And we’re off to a good – if unremarkable – start of the NPT Review Conference 2015. The first days are reserved for statements by individual states, international organisations like the IAEA and groups of states such as the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the NPDI.
Grosso modo, there was nothing to be overly excited about on the first day. Israel was admitted as an observer state to the meeting without any objection. NGO’s are allowed only on the balcony. That’s about as exciting as it got.
The majority of statements follow the same format. States stress the importance of the NPT and their intention to further strengthen the Treaty. They then share their frustration about the lack of progress on disarmament and go on to recognise the positive contribution of the conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
The biggest stir in the room was caused by the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Bert Koenders. In his otherwise very clear statement he caught everyone off guard when he seemed to support the ‘Austrian Pledge’, something he said only days ago in the Dutch parliament he wouldn’t do. Turns out it was a slip of the tongue and he just meant to say that the Netherlands will once again support a statement drafted by Australia instead of the joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons supported by more than 75% of the NPT states parties.
Amidst all that commotion, it was easy to miss that Minister Koenders also failed to act upon the two motions adopted in the Dutch parliament a few days before the NPT. Parliament urged the minister to be more transparent about the Dutch role in nuclear sharing and ordered him to be part of future negotiations on a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.
On transparency, the Dutch statement did emphasise – as it always does – the importance of more transparency by nuclear armed states about their current nuclear stockpiles. But that’s not the transparency parliament means. It wants the Dutch government to own up to the fact that there are 20 US B61 nuclear bombs deployed on Volkel Airbase near Uden and that Dutch pilots in Dutch planes are trained to drop them in the case of a nuclear war.
Similar, the Dutch statement says that “The Netherlands believes that article VI should be taken very seriously. Eventually, we need to ban the bomb.” and that “we will follow closely the discussions on a legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” This sounds great, but following discussions is not the same as participating in them.
PAX is worried about this trend of the past review cycle, in which consecutive Dutch governments have ignored or sidestepped parliamentarian resolutions and motions on nuclear deployments, modernisation, transparency and now on joining negotiations. Article VI of the NPT obliges all NPT members to negotiate. The minister’s case for not joining is unconvincing.