf.

[10] "Statement by the Czech Presidency on Behalf of the European Union: 'PAROS,'" Geneva, February 12, 2009, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/speeches09/1session/12feb_EU.pdf.

[11] In February 2008, Russia and China co-sponsored a proposal at the CD to ban weapons in space. See Wade Boese, "Russia Pushes Pacts as U.S. Kills Satellite," Arms Control Today, March 2008, pp. 50-51.

[12] Council of the European Union, "Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 Defining Common Rules Governing Control of Exports of Military Technology End Equipment," 355 OJ 99, December 13, 2008, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:335:0099:0103:EN:PDF.

[13] Common positions are designed to make cooperation more systematic and improve its coordination. EU member states are required to comply with and uphold common positions that have been adopted unanimously by the council.

[14] Council of the European Union, "Council Common Position 3005/329/PESC of 25 April 2005 Relating to the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 106 OJ 32, April 25, 2005. (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/spru/hsp/documents/2005-0525%20NPT%20CP.pdf)

[15] On February 4, 2008, British Foreign Minister David Miliband presented a six-point plan on nuclear disarmament, in which he described conditions for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. After this interview, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a March 17 speech further elaborated the British position and suggested that the United Kingdom would be ready to participate in broader negotiations "as soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included."

[16] On December 5, 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his role as acting EU president, wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, outlining the EU position on nuclear arms control issues. Among other things, the letter calls for increased nuclear weapons transparency and initiatives on tactical nuclear weapons. http://ambafrance-se.org/france_suede/spip.php?article2084

[17] It is estimated that the United States still deploys between 150 and 240 B61 bombs in Europe. Under nuclear sharing arrangements, as many as 140 weapons can be assigned for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, none of which have their own nuclear arms. These weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime but can be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war. See Oliver Meier, "NATO Mulls Nuke Modernization, Security," Arms Control Today, September 2008, pp. 37-39.

[18] Council of the European Union, "Council Joint Action 2008/588/CFSP of 15 July 2008 on Support for Activities of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) in Order to Strengthen Its Monitoring and Verification Capabilities and in the Framework of the Implementation of the EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction," 189 OJ 28, July 17, 2008, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:189:0028:0035:EN:PDF.

[19] On June 5, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a new security treaty for Europe. Medvedev elaborated on his proposal in more detail in a speech on October 8 at the World Policy Conference in Evian, France.

[20] 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. The initial participants pledged $20 billion over a 10-year period to this effort, including $10 billion from the United States and, to date, have primarily funded projects in Russia.