Mr. Erkki Tuomioja, Foreign Minister of Finland, at the BTWC Ad Hoc Group, 27 March 2000

Mr. Chairman,

I am grateful for this opportunity to address the BTWC Ad Hoc Group at this important juncture.

The Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention entered into force 25 years ago, on 26 March 1975. The BTWC was a remarkable achievement. It provided for an elimination of an entire class of weapons by prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition and retention of biological weapons and their means of delivery.

This treaty was to eliminate the threat of biological warfare, following the Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibiting the use of poisonous gases and bacteriological weapons.

Since the entry into force of the BTWC Convention, rapid developments in biotechnology and genetic engineering have made biological weapons a growing global threat. We also continue to face challenges to prevent the proliferation of delivery vehicles. Efforts to prevent the use of biological or chemical warfare by terrorist groups are being strengthened.

In the new situation, we have rightly concluded that the BTWC should be complemented with effective provisions of verification and monitoring. It is in the interest of all States Parties that the credibility of this major disarmament and non-proliferation instrument and its implementation are being strengthened. The establishment of this Ad Hoc Group in 1994 constituted a welcome step. The voluntary confidence building measures applied by the States Parties have paved the way for effective monitoring of the Convention. However, CBMs are not comparable to legally binding obligations that are being negotiated now.

The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996 are valuable examples of verifiable multilateral disarmament agreements. Preparations for the entry into force of the CTBT are now well underway, and the CWC is already being implemented. We hope that the network of multilateral disarmament agreements will be soon complemented with the BTWC Protocol.

Finland has a tradition of supporting international arms control as a means of furthering international stability and security. In conformity with the common position by the European Union, we are committed to supporting these negotiations with a view to early and successful conclusion. Finland has also started preparations for the national implementation of the future Protocol through a research and development project.

A natural part of the process is a continuous dialogue with the industry and relevant associations.

Mr. Chairman,

Now, after five years of negotiations in this Ad Hoc Group, it is encouraging to see that progress has been made. The negotiations on a verification Protocol are reaching their final stage. I would like to express my sincere thanks to you, Mr. Chairman, and all the Friends of the Chair, who have spared no efforts in bringing the work of this Ad Hoc Group forward. With determination by all States Parties, we can come to finish the negotiations on time.

The negotiating task is challenging. It is technically complex, as pathogens and toxins as well as related equipment and technology are often of dual-use character. There is also need to create timely verification responses, as pathogens - unlike chemicals - are living organisms which can multiply rapidly. In the first place, the States parties should take care that the outcome of these negotiations fullfils the necessary requirements for an effective verification regime. A balance must also be found between increased transparency and confidence and the protection of national security and commercial proprietary information.

Finland, together with the European Union, has striven for steady progress in the Ad Hoc Group work. We have sought for the completion of the Protocol as soon as possible before the commencement of the Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties, to be held no later than 2001. As stated by the EU in this committee before, Finland considers that certain basic building blocks are essential for a meaningful and credible regime.

An effective verification regime should include, as is now foreseen, a balanced set of a number of measures. It requires a well-targeted declaration regime which captures all facilities and activities most relevant to the Convention. Visits to declared facilities are needed to increase transparency, promote accuracy of declarations and ensure fulfilment of declaration obligations. Clarification procedures are needed in case there is an anomaly, ambiguity or omission in a declaration of a State Party. There should also be a possiblity to conduct clarification visits. Clarification procedures should also apply when a facility should have been declared but was not.

Provisions for rapid and effective investigations in case of concerns over non-compliance with the Convention are of primary importance. It is crucial that the investigation can proceed swiftly and the mandate of the investigation be comprehensive enough. Finland is of the view that it should be possible to launch the investigation promptly without explicit decision by the Executive Council. Such a procedure would allow the Executive Council to intervene if the investigation request was considered to be unwarranted.

Based on the experience from the implementation of other disarmament agreements, there is no doubt that the future BTWC Organisation will face demanding tasks. Finland is in favour of the establishment of a cost-effective and independent organisation for the purposes of the Protocol. The Executive Council should be representative but small enough to enable the Council to provide the organisation promptly with the necessary guidance. Efficiency in carrying out the functions assigned to the organisation should be the guiding principle.

Mr. Chairman,

Our objective is a credible Protocol, which would significantly strengthen the effectiveness of and ensure compliance with the Convention. It is important that the future Protocol will be adhered to by all States Parties. Moreover, it is important that the States Parties continue their efforts to make the BTWC universal.

Finland believes that a successful Protocol will bring significant benefits to all States Parties. Increased international confidence and security are major benefits. The Protocol shall also contain measures for furthering international cooperation and exchanges in the field of biotechnology, assistance to promote the Protocol´s implementation and to avoid hampering economic development. We are confident that a common view can be found also in these issues.

We are close to the establishment of a new verification and compliance regime which can significantly enhance the Convention and strengthen our common security. At the present stage of negotiations it is crucial that the Governments involved show political will in solving the outstanding issues. Finland hopes that it would now be possible to intensify the negotiations both through formal work at the Ad Hoc Group as well as through informal consultations.

We are facing an opportunity to demonstrate once again that multilateral disarmament can reach tangible results. This would add to the long list of achievements of the past decade. I hope that progress in this forum would help to create positive conditions also in other fora, such as the Conference on Disarmament and the NPT review process, so that in the years to come we could look back to the year 2000 as an important year for disarmament and non-proliferation.

I would like to wish you, Mr. Chairman, as well as all delegations in this Ad Hoc Group, best success in bringing the negotiations to an early and successful conclusion.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman