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Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control

Disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation are priorities of German foreign and security policy. The post of Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control was created in 1965 in recognition of the close link existing between efforts to reunify Germany and the disarmament negotiations between the major powers.

Antje Leendertse took over as Commissioner and head of the Federal Foreign Office’s Directorate-General for Disarmament and Arms Control in late March 2014.

Curriculum vitae

Implementing the goals of the coalition agreement

At their Chicago summit in 2012 Germany and its NATO partners proclaimed the goal of establishing the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons and, until this was achieved, of reducing the role of nuclear weapons. Germany is working for the opening of negotiations between the United States and Russia on verifiable and complete disarmament in the area of sub-strategic weapons. Successful disarmament talks are the fundamental prerequisite for the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Germany and Europe. Germany also supports regional agreements on zones free of weapons of mass destruction.

Nuclear disarmament requires patience and perseverance, however. “Global zero” is a long-term goal that will not be accomplished all at once. Germany has welcomed President Obama’s offer of new negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons, an offer which Russia has not taken up to date. Given the current difficult political environment, rapid progress is for the time being unlikely. Nuclear disarmament remains imperative, however, not least in order to strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This is the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. Germany is working with our partners in the EU and the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative to strengthen the treaty.

New political momentum is likewise needed in the field of conventional disarmament and arms control as well as confidence- and security-building measures in Europe. The Euro-Atlantic arms control architecture established under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe needs to be modernised on the basis of verifiable transparency. As events in Ukraine have demonstrated, such confidence-building instruments can have an important role to play especially in crisis situations.

Internationally Germany is campaigning for the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons to be implemented in full and for the international Arms Trade Treaty to achieve worldwide validity.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria has highlighted the need for new initiatives to promote universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). To this end the German Government is urging countries that are not yet signatories to accede to the CWC. Germany is one of the countries most closely involved in the important task of eradicating Syria’s chemical weapons. The “Gesellschaft für die Entsorgung von chemischen Kampfstoffen und Rüstungsaltlasten” (GEKA) in Munster, for example, has carried out the safe and environmentally responsible destruction of 370 tons of residuals from the Syria’s chemical warfare agents.

Activities in the context of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

The Directorate-General for Disarmament and Arms Control works closely with EU member states, NATO allies and other partner countries around the world.

High priority is given to the EU strategy adopted in 2003 to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Another example of what is being done at EU level to tackle new and increasingly pressing problems is the EU strategy adopted in 2005 to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. These EU strategies focus on cooperation based on legally binding and verifiable agreements.

In addition, active use is made of other coordination bodies and cooperation mechanisms within NATO and the OSCE.

Strengthening the United Nations (UN)

The United Nations is the forum for building a global coalition to tackle the security challenges of the 21st century. The Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control therefore works closely with representatives of UN member countries and the UN itself as well as with the UN’s subsidiary organizations and specialized agencies to strengthen and further develop existing multilateral instruments in the field of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Of great importance here are the permanent UN bodies concerned with disarmament and arms control negotiations such as the General Assembly First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. The International Atomic Energy Agency also plays a pivotal role, notably through the application of so-called safeguards in member countries’ civilian nuclear facilities.

Coordinating implementation of international agreements

Besides analysing and developing new aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation policy, the Commissioner is very active in decision-making bodies concerned with the implementation, further development and strengthening of existing international agreements and coordination mechanisms. These include the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Ottawa Convention on a global ban on anti-personnel mines, the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) etc. In spheres where instruments and mechanisms for multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation are still lacking, the Commissioner endeavours to advance the debate on and negotiation of new international agreements. A topical example are the negotiations under way on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

The work done by the Commissioner also supports efforts to give practical effect to the provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty. Germany was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the treaty, which was adopted as recently in 2013.

Responding to violations of international agreements

When international non-proliferation agreements are violated, as in the case of Iran for example, the German Government seeks assiduously and in close cooperation with our partners to ensure that international norms are respected. Together with France, Britain, the United States, Russia and China (E3+3), Germany is endeavouring to ensure that the Iranian nuclear programme serves exclusively peaceful purposes. In November 2013 the E3+3 and Iran reached agreement on a Joint Plan of Action, a first important step towards a comprehensive solution. Negotiations have now begun on a comprehensive agreement to be concluded by summer 2014.

Support for regional organisations

The Commissioner also supports efforts by regional organisations to enhance security. She is actively involved, for example, in the OSCE area in work to implement and modernise the CFE Treaty, the Treaty on Open Skies and the Vienna Document as well as the confidence-building measures agreed in 2013 in the field of cyber security. In South-Eastern Europe the Commissioner is helping to implement the arms control aspects of the Dayton Accords and promotes closer cooperation between the countries of the region. Various schemes designed particularly to foster cooperative security and confidence-building are under way. Germany is encouraging the countries of South-Eastern Europe in their efforts to draw closer to European and transatlantic structures.

New challenges

New technologies in the realm of information and communications technology, for example, or increasingly autonomous weapons systems create new challenges also for arms control policy. Here it is crucial to closely monitor basically civilian research activities in order to identify in advance possible implications for the military sphere and work with our partners to devise appropriate disarmament and arms control responses.

Summary of activities

The Government’s annual Disarmament Reports provide the best summary of the activities of the Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control.

Federal Government Report on Progress on Arms Control, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and the Development of the Capabilities of the Armed Forces (Annual Disarmament Report 2013) (in German) (PDF, 1 MB)

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Last updated 02.04.2014

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