Speech by Werner Hoyer, Minister of State at the Foreign Office at the opening of the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group meeting in Berlin, 8 November 2011: The International Non-proliferation Landscape and Proliferation Security Initiative

08.11.2011 - Speech

Speech by Dr. Werner Hoyer, MdB Minister of State at the Foreign Office at the opening of the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group meeting in Berlin, 8 November 2011

Speech by Dr. Werner Hoyer, MdB Minister of State at the Foreign Office at the opening of the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group meeting in Berlin, 8 November 2011

-Translation of advance text-

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here in Berlin to this year's meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative. I am convinced that two days full of substantial discussion are ahead of you and that you will produce results which will strengthen this important Initiative.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of today's key challenges to international security. We had all hoped that the threats posed by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would fade away after the end of the Cold War.

Considerable progress in disarmament has indeed been achieved: Since the 1990s stockpiles of nuclear weapons have gone down tremendously. President Obama´s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons as outlined in his Prague speech brought new momentum to disarmament. The conclusion of the New Start Treaty by the USA and Russia is an important milestone. We encourage our partners to continue on this promising path and stand ready to support them in their efforts. The Chemical Weapons Convention totally bans chemical weapons and requires countries to destroy any stockpiles they may have. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention contributes to disarmament and non-proliferation in its field – although the Convention still needs to be strengthened, especially by a verification mechanism.

Disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually supporting. Progress in one field will help to achieve progress in the other.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The biggest non-proliferation challenges for the International Community are Iran, North Koreaand Syria.

As a member of the E3+3 Germany is working hard for a diplomatic solution with Iran. The E3+3 offered Iran comprehensive cooperation on a wide area of subjects in return for a diplomatic solution of the nuclear issue. At the last meeting with Iran in Istanbul in January this year we made concrete proposals for a phased approach to build confidence. Iran has not reacted positively to our proposals over the last years. Thus, the Security Council has adopted a number of resolutions to slow down Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which are of proliferation concern, and move Iran back to the negotiating table. On October 21st, the E3+3 have again taken the initiative and proposed to meet in the near future with Iran if the country is ready to seriously talk about its nuclear programme. We are waiting for a response. In the next couple of days, we expect a strong IAEA report on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme. The Board of Governors should react decisively. If Iran does not move on the nuclear issue we will have to consider additional steps to make Iran return to the negotiating table.

We fully support the resumption of the six-party talks with North Korea as soon as Pyongyang has reliably indicated its willingness to seriously address the issue of the denuclearization of the Peninsula. The latest talks between the US and North Korea as well as the talks between the North and the South might lead to some progress. At the same time, in both cases, Iran and North Korea, we have to ensure that existing sanctions are meticulously implemented. We have to be vigilant to prevent the circumvention of sanctions. Upholding the pressure remains essential for a diplomatic solution.

In the same sense Germany has also endorsed the IAEA's non-compliance resolution on Syria. The aim is to convince Damascus to cooperate fully with the IAEA so that all outstanding questions can be clarified.

Right now Libya gives reason for concern – Germany together with its partners and International Organisations like the OPCW and IAEA is engaged to prevent material usable for weapons of mass destruction from falling into wrong hands and possibly being abused for non-peaceful purposes. Beyond the realm of PSI, you will also be aware of the security threat which, in particular, manpads from the stocks of the former Ghaddafi regime pose to the international community.

The best way to prevent proliferation – and this is just as true now as in the past - is to convince countries that weapons of mass destruction do not improve their security. In a number of cases this approach has been successful. Brazil, Kazakhstan, Argentina and South Africa are outstanding examples of countries that could have acquired nuclear weapons but in the end chose not to do so or gave up their nuclear weapons programmes.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

A responsible non-proliferation policy cannot be based on the hope that diplomacy will always be successful. It remains imperative to stop proliferation wherever possible. Last but not least, non-proliferation efforts have a crucial role to play in slowing down WMD programmes and opening a window of opportunity for diplomatic solutions.

Clearly the first line of defence here are export controls: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. We have to strengthen all these regimes to meet the challenges of the 21st century. PSI is a necessary complement to the international export control regimes.

And we must not forget either that controls and other activities that prevent international trade from being perverted to serve proliferation purposes in fact facilitate the international flow of goods and technologies for peaceful purposes.

In this connection I would like to mention that in June 2012 Germany will again host, like several times before, a seminar on specific aspects of export controls here at the Foreign Office in Berlin.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Much is being been done to fight proliferation. However, it seems to be easier than ever for proliferators to acquire the technologies and goods needed to produce weapons of mass destruction or missiles capable of carrying such weapons.

The first reason for this is globalization. The free flow of goods and technology has enormous benefits for the welfare of nations. But at the same time it entails huge risks. Fifty years ago the technology to build a nuclear weapon could be mastered only by a few advanced industrialized countries. Today this is definitely no longer the case. The necessary machinery, materials and know how are easily available and can be ordered or accessed through the internet. Proliferators do no longer need state-of-the-art technology. Machine tools or gas ultra centrifuges of the kind modern companies usually display in their museums are sufficient for a nuclear weapons programme.

