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Diplomat recalls Australian links in campaign against chemical and biological weapons …

  • March 10th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Barbulesco NThe new Romanian Ambassador in Canberra, Nineta Barbulescu, can claim some special knowledge of Australia through her earlier work as a specialist in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (i.e. nuclear, chemical and biological weapons).

WORKING FOR DISARMAMENT

Mrs Barbulescu, a career diplomat with background in international public law, was appointed to her present position last August.

She served for 15 years in senior roles with her home government, managing policy and international relations on security and defence issues, nuclear non-proliferation, the Chemical Weapons Convention, asymmetrical risks, combating terrorism and human rights.

‘AUSTRALIA GROUP’ COUNTERS CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL THREAT

Chemical WeaponsSpeaking in Brisbane this month, 4.3.14, she said leading work had been done by the Australia Group, the grouping of 42 countries formed in 1984, and coordinated by Australia to constrain the spread of chemical and biological weapons.

“It is not an organisation, nor a treaty, but a group of like-minded countries formed to regulate the most advanced standards of buying and selling of products that might be used for making chemical or biological weapons”, she told a boardroom lunch organised by the Australian Council for Europe.

“The difference is how to deal with that in practical terms, since export controls is a non-commercial barrier to international trade. When you deal with Australia you do not have doubts about what the foreign policy is; there is no ambiguity about Australia acting as one of the very few sustainable worldwide champions of disarmament and non-proliferation.”

LIVING IN A TROUBLED REGION

Romania 4 Romania townMs Barbulescu, who was a Law student in Bucharest (pictures)  at the time of the Romanian revolution in 1989, said that event meant a fundamental transformation not only for domestic politics but also for the lives of ordinary people. It brought much better living conditions but also some natural difficulties in fulfilling the natural gaps between Western and Eastern countries in Europe.

“In Romania, all governments and also all people had fixed ideas during the last two decades, to join the Council of Europe, then NATO and then the European Union. But of course, we ‘joined’ also crises fashionable in Europe, such as financial crisis, and that was not so easy to become accepted.”

UKRAINE

Romania mapAsked about the current crisis in Ukraine, Romania sharing two borders with Ukraine, and with an important Romanian community in that country , she said there were “unfortunately several ‘frozen conflicts’ in the Black Sea region” (i.e. Transdniestria, Nagorno-Karabah, Abhazia and Osetia in Georgia),  which had to be dealt with recurrently.

“No matter how long a future diplomatic process might take, all countries should refrain from using force or threatening to use force as a means of solving tests of political will or regional influence.  Invoking self-determination of a certain region cannot be an excuse for using force against recognised international borders,” Ambassador  Barbulescu said.

“On a larger scale, it is worrying how easy and quickly the international community is getting used to any new crisis; just look at the massive casualties in Syria.”

PROHIBITING CHEMICAL WEAPONS

“It is important to pay tribute to the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, an homologue of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna, but for chemical weapons. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 ‘for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons’.

“So we have to recognise that sometimes, any crises might be an opportunity to advance security for the advancing international community. For instance regarding Syria, even one year ago, it might have been impossible to imagine a process of dismantling the chemical weapons stockpiles in that country, as it joined the OPCW only in the framework of international joint diplomatic efforts to prevent armed international intervention on its soil.

“I am humbled and very proud I had the opportunity to work with the OPCW both at home, in Bucharest, as Head of the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation in Romania, and most recently in the Hague, as Chair of the OPCW Confidentiality Commission. It’s a tremendous experience not only as a diplomat but also as a human being to be connected with such current challenges worldwide.”

WORK OF THE AUSTRALIA GROUP

The Australia Group describes itself as “an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. Coordination of national export control measures assists Australia Group participants to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible.”

The group, which counts as members all 28 European Union countries , also includes the EU as an entity (with observer status). It convenes an annual plenary meeting  in Paris and several technical meetings in various locations in the participating countries. The work of the Australia Group is coordinated by an Australian diplomat acting as informal Chair, currently Jeff Robinson from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.

Decisions of the Australia Group (AG) as recent as last year have included up-dating of Control Lists for trade in dual-use Biological Equipment and Related Technology; the Software Control List of Dual-use Biological Equipment and Related Technology; and the list for dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities and equipment – along with other recommendations for conducting export controls of dual-use items and technologies in all the participating countries.

The Australia Group keeps the list of precursor substances for chemical weapons, and a little over one year ago provided advice on the level of threat posed by chemical weapons held in Syria – later being dismantled under an historic international agreement with the OPCW.

Country members of the Australia Group are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Union (as observer), Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Reference

The Australia Group – home, Canberra. http://www.australiagroup.net/en/index.html, (8.3.14).

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – www.opcw.org, (10.3.14).

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