5 October 2010
EU Eyes Signatories On 'Space Code Of Conduct'
By Julian Hale
Defense News


BRUSSELS - The European Union is preparing to give a technical presentation at the United Nations next week to start the process of persuading other countries to sign up to its 'Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities'. The move follows the EU's decision to approve a draft version of the code on Sept. 23.

Speaking under Chatham House rules at a conference in Brussels on Oct. 5, a Belgian source involved in drafting the code said that the EU "might consider refining some provisions in order to get other countries involved."

Also speaking on the condition of anonymity, another EU source said that the move was in response to a Russian-Chinese proposal in 2008 to have a treaty banning space weapons. However, the source pointed out, a key difficulty with the Russian-Chinese proposal is that there is no agreed definition of space weapons.

The code is designed to cover the security, safety and sustainability of space activities and is understood to apply to all space activities, both military and civil. Mitigating space debris is one of its key areas.

The Belgian source said that the "potential added value of the code of conduct is to fill the missing layer between the high level of treaties [e.g. the existing Outer Space Treaty of 1967, formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies] and implementation at technical level".

Countries signing up to the code would, in theory, be committing to exchanging information, although the code itself is non-binding. The idea is that countries would make it binding via national law, but they will not be obliged to do so.

The EU source said that one principle of the code was for there to be peaceful use of space and another was that, when attacked, a country could use self-defense while avoiding space debris.

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