4th Annual Meeting of National Authorities
The Hague, 4-6 October 2002

Welcome Address by Mr Rogelio Pfirter, OPCW Director-General

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to warmly welcome you to this annual meeting of National Authorities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Ieper Room, the largest one in our building, looks quite crowded today. I am impressed by your massive attendance to this gathering and wish you fruitful deliberations.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

There are over 120 of you present here today representing more than 80 National Authorities. The political significance of your presence here goes well beyond your number and diversity. You have come from all over the world; amongst you there are representatives of States Parties who are working hard to destroy their CW stockpiles and to destroy or convert the Chemical Weapons Production Facilities which they possess. There are also representatives of States Parties that possess large chemical industries, while some others, grapple with the issue of old or abandoned chemical weapons. Many of you, indeed the vast majority, however, do not belong to any of the previously mentioned cases but still, all demonstrate your countries' commitment to the successful implementation of this extraordinary international treaty that is the Chemical Weapons Convention. This augurs well for the future and is indeed very invigorating.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

You have gathered together around a very ambitious programme that has been designed to provide you with a useful framework to share your experiences ant to seek and receive support in resolving any problems you might have in your work.

Yesterday, you devoted your attention to the issue of Article X (Assistance and Protection) and today, you will do a tour d'horizon of other very important matters including issues related to the forthcoming Conference of the States Parties and the First CWC Review conference.

The Programme will also provide you with the European Chemical Industry Council's (CEFIC) perspective on major issues associated with the implementation of the Convention and at the same time to learn first hand about the experience of the National Authority of our host country. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr René van Sloten from CEFIC and Ms Diana Gosens from the Dutch National Authority, for making themselves available to you. I am convinced that what they have to say will be of interest and value to all of you.

The meeting presupposes your active participation in the discussions and the direct exchange of views among all of you. I do hope that you will find this type of discussion a useful framework to share your experiences and to seek and receive guidance in resolving any problems you might have in your daily work.

I am particularly pleased by the opportunity you will have to meet in the context of your respective regional groups. Developing the regional perspective of CWC implementation is of the utmost importance. Many States Parties are part of regional and sub-regional agreements, all on sensitive and complex issues which, as in the case of legislation, transfers and customs -to name but a few-, are relevant to the reliability of the system that the CWC proposes. It is thus appropriate that you be given the opportunity to develop useful synergies while sharing your experiences. I would like to take this opportunity to commend to the attention of your regional consultations, the interrelated issues of National Implementing Legislation and declarations to be submitted to the Secretariat under Article VI of the Convention.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are continuously looking at ways in which we can facilitate your work which, after all, is what makes the practical implementation of the Convention a reality. We are well aware that many of you perform your duties in situations which are far from ideal. We live in a complex world in which, to the vast majority, priorities constantly compete amongst themselves for scarce resources. We will continue to invest the resources put at our disposal by Member States wisely and in ways that will impact positively in the process of implementation. Regional consultations have given very positive results in Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe; and we believe similar schemes would also benefit the process of implementation in Africa and Asia and thus hope to see the first regional meetings happening in those continents in 2003.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Seventh Conference of the States Parties will begin in a few hours, the First Review Conference -in many respects trailblazing exercise-, is rapidly approaching and we continue to keep pressing ahead decisively with the implementation of the Convention. As you know, I was very recently appointed Director General. This is a considerable challenge. I will fulfil my mandate to the best of my ability and in the process, will work together with Member States and with you, their appointed "focal points" for CWC implementation, in order to make a reality, the dream that the international community consecrated in the CWC.

I wish you a successful and productive meeting over the next one and a half days and a pleasant stay in The Hague.

Thank you for your attention.