- Volume 27 Issue 2
The Draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities officially proposed by the European Union on the occasion of the 55th Session of the United Nations Peaceful Uses of the Outer Space last June 2012 in Vienna, Austria is to fill the lacunae of the relevant norms to be applied to the human activities in the outer space and thus has the merit our attention. The missing elements of the norms span from the prohibition of an arms race, safety and security of the space objects including the measures to reduce the space debris to the exchange of information of space activities among space-faring nations. The EU's initiatives, when implemented, cover or will eventually prepare for the forum to deal with such issues of interests of the international community. The EU's initiatives begun at the end of 2008 included the unofficial contacts with major space powers including in particular the USA of which position is believed to have been reflected in the Draft with the aim to have it adopted in 2013. Although the Code is made up of soft law rather than hard law for the subscribing countries, the USA seems to be afraid of the eventuality whereby its strategic advantages in the outer space will be affected by the prohibiting norms, possibly to be pursued by the Code from its current non-binding character, of placing weapons in the outer space. It is with this trepidation that the USA has been opposing to the adoption of the United Nations Assembly Resolutions on the prevention of an arms race in the outer space (PAROS) and in the same context to the setting-up of a working group on the arms race in the outer space in the frame of the Conference on Disarmament. China and Russia who together put forward a draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) in 2008 would not feel comfortable either because the EU initiatives will steal the lime light. Consequently their reactions are understandably passive towards the Draft Code while the reaction of the USA to the PPWT was a clear cut "No". With the above background, the future of the EU Code is uncertain. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Code to reduce the space debris, to allow exchange of the information on the space activities, and to protect the space objects through safety and security, all to maximize the principle of the peaceful use and exploration of the outer space is the laudable efforts on the part of EU. When the detailed negotiations will be held, some problems including the cost to be incurred by setting up an office for the clerical works could be discussed for both efficient and economic mechanism. For example, the new clerical works envisaged in the Draft Code could be discharged by the current UN OOSA (Office for Outer Space Affairs) with minimal additional resources. The EU's initiatives are another meaningful contribution following one due to it in adopting the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on the Climate Change) and deserve the praise from the thoughtful international community.