Third Preparatory Meeting for the IIIrd Inter-Parliamentary Conference
on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean

National Assembly, Ljubljana (Slovenia), 12 and 13 March 1999


presented by Mr. Mohamed Hédi Khelil (Tunisia), General Rapporteur

On behalf of all of us, may I begin by expressing our warm thanks to the National Assembly of Slovenia which has so generously welcomed us here in Ljubljana on 12 and 13 March 1999.

This is the Inter-Parliamentary Union's first visit to this young democracy, which joined our organisation in April 1993, shortly after acceding to sovereignty. This agreeable visit has shown us that the Slovenes' reputation for dynamism is fully justified and that the democratic process is taking firm root here. This is highly gratifying, and we offer our encouragement to the Slovene people and their institutions.

We are particularly grateful to the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Group of Slovenia and of this Meeting, Mr. Jelko Kacin. Having spent almost three years as Minister for Defence of Slovenia, he was especially well placed to direct our work. We extend our thanks to him for the manner in which he has led the debates of this Third Thematic Preparatory Meeting of the IIIrd CSCM, which is entered in next year's programme.

At the short inaugural ceremony which preceded our work, Mr. Kacin, as well as the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, Mr. Martínez, and the President of the National Assembly of Slovenia, Mr. Podobnik, took the floor in turn. Their speeches placed our work within a context of peace, democracy and sustainable development for the Mediterranean, representing the aspirations of all our peoples.

The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council invited us to consider the dynamics of multilateral co-operation. He recalled that our parliaments are now daily called on to legislate on questions whose scope exceeds our national frontiers, and that they are consequently led to play a determining role in the field of multilateral negotiations and diplomacy. With his usual power of conviction, he pleaded the case for a multilateral process where there would no longer be any confusion between State and government, as presently exists within world inter-State institutions. He called for a multilateral process which would better represent our societies, and in which, as on the national level, parliaments would contribute as institutions representing the full range of society in all its diversity. In this connection, he encouraged us to engage our parliaments and their presidencies more firmly in the action of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, establishing the latter as the true channel of parliamentary co-operation with the UN.

The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council also drew our attention to the need to co-ordinate inter-parliamentary initiatives aiming to promote security and co-operation in the Mediterranean more fully. These had displayed a tendency to multiply, and he hoped that the IPU would play a decisive role in this respect. We can only second him when he urges our parliaments to act more coherently, concertedly and responsibly in action in favour of the Mediterranean.

To return in more detail to the subject of our meeting, we noted that some 50 members of 19 parliaments from the category of main participants to the CSCM process, five associate participants and two observers, took part in our work, and most of them intervened in our debates.

The theme which occupied us during these two days was complex and of major importance for our peoples: "Co-operation in armaments control in the Mediterranean with a view to preventing conflicts in the region".

Our debates were opened by an expert, Prof. Vicenç Fisas, who is the holder of the UNESCO Chair on Peace and Human Rights, University of Barcelona, to whom we extend our warm thanks for the clarity of his statement and the depth of the very precise ideas and recommendations that he presented, in particular on the question of small arms. Not only did he stimulate our reflection but he encouraged our debates.

We would also like to thank Mr. Hladnik-Milharcic, Middle East correspondent of the Delo daily newspaper (Slovenia), specially invited by the Host Parliament to provide us with a substantive address His intervention dealt principally with the political causes of armed conflicts, and the need fully to understand the context in which such conflicts break out and develop, if durable solutions to the problems are to be found.

Without aiming to reflect in detail the full depth of the debates, I shall here provide a broad outline, with the principle objective of highlighting our concerns and our recommendations.

It goes without saying that the question of armaments control is primordial in a region like the Mediterranean where a number of open conflicts persist, where the Middle East peace process is at a critical phase, where there are several hotbeds of intra-national and inter-State tension, including those turning around questions concerning minorities, a region finally, where situations involving foreign occupation persist.

