Wien, 10. Juni 2009 Rede/Interview

Opening Words by H.E. Michael Spindelegger - CTBTO International Scientific Studies Conference 2009 (english only)

CTBTO International Scientific Studies Conference 2009

Opening Words by H.E. Michael Spindelegger,
Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs

Vienna, 10 June 2009

Mr. President Ola Dahlman,
Mr. Executive Secretary Tibor Toth,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Let me warmly welcome you at the International Scientific Studies Conference. Austria is honored to host the Secretariat and Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization CTBTO in our capital and I am very pleased to welcome so many distinguished scientists from all over the world here in Vienna today for this important event dedicated to the CTBT's verification regime. 

1. A global instrument of peace

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a milestone in the history of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

  • It is a firm legal barrier prohibiting nuclear testing worldwide – the last step before the development of a nuclear weapon.
  • It is a global instrument of multilateral cooperation that provides priceless scientific information for peaceful purposes fairly and equally to all States.
  • It is a promise of peace to our children that they will live in a safer and more secure world.

2. DPRK Nuclear Test

And we need this promise today: Two weeks ago we were once again witness to a nuclear test by a state that according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, should be a non-nuclear weapons state. The international community resolutely condemned the North-Korean test, as the immediate reaction by the UN Security Council – of which Austria is currently a member – demonstrated.

Together with its partners on the Council, Austria is currently deliberating a new Security Council resolution that clearly responds to the challenge by the DPRK. We expect this resolution to be adopted in the coming days. Austria has worked hard to ensure that the resolution will also refer to the CTBT, and I am confident that a reference to this most important instrument will be included in the final text.

3. Renaissance in Nuclear Disarmament

As Austrian Foreign Minister, I condemned the nuclear test as an irresponsible provocation in a time where there are promising developments in the field of global disarmament:

  • Last autumn, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a far-reaching plan for disarmament;
  • US President Obama’s speech at the EU-US Summit in Prague on 5 April outlined an ambitious disarmament agenda and other Nuclear Weapons States, especially Russia and the United Kingdom, have also made proposals;
  • On 24 April, the US and Russia initiated negotiations for renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START.
  • The Third NPT-Preparatory Committee held in May in New York benefited from a very constructive atmosphere;
  • On 29 May, after 12 years, the Geneva Conference on Disarmament finally agreed on a program of work with a mandate to negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty.

The North-Korean nuclear tests last month made two points very clear:

  • First, the international security system needs a universal, effective and reliable CTBT as one of its foundations; and
  • Second, despite not yet having entered into force and with a third of its planned monitoring facilities not yet in operation, the CTBTO is already now capable of providing the required reliable verification information.

Let me briefly expand on these two points.

4. An appeal for early entry into force

As to the first point, the nuclear tests highlight the urgency of achieving the early entry into force of the CTBT, and of putting an end to nuclear explosions for all time.

The CTBT relies on support from around the globe: Since its adoption by the UN General Assembly in 1996, 180 countries have signed and 148 have ratified the Treaty. We all know that the entry into force of the Treaty still requires the ratification of nine countries.

Austria, as the CTBTO’s host country and current Co-Chair of the “CTBT Article XIV-Conference” feels particularly committed to supporting international efforts to bring the Treaty into force. Together with Costa Rica, we have been raising awareness about the CTBT and the civil applications of its International Monitoring System, such as the tsunami early-warning-system, at various occasions. We co-organized a Ministerial Meeting in New York last September, at which high-level representatives from more than 90 states, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former US Defence Secretary William Perry and UN Peace Ambassador Michael Douglas participated.

We hope that a better understanding of the overall benefits of the CTBT will help speed up the ratification process and its entry into force. In this context we feel strongly encouraged by the commitment of the new US Administration to seek Senate approval for the ratification of the Treaty. We hope that this will establish momentum so that other non-ratifiers, particularly the remaining Annex II States, will feel inspired to also join the Treaty.

But to create and especially to sustain this momentum we all need to work hard, together and individually.

I therefore appeal to you today to join the efforts by politicians, diplomats, international organizations, academic institutions and civil society to reach the goal of entry into force of the CTBT.

5. An effective and reliable verification system

Let me add a couple of observations to the second point, the CTBT’s verification system.

All of us took note with great satisfaction of how the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System recorded the nuclear tests carried out by North-Korea in 2006 and this year and informed all States Parties to the CTBT accordingly. Clearly: even with only two-thirds of the system in place, the verification structures of the CTBT function in a reliable and efficient manner.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to ensure that sufficient resources are devoted to the CTBT to complete the installation and certification of remaining monitoring stations. This requires full and generous cooperation by all States committed to the Treaty.

And it is equally important that the international scientific community continues to ensure that the Treaty and its verification system benefit from the newest scientific and technical developments. There are many questions which need answers, such as: 

  • Is the system effective and reliable and can we make it even better, such as through new scientific methods?
  • Can we extend the benefits of compiling the data into other areas, such as tsunami warnings, in a more systematic manner?

6. Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the next days, you will be addressing these and other questions and I thank you for coming here and participating. I am confident that the CTBT’s International Scientific Studies Project, which Austria has supported since its launch in March 2008, will benefit hugely from this Conference.

Science gave us the atomic bomb.

But science can also give us the means to control it and to help build a world without nuclear weapons.

As prospects for entry into force of the CTBT improve, strengthening of the Treaty’s verification regime increases in significance. The international scientific community has contributed to the development of the CTBT’s global verification system since the Treaty’s inception. Now we need to ensure that the expertise which science provides will contribute to making the CTBT a successful arms control regime.

Thank you.