Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines

Delivered in Plenary - April 22nd 2004

Mr President

By definition all modern military weapons are a source of death and destruction, but antipersonnel mines are particularly pernicious as, after the cessation of hostilities, their continued presence results in the ongoing death and mutilation of innocent civilians, particularly children. This often causes, for prolonged periods of time, massive social and economic problems in countries, many of which are already amongst the poorest in the world and suffering from the ravages of long-term war and disease.

That is why I particularly support the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines and their eventual destruction. I congratulate the 141 States which have ratified or acceded to this Treaty and call upon the four EU Member States remaining after enlargement on 1 May which have not yet done so - namely, Estonia, Latvia, Finland and Poland - to do so without any further delay.

Although it is true that some 68 states have destroyed more than 31.5 million mines, it is estimated that 78 countries still have between 200 and 250 million antipersonnel mines stockpiled, that tragically there are still between 15 000 and 20 000 new landmine victims per year and that landmines still litter 82 countries around the world. Much still remains to be done, to echo the words of Commissioner Nielson.

The EU has pledged EUR 240 million for the period 2002-2009 to support the total ban and assist with mine clearance, victim assistance and stockpile destruction, and this support is at least part conditional on the recipient country demonstrating a commitment towards accession to the Convention.

I would also like to pay tribute to my colleague, Mr Van Orden, who has been particularly active in this campaign. I also wish every success to the November 2004 Nairobi Conference, which seeks to review the operation of this Convention and what further measures can be taken to implement its contents, in particular how to encourage armed, non-state actors to ban the use of antipersonnel landmines without recognising their legitimacy. This is particularly salient in Africa - the venue of the conference - which has been blighted by a series of tragic civil wars from Zaire to Liberia and Sierra Leone and which are characterised by insurgents and rebels, often heavily armed and financed by third parties.

I do not, however, accept - unlike some Members of this House - that this ban can be automatically extended to the legitimate military use of other munitions, such as anti-tank mines, as they, for instance, are less readily available to non-regular forces, because they are much more expensive and tend to be laid in a well-mapped and systematic fashion, which enables speedy clearance in peacetime after the cessation of hostilities. Furthermore, they are not capable of being detonated by the foot of an innocent child, as is the case with antipersonnel mines.

These issues need to be considered separately as, otherwise, there is a danger of losing cross-party political consensus on this important issue. I also support that this Parliament sends a delegation of Members of this House, as observers, to the conference so that they can report back to the House on the progress in this very important area.