The Annual Progress Report on the implementation of its Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction shows how the EU promotes nuclear disarmament, funds civil protection and border control training, supports international organisations like the IAEA and the OPCW to safeguard nuclear materials and eliminate chemical weapons, and more.
If used, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons cause immense human suffering. Their proliferation can trigger dangerous arms races. Even radioactive materials and potent chemicals that are used in energy production, medicine, and industry, can become a threat if acquired by terrorists. Therefore, preventing the use and proliferation of WMDs are top priorities for the Union.
Here are five key ways, in which the EU protected its citizens from WMDs in 2020:
- Monitoring radioactive activity: the EU and the IAEA monitor radioactive activity in Europe and beyond through 5,500 monitoring sites, operated by 39 countries. This enables the early discovery of any nuclear incident or emergency. In case of an emergency, early notification networks like ECURIE and EMERCON warn the relevant national authorities.
- Enhancing nuclear security: in 2020, the EU enabled IAEA nuclear security activities through a contribution of EUR 11.6 million. EU funding will help to universalise multilateral agreements on the physical protection of nuclear materials, help the IAEA better account for and control nuclear materials in the entire fuel cycle, and foster international cooperation in training the next generation of nuclear security experts and officials with a special focus on gender inclusiveness.
- Mitigating CBRN risks worldwide: the EU operates Centres of Excellence on chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear (CBRN) risk mitigation around the world. They promote safety and cooperation and help to build national and regional capacities for managing CBRN risks.
In 2020, the Centres helped countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing crisis management expertise and enabled countries to detect first cases of infection. Long-term assistance, especially in Africa, will continue to build biosecurity capacities for early detection and surveillance of dangerous pathogens. The EU also provided nuclear security training for border protection officials in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, in collaboration with the US Department of Energy, and helped establish a nuclear forensics information system for the Black Sea region.
- Ending impunity for chemical weapons use: in 2020, EU funding for the OPCW helped ensure the destruction of global chemical weapons stockpiles and managing risks emanating from new, dangerous chemicals. In 2020, EU support especially benefited Ukraine, where a National Reference Centre for the identification of toxic chemicals was created. Importantly, the EU firmly supports OPCW on-the-ground investigations to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and the OPCW mechanism to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons use.
- Strengthening global biosecurity: the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) outlaws the use of dangerous viruses, bacteria, and toxic substances against humans. To ensure that such weapons are never used, the EU lobbied 13 countries that are not yet parties to the Convention to accede to it. Additionally, the EU demonstrated its strong support for the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigating allegations of biological and chemical weapons use. We worked hard to protect the impartiality of the Mechanism at the UN General Assembly from attempts to undermine it. We are also supporting the Mechanism with EUR 1.4 million.