News > EuroMeSCo Quarterly Seminar: "Nuclear Proliferation in the Euro-Mediterranean Area: Current Trends and Policy Options for Europe"
EuroMeSCo Quarterly Seminar: "Nuclear Proliferation in the Euro-Mediterranean Area: Current Trends and Policy Options for Europe"
HIIA logo
The latest Quarterly Seminar, organised in cooperation with the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs (HIIA), took place in Budapest on 6 June 2008.

Gathering key experts in the field, this meeting considered questions such as: what do current international nuclear trends suggest about the changing approach to proliferation and disarmament? What new threats lie in wait within the Euro-Mediterranean region? Where is the exploration of nuclear energy headed? How can the EU and the EMP mediate and influence these different nuclear developments?

To see the programme, please click here.

Divided into four sessions and gathering key experts in the field from Europe and the Southern Mediterranean, this meeting was introduced by Ambassador István Gyarmati (MTCR, Budapest) who provided an overview of the subject, as well as Prof. László Kiss (HIIA, Budapest) and Gonçalo Santa Clara Gomes (EuroMeSCo secretariat, Lisbon).

The first session was introduced by Prof. Ian Anthony (Southampton University), who highlighted the disillusion of disarmament after the end of the Cold War and posed the question of whether it is actually already existing nuclear capabilities, or rather mere intentions to go nuclear, which are currently troubling Europe. A framework of analysis of sorts was thus provided for the evolution of the seminar. Participants were reminded that the threat of nuclear weapon use, very apparent during the Cold War, has lost much of its importance after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and also in light of the decline in global numbers of nuclear weapons since 1991. Nonetheless, numerous key questions remain, such as, for example: how is strategic stability currently being defined? Are other regions bound to repeat the experience lived by Europe from 1947 to 1991? Is it possible to establish global, as well as regional constraints to the spread of nuclear weapons? Does a walk-out or a latent proliferation constitute a weakening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty? How should such “latent” proliferators be tackled? Will the present “nuclear renaissance” enhance national nuclear hedging capabilities? Can the fuel cycle be internationalized if target states express no such interest? And finally, to what extent do intentions and capabilities interact?

The second session, introduced by Prof. Nurşín Atesoglu Güney (Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul) and Dr. Emily Landau (INSS, Tel Aviv), focused on “Nuclear Proliferation in the Euro-Mediterranean Area – Negotiating Old Challenges and New Threats”, addressing Iran’s nuclear programme and its potential repercussions on the Southern Mediterranean. It was mentioned by some that Iran’s neighbours are not so worried about the Iranian nuclear programme as such, but rather about the associated regional and non-regional fallout. Yet, ten states in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East have provided information on Iranian nuclear activities to the IAEA – communications that have motivated Iran to try and enhance relations with its (more moderate) neighbours, albeit with limited success so far. Most participants agreed that the international community does not have appropriate tools to deal with proliferation and, as was argued by one participant, it is due to this vacuum that Iran has been able to pursue its nuclear programme. In more general terms, and now linking this debate back to the first session and the relationship between intentions-capabilities, it was widely agreed that the perceived severity of the situation in Iran may push others in the region to pursue undesirable paths, leading to an uncontrollable cascade of potentially dangerous repercussions. Secondly, participants acknowledged that any solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear programme, and its possible domino effects, must emerge from within the region.

The third session featured two presentations from Prof. Csaba Sükösd (Technical University of Budapest) and Dr. József Rónaky (Hungarian Atomic Energy Agency, Budapest) on the topic of “Nuclear Energy in the Euro-Mediterranean Area: Back to the Future?” Participants discussed the extent to which a country’s nuclear ambitions depend, and impact upon, its economy and society in general. This debate touched upon a number of dimensions that countries exploring nuclear energy should implement and develop – such as, to name but a few, appropriate legislation, nuclear safety authorities to ensure respect of this legislation, defined nuclear waste storage programs, radiation protection, and declared public acceptance. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the nuclear site in the Iranian city of Busheer is ready to enter operation, a development seen by many in the region with a great degree of suspicion and fear, not least due to the fact that the technology was provided by Russia and resembles that used in the ill-fated Chernobyl reactor.

The seminar concluded with a session on “The Euro-Mediterranean Area in the Wake of a New Nuclear Age – What Role for the EU”, consisting of two presentations by Dr. Ian Anthony (SIPRI, Stockholm) and Ambassador Mohammed Shaker (ECFR, Cairo). Almost all participants questioned the extent to which the EU could take action, or even become a driver, within the nuclear domain and the efforts made by the EU towards improving its emerging Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as its crystallizing energy policy, in view of the high degree of inter-governmentalism that continues to underpin the decision-making process in Brussels. In this regard, reference was made to the Union for the Mediterranean-in-the-making, the Barcelona Process and the existing European Neighbourhood Action Plans, as neither the former nor the latter contain the substance or the instruments that could potentially be utilized to defuse nuclear challenges, and thus ultimately improve the EU’s role as a powerful international political actor.