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Strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

This document sets out an exhaustive action plan of the European Union to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The EU strategy stresses the importance of acting with resolve to prevent, deter, halt and eliminate programmes for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles.


EU strategy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . Brussels, 12 December 2003 [Not published in the Official Journal].


The European Union must act with resolve, using all instruments and policies at its disposal, to prevent, deter, halt and, where possible, eliminate programmes for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles.

While the international treaty regimes and export control arrangements have slowed the spread of WMD, a number of States, and even terrorist groups, have sought or are seeking to develop such weapons.

A growing threat to peace and security

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and especially nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery (medium- and long-range missiles, cruise missiles and UAV) are a growing cause for concern.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in conjunction with the dissemination of dual-use technology and knowledge, increases the risk of such weapons being used by States or falling into the hands of terrorist groups which could threaten the EU, directly or indirectly, including its broader interests (expatriate communities and economic interests).

For an effective multilateralist response

In the context of effectively combating proliferation, the EU should adopt a forceful, multilateral approach, in cooperation with the United States and its other partners. Export controls and the support of multilateral institutions charged with verification and upholding of compliance with the treaties are considered fundamental.

In addition to preventive measures (multilateral treaties and export control regimes), there are, where appropriate, coercive measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and international law (sanctions, selective or global, interceptions of shipments and the use of force, etc.).

Three factors are to be taken into consideration to face up to the threat of WMD:

  • the importance of multilateralism: the multilateral treaty system provides the legal basis for all the EU's non-proliferation efforts. The universalisation of the norms laid down in the international treaties and their protocols - the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT (FR), the International Atomic Energy Authority IAEA agreements, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention TWC, the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the Commission nuclear Test Ban Treaty organisation CTBT (FR) is considered as an EU political objective, as is improving verification of the violations of these norms;
  • the need to promote a stable regional and international environment: the EU will ensure that regional security arrangements, by attacking the underlying causes for proliferation, and regional arms control and disarmament processes are put in place. It will pay particular attention to the issue of proliferation in the Mediterranean area;
  • close cooperation with key partners: a common approach and cooperation with key partners (United States, Russian Federation, Japan and Canada), the United Nations and other international organisations are essential in order to effectively implement the WMD non-proliferation regime.

Prevent, halt and, if possible, eliminate proliferation programmes

The EU must integrate across the board, in order to maximise their effectiveness, the wide range of instruments it has available to combat WMD proliferation:

  • multilateral treaties and their verification mechanisms;
  • national and internationally coordinated export controls;
  • cooperative threat-reduction programmes;
  • political and economic levers;
  • prohibition of illegal procurement activities;
  • coercive measures in accordance with the UN Charter.

The EU's strategy implementation plan is based on an action plan which will be subject to regular revision. It is based on four priorities:

First priority: resolute action against proliferators:

  • universalisation and, when necessary, strengthening of the main treaties, agreements and verification arrangements;
  • fostering the role of the UN Security Council;
  • enhancing political, financial and technical support to verification regimes;
  • strengthening export control policies and practices;
  • enhancing the security of proliferation-sensitive materials, equipment and expertise in the European Union against unauthorised access;
  • strengthening identification, control and interception of illegal trafficking.

Second priority: a stable international and regional environment:

  • reinforcing EU cooperative programmes with other countries, targeted at support for disarmament, control and security of sensitive materials, facilities and expertise;
  • integrating the WMD non-proliferation concerns into the EU's other activities and policies to increase their effectiveness.

Third priority: cooperating closely with the United States and other key partners.

Fourth priority: developing the necessary structures within the Union:

  • setting up a monitoring centre at the Council Secretariat entrusted with the monitoring of the consistent implementation of the EU strategy. Since 2004 a six-monthly progress report has been presented to the Council of the EU for approval.

In December 2006, the Council approved a concept paper on monitoring and enhancing consistent implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of WMD through a WMD Monitoring Centre. The document aims at establishing a cooperative working method which allows the Council Secretariat, the Commission services and Member States to work together effectively to combat WMD proliferation.


At the European Council of Thessaloniki from 19 to 20 June 2003, the Member States adopted a Declaration on non-proliferation, in which they made the commitment to further elaborate before the end of 2003 a coherent EU strategy to address the threat of WMD. In December 2003, in parallel to the adoption of the European security strategy A secure Europe in a better world, the European Council adopted the strategy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This fact sheet is published for information. Its aim is neither to interpret nor to replace the reference document, which remains the sole binding legal basis.

Last updated: 13.04.2007

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