The serious risk of the eruption of new conflicts renders reflection on the means of preventing recourse to arms and the proliferation of armaments all the more important. Today, massive quantities of armaments of all sorts are available in our region and may be obtained without any real difficulty by States and by irregular groups.

As a result of the large socio-economic disparities which characterise our region, it is particularly vulnerable to conflicts. It is thus of the greatest concern that the region contains the highest concentration of armaments in the world.

We are fully aware that the prevention of conflicts cannot be understood in purely military terms. It is thus the structural roots of the situation which we, as parliamentarians, must address in priority. Indeed, it would be vain to treat the symptoms and not the causes, as many of us have pointed out. Clearly such action presupposes a political will.

We are nonetheless obliged to note that this political will is weak in the Mediterranean. Some speakers stated that this resulted from the fact that there was no true socio-economic policy based on mutual respect and dialogue. The fact that the recommendations that we formulated at the Ist Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean, in Malaga in 1992 and subsequently at the IInd CSCM at Valletta, in 1995, remain almost entirely valid, bears witness to this.

In fact, over a seven-year period, the armaments situation in the Mediterranean has far from improved. Several Mediterranean countries have not yet ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the implementation of this important international instrument is not at all satisfactory. The same is true of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons; the Convention on Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and the Convention on Chemical Weapons.

The recent entry into force of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines, on the other hand, was greeted as a positive step; this must now be fully implemented: our role in this respect is a determining one, and we must play it to the full. In particular we should allocate or generate the credits necessary for demining and rehabilitating victims of anti-personnel mines. The massive presence of these mines in the Mediterranean poses a constant threat to our civilian population and hinders our development. In this connection, we would like to express our gratitude to the Host Parliament which made it possible for us to visit the Centre for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief at Ig, in Slovenia.

It is essential to make the Mediterranean a region free from weapons of mass destruction. This implies not only the destruction of existing stocks, but also a freeze on armament production. Some of us have called for international verification, and even the dismantling, of production units.

At all events, as parliamentarians, we are in a position to limit credits allocated to the acquisition of armaments and to turn over the sums thus liberated to the economic and social development to which our peoples aspire.

Transparency in respect of the transfer of armaments is far from being a reality. It is nevertheless of great importance: no effective action in the field of armaments can take place until an accurate inventory has been carried out. Within our role of monitoring the action of the Executive and with the aim of developing the parliamentary dimension of the United Nations, we should pay special attention to the maintenance of the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons. Some of us also highlighted the importance of mutual verification measures, stressing that they tended to increase confidence.

A number of speakers also called for a reduction in the military activity in the Mediterranean by means of banning foreign bases and fleets in the region.

We also called for greater transparency regarding routine military activities.

The expert, Prof. Fisas, invited us to give priority to the question of small arms. It is estimated that these arms have claimed 26 million victims since the end of the Second World War, and today, it is an alarming fact that some 40% of the trade in small arms is clandestine.

These arms are very easy to obtain. A large proportion of them, coming from various markets (demobilisation, changes brought about by the end of the Cold War, etc.), end up in the Mediterranean where they fuel insecurity and instability. Their low cost combined with relative ease of use and transfer have made them the favourite weapon of such irregular combatants as terrorists, guerrillas and mercenaries. They also find their way into the hands of mafias and criminal groups, illegal security companies and millions of individuals. Apart from those used by the armies and the forces of law and order, the vast majority of these arms escape register. Moreover, they have provided fertile ground for the growth of a "Kalashnikov culture" among many young people, further proof that priority must be given to education in the Mediterranean, including education for peace. In this respect the role of women and in a different way that of the media are crucial.

While most conflicts today are internal and civil, the growing proliferation of light automatic weapons has contributed to the increase of zones of violence in the Mediterranean and has rendered these conflicts not only more deadly but also longer-lasting and harder to solve. The humanitarian consequences of this situation are incalculable.

The massive availability of these weapons and the difficulty of collecting them at the end of a conflict makes political and economic reconstruction very hard. As Mediterranean parliamentarians, we should therefore pay particular attention to the question of small arms. It is important that we insist on transparency in all matters regarding the production and trade of these arms. This is an essential condition if our legislation in the field - if it is adequate - is to be respected.

