Speech by Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the signing conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, 3 December 2008

03.12.2008 - Speech

In just a few weeks an anniversary year with special meaning for Germany and Europe will begin. We will celebrate, for the twentieth time, the fall of the Berlin Wall and thereby the end of a divided Europe. Around the world, these events stand for the overcoming of the East-West confrontation, for the end of an era in which weapons of mass destruction and huge conventional weapons arsenals created a cynical type of security.

Nevertheless, disarmament and arms control are unfortunately not yesterday's issues. The international community is rightly concerned about the Iranian nuclear programme, also the suspension of the CFE Treaty, which is a vital element of conventional arms control. And the war in Georgia reminded us that we haven't yet achieved lasting and just peace in Europe.

We all know: a new arms race is the wrong path. We will not solve the problems of our time with a policy of distrustful isolation and deterrence.

What we need – not only in Europe – is an efficient network of arms control and confidence-building. We need new disarmament initiatives and regulations in order to effectively prevent proliferation.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which will be signed by over 100 countries here in Oslo today, proves that when we join forces, we can initiate effective processes.

We all know that over the past two years we had to remove many obstacles from our path. But it was worth it!

Following the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines, with the Oslo Convention we are now banning a further category of weapons that claim countless civilian victims each year, often long after the armed conflicts have ended.

Germany called for renouncing the use of cluster munitions at an early stage. Therefore, directly after the drafting of the convention in May 2008, we decided with immediate effect to remove cluster munitions from the German armed forces' stockpiles and to destroy them.

And in the coming year Germany will make two million Euro available specifically for the removal of cluster munitions in other countries and for victim assistance programmes.

With today's signing we are launching an important new disarmament process. However, the danger that cluster munitions pose to civilian populations can only be eliminated if the ban on these munitions is comprehensive. I therefore call on those states that have not yet decided to sign the Oslo Convention to follow our example and renounce cluster munitions in the future.

What is true for other global issues is also true when it comes to arms control and disarmament: we will only find solutions by working together. This is our shared responsibility.

Thank you for your attention.

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