FOR PRESS

XLII ANTARCTIC TREATY CONSULTATIVE MEETING AND XXII MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

ABOUT THE ANTARCTIC TREATY

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington DC, on 1 December 1959, and entered into force on 23 June 1961.

In this year is the sixtieth anniversary of the signing the Antarctic Treaty.

The twelve original Parties to the Treaty were those countries which had developed scientific activities in Antarctica during the so-called “International Geophysical Year” (1957-58): Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and the then Soviet Union. With time, forty-one other countries have become part to the Treaty, which today has 29 Consultative Parties and 24 Non-Consultative Parties.

The Antarctic Treaty devotes the Antarctic continent to peace (Art. I) and free scientific research and cooperation to that end (Art. II). In order to comply with these objectives, the Parties agreed to exchange information regarding any projects of their scientific programmes and their results (Art. III); as well as to carry out periodical inspections among the different Parties (Art. VII), in order to ensure compliance with the Treaty provisions. Likewise, attending to the circumstance that seven (7) out of the twelve (12) original signatories maintain sovereignty claims over Antarctic territories, the Treaty specially stipulates that none of its dispositions should be interpreted as a renunciation, by any Party,of its asserted sovereignty rights or territorial claims in the Antarctic; while no acts or activities taking place while the Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying any claim of territorial sovereignty upon the continent (Art. IV).

 

After decades of successful functioning and having complied with its primary objectives of peace and promotion of scientific research in the Antarctic continent, Antarctic Treaty Parties committed themselves to guarantee the preservation of the Antarctic ecosystem, promoting strict measures to that end. Thus, after lengthy negotiations, on 4 October 1991, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was concluded in Madrid. The Protocol, which entered into force in 1998, designated Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Art.2) and established a general prohibition on any activity related to mineral resources, with the exception of scientific research (Art.7).

Contrary to what is generally believed, neither the Antarctic Treaty, nor its Protocol on Environmental Protection, establish expiration or termination dates. Both documents stipulated a time period as from their entry into force (the Treaty, 30 years, 1991; the Protocol, 50 years, 2048), after which amendments proposed by the Parties cease to require unanimity for their approval, and only begin to require specific majorities.

The Antarctic Treaty System is completed by two other main instruments: the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972) and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980).

ABOUT CONSULTIVE MEETINGS

The Parties to the Treaty, in compliance with its Article IX, meet every year “for the purpose of exchanging information, consulting together on matters of common interest pertaining to Antarctica, and formulating and considering, and recommending to their Governments, measures in furtherance of the principles and objectives of the Treaty”. These meetings are known as Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM).

Likewise, after the entry into force of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1998, the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) was established. The CEP usually meets at the same time as the ATCM, to discuss issues related to environmental protection and to provide advice to the ATCM.

Both the ATCM and CEP adopt, by way of consensus, those measures, decisions, resolutions and recommendations that guarantee the normal operation of the Treaty System and are the means by which the latter has been able to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances it has faced thus far.

 

Countries in charge of hosting the ATCM-CEP are the Consultative Parties, whose precedence is usually determined by alphabetical order in the English language. Every meeting is attended, beside the representative of both Consultative and Non-consultative Parties, by the Observers from the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP); as well as many other experts who are specially invited to the Meeting, representing both intergovernmental organisations and civil society. All participants contribute to the deliberations; however, only Consultative Parties take part in the decision-making process.

To date, forty ATCMs and twenty of the CPE Meeting have taken place. The last ones, XL ATCM-XX CEP, were in Beijing, between 22 May and 1 June 2017. The host country of the XLI Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was Argentine Republic, from 13-18 May 2018.

This year it will take place in Prague, the Czech Republic, 1 to 11 July 2019: ATCM XLII and CEP XXII.

Czech republic & Antarctica

Antarctica, the fourth biggest continent, is a territory which is situated in the South Pole with a unique ecosystem and does not belong to any State.

The Antarctic Treaty which was concluded on December 1, 1959 in Washington and whose depositary is the Government of the United States of America (Czechoslovakia was the first State that acceded to the Antarctic Treaty on June 14, 1962, regulation No. 76/1962 Sb., http://www.ats.aq/devAS/ats_parties.aspx?lang=e), regulates legal regime of Antarctica and related areas south of 60° South Latitude. The Treaty stipulates that Antarctica may be used only for peaceful purposes. It prohibits any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapon.  It allows freedom of scientific research in Antarctica. It further prohibits any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal of radioactive waste material in these areas. For the time when the Antarctic Treaty is in force all previously made territorial claims are frozen.

 

At the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) on 29 May 2013 in Brussels, a so-called consultative status of the Czech Republic as a Contracting Party to the Antarctic Treaty was recognized, effective from 1 April 2014. The consultative status is a higher institutional status which entitles the Czech Republic to participate actively in the above-mentioned consultative meetings with a right to vote and to jointly take part in decisions on the regulation of the use of Antarctica and its future. At the domestic level the candidature of the Czech Republic was approved by the resolution no. 280 of the Government of the Czech Republic of April 17, 2013.

 

The Czech Republic is also a Contracting Party to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, concluded on 4 October 1991 in Madrid (No. 42/2005 Sb.m.s.), which entered into force for the Czech Republic on 24 September 2004. Under this Protocol, the Contracting Parties are committed to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems and designate Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. The Protocol prohibits any activity other than scientific research relating to mineral resources.

 

The Czech Republic is one of the states that carry out a significant scientific research in Antarctica, which has enjoyed an international recognition, and since 2006 has its own research polar station. This station, which bears the name of Johann Gregor Mendel, the founder of modern genetics and climatology, was built by the Masaryk University close to the northern coast of the Antarctic peninsula on James Ross Island. The Mendel station is used for Antarctic research by the Faculty of Science of the Masaryk University as well as by many other Czech and foreign academic institutions. The scientific programmes include geology, physio-geography and biology.

 

This subject-matter is nationally regulated by Act No. 276/2003 Sb., on Antarctica and related regulations, which falls within the competence of the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (http://www.mzp.cz/en/multilateral_environmental_agreement ). The Act on Antarctica sets forth conditions for submitting a notification and an application for permit, which are necessary for trips to Antarctica and activities carried out there. The central authority for their receipt and issuance of permits and certificates of notification is the Ministry of Environment which supervises the compliance with the Act on Antarctica and alternatively imposes sanctions for its violation.

 

The Government of the Czech Republic, by its resolution No.284, of April 23, 2014, assigned to the members of the Government and the Heads of other central authorities a task to ensure, according to their competence, the implementation of the existing measures  and recommendations  adopted by the ATCM before the recognition of the consultative status of the Czech Republic, and also of future measures adopted and subsequently approved by all Contracting Parties to the Antarctic Treaty with consultative status.