The second reason is that proliferators have learnt to evade controls. They set up front companies and use bogus bank accounts as well as bogus end-user certificates. Items are broken down into ever smaller units until their individual components are no longer subject to export controls, and are hardly recognizable as proliferation relevant. In this room I am sure there are quite a few people who can tell that a piece of aluminium is actually a part of a gas ultra centrifuge – but can the ordinary customs officer in Hamburg, Naples, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur do that? In Hamburg you will have the opportunity to see how German customs is addressing this challenge.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

If the challenge grows the response has to cope with it. This response can only be multilateral. So what is crucial here is to convince more and more countries around the world that they have to actively prevent and, where necessary, combat proliferation. We also have to talk to countries that do not produce critical items and technologies. They may be important transshipment hubs, flag states or hosts of front companies. They may be home to banks through which proliferation activities are financed. If the economy is globalized non-proliferation efforts have to become global as well.

In order to strengthen the political will to tackle the problem seriously we will need to think about creating incentives and perhaps also disincentives for countries that do not fully cooperate. The EU, for example, added a new clause to its association agreements with third countries that links mutual cooperation under which the countries in question commit to respect the rules of non-proliferation. Security Council Resolution 1540 has already established a world-wide standard that has helped a lot to at least raise awareness.

But even if a country has the political will it may lack the resources, the know-how and experience to take appropriate action. Thus, an important part of any successful non-proliferation policy today is to assist other countries to develop the necessary tools and expertise. The EU Commission has established Centres of Excellence to do exactly that. The German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) offers support to various partner countries on behalf of the European Union.

In its beginning PSI has focused on improving the cooperation among PSI OEG members to intercept the shipment of proliferation relevant items. We think PSI should now consider what can be done to improve the capabilities of those 77 countries that have endorsed PSI principles but are not OEG members. And PSI could go even further: For often very different reasons there are countries that do not wish to become PSI members but are keen to combat proliferation. PSI countries should find some way to cooperate with these countries as well.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a globalized world we need global rules on non-proliferation. An interdiction of a proliferation-relevant shipment, including in the PSI context, is first and foremost a question of applying and ultimately enforcing the law. A key issue is how to create a basis for the interdiction of proliferation related activities within the international community. PSI itself cannot and does not aim to create a legal basis for this. In recent years, however, the UN Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions relating to sanctions in particular which have helped to create a more solid basis in international law for multilateral co-operation in interdiction cases.

In most such cases to date, Germany has relied on the cooperation of the flag state, the shipper or the captain of the vessel. And we have usually found them to be cooperative. Shipping companies, captains and crews rarely know that their vessel is abused for illicit activities. The “BBC China” case in 2003, which helped to bring to light Libya's nuclear weapons programme and the activities of the AQ Khan network, is a good case in point.

Core issues such as the questions of seizure, liability, disposition etc. remain to be ruled by national law. Here often better regulation is needed. This is already the subject of Security Council Resolution 1540 and the various activities under way aimed at helping countries to implement it. Germany will be hosting an experts workshop in this field in early 2012.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Close cooperation with industry and the private sector is essential if non-proliferation policy is to be successful. In a globalized world governments can no longer regulate or solve key non-proliferation issues on their own. A good example here is nuclear energy: In the beginning nuclear energy programmes were nearly always state owned and managed. Today, the big companies are completely or to a large extent privately owned. In Germany, for example, most of our expertise on enrichment technology is supplied by a German-Dutch-British company, Urenco. This company was set up under an intergovernmental treaty. It is subject to government oversight, but run as a private business. Of course in this area it is very important, too, to have close contacts with the global transportation industry, one of the main drivers and also beneficiaries of globalization.

In this connection, let me be very clear about one thing: Germany is, as you know, phasing out the use of nuclear energy. But we remain absolutely committed to the goal of preventing nuclear proliferation. We will continue to play an active part in the work of the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Nuclear Security Summit Process and of course PSI.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Overall, nuclear non-proliferation has been quite a success story: Instead of more that 20 countries possessing nuclear weapons as President Kennedy has feared in the sixties there are now fewer than 10.

In the nuclear field especially, however, the system is under major strain. I already mentioned Iran, North Korea, Syria. This means that the nuclear non-proliferation system in particular has to be strengthened. We need a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty to stop the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. We need the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to enter into force. We need the IAEA Additional Protocol to become the accepted global safeguards standard. In 2010 Germany, together with other partners, founded the “Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative” (NPDI), also to press for progress on these issues.

We are now at a crossroads: Either we succeed in effectively globalizing the non-proliferation regime or the old system of key countries controlling key technologies will simply be overtaken by events. “Old” instruments like IAEA safeguards and export controls as well as “new” instruments like PSI certainly play an important role. In the end, however, a new and broader perspective on the problem may be required. Do international and domestic financial systems need to become more sensitive, for example, to proliferation concerns? Do they have the tools to address these concerns effectively? Can we control each and every proliferation relevant item or is it better to focus on key items and key technologies?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

let me conclude: There is obviously no one-size-fits-all solution. Non-proliferation is something that needs concentrated, day-to-day attention, involving a large number of little bits and pieces, many uncertainties, many small decisions which can have a big positive impact, or may just go wrong and waste a lot of time and money. PSI is there to help us try and get things right, learn from one another and therefore reduce the risk of proliferation. It does a very important job. If it did not already exist, PSI would have to be invented. So let me thank you for all the hard work you are doing and wish you a very productive and successful meeting.

Related content


Top of page