We agreed that national and regional registers, and even a Mediterranean Register, of the production and export of small arms would considerably facilitate armaments control. Conscious that this would also help to create a climate of confidence, we recommend their establishment.

Priority must be given to the adoption of restrictive legislation making the holding of an official authorisation for the purchase of any firearm obligatory. If we are to prevent illegal use and misappropriation, it is also important that we establish effective machinery to verify the authenticity of certificates of end-users of these arms. Furthermore, we should take action to reinforce the capacity to control the flow of arms and to aid those of our States which, even having undertaken to do so, have neither sufficient economic nor technical means to do this.

We paid special attention to the idea of working towards the adoption of a Convention on small arms. We noted that a world campaign for the elimination of these arms, inspired by the Campaign which culminated in the adoption of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines, will be launched next May in the Hague. It is important that we join in this mobilisation and that, as representatives of the people, we relay it to the national and international political institutions.

In this connection, we welcomed the establishment by UNESCO of a Small Arms Liaison Office at the University of Barcelona as an important step forward, and we recommend that the Inter-Parliamentary Union ensures the regular publication of information bulletins from this Office to national parliaments.

We cannot ignore the fact that small arms are widely used in terrorist activities. This scourge is a major source of concern in the Mediterranean and we have recommended reinforcement of inter-State co-operation to bring it to an end. We believe that the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean Centre for data on terrorism would provide effective support for our struggle to control the financing of terrorist weapons and their supply. We further believe that mutual police-judicial assistance should be strengthened in the Mediterranean in respect of terrorist activity. Finally we call for a world summit meeting on terrorism.

At the parliamentary level we believe that it is useful and opportune to establish machinery to ensure exchanges and co-operation between parliamentary defence committees.

Our common objective is to transform the Mediterranean into a zone of stability and peace. There is no doubt that sustainable and balanced development in all the countries of the Mediterranean is one cornerstone to this stability, but not the only one. It is also necessary to strengthen confidence, understanding and respect between the Mediterranean States and the Mediterranean peoples. We must be the architects of this positive dynamic which is the very aim of the CSCM.

In this regard, we wish to retain as the theme for a further specialised session of the CSCM, the question of a dialogue on civilisations and religions. The absence, or shortcomings of this dialogue give constant rise to incomprehension and tension, and even conflict.

Beyond the Mediterranean, we recommend that the governing bodies of the Inter-Parliamentary Union enter the question of the control of armaments, and more particularly, of small arms, on the agenda of a forthcoming statutory Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and we hope that they will allow the excellent report submitted by the expert in this connection to be made available at the Conference. The question of small arms is becoming one of the gravest threats to peace in the world, and to the reconstruction of societies recently emerged from conflict.

As called for by the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, we undertake to submit the present report summarising our work to our parliaments and our governments. With a view to promoting a more co-ordinated and complementary approach, we intend to bring it to the attention of other initiatives for security and co-operation in the Mediterranean, in particular that of the Presidents of our Parliaments, whose Euro-Mediterranean Declaration of Mallorca we noted with interest. Finally, we shall take measures so that our governments ensure that the results of our meeting are submitted to the next session of the General Assembly of the United Nations under the item that it will again examine in this connection in 1999.

We appeal that the Middle East process should regain momentum in the spirit in which it was launched.

Moreover, we support the Bethlehem 2000 Project of the Palestinian Authority, which is sponsored by the United Nations and which should allow the renovation and development of this important zone of the Mediterranean as well as contribute to peace.

All our recommendations, which we have not set forth exhaustively here, will be presented to the XIVth session of the Meeting of Representatives of the Parties to the CSCM Process, which will take place in Brussels on 13 April 1999. They will enrich the work of our IIIrd CSCM which we hope will prove a decisive step forward for peace and stability and for mutual understanding in the Mediterranean.

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