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Open Skies Treaty has proven its worth and has stood the test of time

Statement by Ambassador-at-Large Andrej Benedejčič, Special Envoy of the Minister for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, at the 4th Review Conference on the Implementation of the Treaty on Open Skies, 7 October 2020

Mr. Chairperson,

Slovenia became a State Party of the Treaty on Open Skies in September 2004, half a year before the First Review Conference.  As we look back on this period from the vantage point of the Fourth Review Conference, we can see that we made the right decision.  We joined the Treaty sixteen years ago on the understanding that it represents a vital confidence- and security building measure in the Euro-Atlantic area.  In that sense, it has proven its worth and has stood the test of time.

This assessment is based not only on the experience of conducting and accepting observation flights, but also of chairing the Open Skies Consultative Commission twice, in 2006 and in 2017.  We are familiar with the challenges of implementation, including those associated with the annual review of active quotas. The fact that this year's quota conference went smoothly represents a good omen.  We congratulate the coordinator on his skill and the States Parties on their goodwill.   

To be sure, the Treaty is very much in need of such positive messages.  Like many other arms control mechanisms it is currently under pressure.  This is due to the fact that the Treaty can be only as strong as the signatories' respect for it.  This Review Conference should therefore also be used to remind ourselves of its intrinsic value and the need to follow its provisions both in letter and in spirit.

We support continued discussions in the Small Group format on outstanding issues, including the maximum observation flight distance over Kaliningrad.  We hope that principal disagreements will be resolved, also through an active engagement of the most concerned States Parties.  We believe as well that different interpretations of certain provisions concerning the implementation of the Treaty can be addressed within the Consultative Commission itself. 

In our view this is all the more important because of the key role that the Treaty plays in ensuring politico-military stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.  Not only is its transparency and verification mechanism unique, it has also shown an ability to adapt.  A case in point is the introduction of digital technology to the observation aircraft.  Although this was neither easy nor self-evident, the issue was eventually resolved through a consultative process, which demonstrated the value of constructive dialogue.

We are therefore of the opinion that the Treaty remains a credible and useful supervisory mechanism.  Instead of questioning its merits, we should rather think about its universalization.  A good place to start would be the OSCE area.  A number of participating States are not States Parties, although they might be interested in joining the Treaty.  In other words, while thinking globally, we should be acting locally.  This is all the more important for the future of co-operative security in Europe.

In conclusion, we would like to thank our Belgian colleagues for chairing this Fourth Review Conference on the Implementation of the Treaty on Open Skies.  Your contribution this year has been exemplary, also in light of your recent Chairmanship of the Consultative Commission.  We would also like to wish all the best to our colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina who hold the current Chairmanship.  It is the active involvement of States Parties like yours that makes the difference and provides a solid foundation for this pillar of arms control. 

I kindly ask you, Mr. Chairperson, to attach this statement to the journal of the conference.

Thank you.