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Statements Miscellaneous

18 September 2006
IAEA General Conference

Statement to the 50th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference 2006

by President of Austria, Mr. Heinz Fischer

pdfTranslated from German

Mr. President (Ambassador Minty, South Africa), Director General (Dr. ElBaradei), Excellencies, Honoured Ladies and Delegates,

I have followed with great interest and close attention the report of Director General ElBaradei, which confirmed once again how valuable and important the tasks are that your organization performs. Today, however, we are celebrating an anniversary, and it is a source of great pleasure to me that you have given me the opportunity to convey my most hearty congratulations to the IAEA on behalf of the Republic of Austria - its host country - on the occasion of the opening of the fiftieth General Conference. An anniversary of this kind is a memorable occasion and provides an opportunity to look at the development of your organization, and to look forward cautiously to future challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We all know that nuclear technology is an invention of the 20th century with far-reaching, indeed historic consequences.

It can be used for peaceful purposes, inter alia for energy generation, but also for weapons of destruction which pose a threat to humanity.

Even the so-called peaceful use of nuclear energy has its problems, as we all know.

Thus the responsibility of the IAEA is great.

And people trust in the IAEA to ensure compliance with agreements, treaties and regulations relating to nuclear energy.

This year´s anniversary and General Conference are taking place at a time when your organization is receiving a lot of international attention.

The danger of the spread of nuclear weapons is currently at the forefront of political debate and is one of the great challenges facing the international community. An organization which, in its early stages, was primarily technical in nature has developed into an important actor in a particularly sensitive political field.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) gives the IAEA the responsibility for verifying the commitments of State Parties. The significance of these tasks for international security cannot be rated too high these days. You fulfil this mandate with a profound sense of responsibility, impartiality and professionalism. These qualities have earned more than justified recognition, not least through the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in the preceding year, which I greeted with great pleasure. I congratulate you on this exceptional honour which was truly deserved.

The task of monitoring and verifying that States party to the NPT are not engaging in prohibited and undeclared activities is in good hands with the IAEA. The political debate mentioned above goes beyond questions of verification, however. The effectiveness of the Treaty, which forms the foundation of an edifice of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation treaties erected over the course of decades, is now being put to the test.

Any form of further nuclear proliferation by States or non-State actors must, however, be seen as weakening the central standard that is the NPT.

At the same time, failures to fulfil promises in the field of nuclear disarmament, and the widespread feeling that the Treaty system is fundamentally inegalitarian, cannot go unmentioned.

These are developments in the face of which the international community must present a united front. A solution can only be found on the basis of a broad consensus.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Access to nuclear technology is becoming ever easier from a technical point of view. In contrast to the past, when the technical capacity required to master the nuclear fuel cycle was restricted to a few very highly developed countries, today there is a growing number of actors that have this capacity. The political and legal barrier between the peaceful use of nuclear energy on the one hand and the development of a military nuclear programme on the other hand is thus becoming ever more significant to maintaining confidence in the effectiveness of the control regime. It therefore must be our common goal to maintain and strengthen the effectiveness of the NPT and the system based on it.

It is for me beyond question that those States that wish to use nuclear energy for exclusively peaceful purposes can indeed exercise that right. This must be done in a way that allows for no doubts as regards their underlying intentions.

The role and responsibility of the IAEA in monitoring and evaluating such activities is extremely extensive and will expand further in the future.

Mr. President,

The above-mentioned problem is certainly one of the most sensitive political issues on the international agenda at present.

It is my firm intention here not to take sides, particularly since my country does not even command the information required to formulate a detailed opinion. However, I would like briefly to make the following basic points.

  1. Austria strongly supports the position that the NPT must be complied with to the letter.
  2. We are convinced that, in this sensitive area, maximum transparency really can and must be demanded.

    The IAEA must be given all the information it requests and all inspection possibilities, so that it can make sure and reliable judgements on which every individual IAEA Member State can rely without hesitation.
  3. I also believe that the path of negotiations must be fully exhausted and that we must certainly not depart from an approach based on the principles of the United Nations.

    The broader the consensus we can achieve in the international community on these problems the better. And the greater the readiness for fair, honest and serious negotiations, the broader the consensus will be.

Esteemed delegates,

The many other aspects of the broad range of activities of the IAEA may perhaps have slipped somewhat from the forefront of public attention in the face of current developments. However, all pillars of the IAEA Statute - verification, safety and technology - remain equally valid and important.

As you know, Austria decided by a referendum against the use of nuclear power for electricity generation. Hence, Austrians attach all the greater importance to the elaboration of and compliance with the highest possible safety standards for this type of energy generation. The IAEA´s ongoing high-quality work in the nuclear safety field, and the achievements in the improvement of standards in this area, receive and deserve our full support.

Highly esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

In all areas of its activity, even those I have not been able to mention, the IAEA has made great achievements over the last fifty years, has accumulated expertise and has disseminated knowledge. For what has been achieved so far, you can count on the respect and thanks of all Member States.

We are proud that you have made and are making these achievements in Vienna, since the IAEA established its Headquarters here.

Since that time, Vienna has also become one of the most important duty stations of international organizations. Alongside New York and Geneva it is one of the three main duty stations of the United Nations. These international organizations employ approximately 4800 staff here, over 2000 of whom work for the IAEA. As you can imagine, we therefore pay special attention to these activities and, in conclusion, I would like to state clearly that Austria has much cause to be grateful to the United Nations and, in particular, the IAEA. We can be proud that we host an organization of the importance of the IAEA. I wish you the greatest success in your future activities, in the interest of us all, and all the best for the future.