This page was archived on October 2020.


Key elements of the international system

55 - European policy on non-proliferation and the arms trade

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2014: A- (16/20)

Europeans played important roles in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons, the Iran nuclear talks, and ratifying the ATT.

Two WMD issues led the European agenda in 2014: the dismantling of Syria’s chemical stockpile under the auspices of the UN and OPCW and nuclear talks with Iran.

The Syrian process relied significantly on European contributions. Denmark oversaw the naval aspects of the operation, supported by Norway, China, and Russia. Italy hosted a US ship repurposed for the destruction of Syria’s most dangerous materials, while the UK took others to Britain to be destroyed. Despite early doubts, the UN-OPCW operation completed its mission in October 2014. There are still suspicions that the Syrian regime has kept some chemical weapons in reserve, but the removal and destruction of its declared stockpile was nonetheless a significant achievement – especially given the risks of ISIS seizing remaining stocks.

The EU also had a prominent role in the nuclear talks with Iran, especially because of the personal influence of Catherine Ashton as chair, although the US is obviously the primary force on the Western side. The talks failed to reach a conclusion by the deadline of November and were extended by seven months; Ashton maintained the confidence of all sides to such an extent that she was asked to stay on for this extra period of negotiation after leaving office as European foreign policy head.

EU governments have also played a role in hastening the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was signed in 2013 after considerable European advocacy. The Treaty required 50 ratifications to come into force and most EU member states helped complete this process. Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland were the only EU members not among the first 50 ratifiers. The Treaty reached the necessary level of support in September and came into force in late December.