MEPs heard on Thursday from a variety of experts, EU officials
and civil society representatives on the threats facing the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The public hearing, organised by the
Subcommittee on Security and Defence, addressed both the general
prospects for non-proliferation as well as the specific threat to the
NPT regime by Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The NPT "reflects a world that no longer exists," said Lars-Erik
Lundin, Head of Unit and Deputy Political Director of security policy at
the European Commission. According to Dr Bruno Tertrais, of the French
foundation for strategic research, the deficiencies of the treaty
include an "exceedingly permissive" withdrawal clause, and a "dubious
distinction between civilian and military applications of nuclear
Nevertheless, the experts agreed that the idea of amending the
treaty was "a non-starter". Prof. William C. Potter (Centre for
Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International
Studies, USA) suggested that governments should reinterpret some of the
NPT's provisions, instead, such as Article 5 on the peaceful
applications of nuclear explosions.
External challenges to the NPT
More important than the treaty's internal flaws, however, is the
current set of external threats to an international non-proliferation
regime. Prof. Potter underlined the danger of non-state actors acquiring
nuclear weapons, either by getting a hold of a tactical nuclear weapon
(TNW) or by building a crude nuclear device using highly-enriched
uranium (HEU) that can be found in many civilian applications. Dr Bernd
W. Kubbig (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt), emphasised the peril of
establishing double standards in non-proliferation, as exemplified by
the recent US-India agreement.
The hard case today: Iran
Most pressing, however, are the nuclear ambitions of Iran, a
topic that gave rise to a lively debate at the hearing. Several
participants argued that the Iranian push for a nuclear deterrent sprung
from the government's thirst for international prestige or its hegemonic
aspirations, and not from a perception of real threat from its
neighbours. This prompted Angelika Beer (Greens/EFA, DE) to ask whether
it was time to re-evaluate the EU's goal of keeping Iran nuclear-free.
"We should consider a possible nuclear Iran," replied Dr. Kubbig, who
advocated an incremental approach, with a 5-10 year timeline, a
comprehensive "grand bargain" on security in the Middle East, and an
objective to "integrate Iran instead of isolating it."
Dr Tertrais disagreed: "I don't want to integrate [Iranian
President] Ahmadinejad. That would be appeasement." He also noted that
one of the main stumbling blocks in the Iranian crisis is the US
administration's insistence on regime change in Tehran. "Regime change
and nuclear non-proliferation talks are mutually exclusive," he claimed.
Dr. Pierre Goldschmidt (former Deputy Director General of the IAEA and
Head of its Safeguards Department) suggested instead that the
international community follow the example of secret diplomacy with
Libya that led to the abandonment of its nuclear programme.
The future of non-proliferation: what way forward?
Hannes Swoboda (PES, AT) asked whether the EU had any "general,
coherent strategy for non-proliferation," which could be explained to
European voters. Mr. Lundin described the Commission's efforts at
controlling TNW in the former Soviet Union through the TACIS program,
while Jean-Claude Brunet, a representative of Mr Solana, described the
difficulties in starting Council discussions on any nuclear issue, since
the Member States hold such a wide variety of views on nuclear power.
Karl von Wogau (EPP-ED, DE), the Chairman of the Subcommittee,
asked whether stable mutually assured destruction (MAD) arrangements
were forming on a regional basis, replacing the bipolar deterrence
system of the Cold War. Janet Bloomfield, honorary vice-president of the
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament wondered instead whether more
nuclear-free zones could be established worldwide, such as the recent
agreement in Central Asia. She gave her support to a written declaration
by the EP calling for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European
territory, which is still awaiting the required number of signatures to
Prof. Potter suggested replacing all HEU in civilian
applications that, for the most part, require only low-enriched
material. Mr Kullig called on the EU to push for a universal acceptance
of the "additional protocol" designed to enable the IAEA to verify
compliance in non-nuclear weapons states. More ambitiously, Dr Stephen
Pullinger, Director of the International Security Information Service
(ISIS) Europe, spoke out in favour of a "new 'International Nuclear
Settlement'" with extensive disarmament goals. Ms Bloomfield took the
idea one step further, and advocated a total "phasing-out of nuclear
power" of all kinds, civilian and military.
Subcommittee on Security and Defence
In the Chair: : Karl VON WOGAU (EPP-ED, DE)