International treaties concerning Chemical and Biological agents. Their implementation in Greece.
* Corresponding Author
Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology. 11, No 2, 499-505 (2010)
INTERNATIONAL TREATIES CONCERNING CHEMICAL AND
BIOLOGICAL AGENTS. THEIR IMPLEMENTATION IN GREECE.
, Michail Chalaris2*
Ministry of Interior/Department of Attiki, 14 Platonos st, 15351 Pallini, Tel:+302103511511,
Hellenic Fire Corps Headquarters/ Direction Health and Safety, 31 Piraeus Str, 10553
Athens, Tel.: +302105287572, Fax.: +302105287422, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The wide use of chemical and biological weapons during the World War I urged the
international community to launch negotiations on international conventions concerning the
prohibition of chemical and biological weapons use, that is, the Geneva Protocol (signed in
1925), the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons (in 1972) and the Chemical
Weapons Convention (in 1993). Undoubtedly, these three conventions have played a key role
to the prevention of using such substances in terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, their failure to
assure efficient verification methods of implementation, being a great preoccupation of
member states, requires innovative improvement strategies. Greece, being a member state to
all three treaties, is accused to be reluctant to implement fully the treaties, due to the lack of
interest concerning the chemical and biological threat, disregarding its vulnerable
geographic situation. Hence, a clear institutional framework and the empowerment of
verification and control mechanisms are considered to be indispensable.
KEY WORDS: Chemical, Biological, Weapons, Convention, Greece
The deliberate use of chemical and biological agents to cause harm to life and health of
populations as well as to the environment and infrastructure, is considered to be among the
most dangerous threats of the contemporary world. The small but respectable number of
incidents of chemical and biological weapons deliberate use, which have occurred till today
increases the global concern about terrorist attack risks with deplorable effects. [2,3,7,8].
The purpose of the paper is to present the international conventions about the prohibition of
chemical and biological weapons, because, first and foremost, it is necessary to understand
the conditions of the development of these new threats for life, health and environment.
Hence, this paper attempts to make a comprehensive approach to the application of these
international conventions in Greece.
Our objective is to illustrate the significant role of the application of chemical and biological
weapons conventions in the organization of an appropriate response system in Greece. In
addition, our objective is to demonstrate the possibility of participation, decision making and
cooperation among different actors, such as the Central Government, Local Authorities and
citizens concerning the planning, prevention, preparation, public information, management
and mitigation of such hazards. Moreover, in the same way, this paper displays the problems
of the international conventions application in Greece and highlights the institutional,
organizational, practical and educational deficiencies observed in the case of Greece. Those
deficiencies are the main responsible factors for the increase of Greece’s vulnerability to
chemical and biological threats.
The contemporary unpredictable and complicated world is characterized by the emergence of
new threats, such as the expanded network of chemical and biological weapons and the
constant threat of creation of relations between those networks and terrorist groups, therefore,
the Greek state must take all the appropriate measures, that the international conventions
signed and ratified by the Greek state oblige to take as well as encourage the participation and
cooperation among multiple actors directly concerned by prevention and management of
chemical or biological incidents, such as the local government and citizens [10,11,13,14].
This paper includes the following units: Methodology, presentation of international
conventions, their application by the Greek state and some conclusions.
The first approach of the subject of this paper was based on the research and study of the
international conventions, the examination of general bibliography and, as far as for
specialized arthrography, the use of Internet sources and scientific journals was essential.
Subsequently, the second part of research concerned interviews with experts. More
2.1 The use of Greek, English and French bibliography and arthrography on international
relations, law of disarmament, law of armed conflicts, international public law and
constitutional law. Moreover, the wide use of Internet sources –for the most part, the site
of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons- was indispensable, in order
to acquire updated information.
2.2 Organization of meetings and interviews with experts by using specialized question
sheets. It was expected that the information acquisition on the subject of this paper would be
inevitably limited. In a lot of cases, because of the great number of confidential information,
more particularly, facts that concern national security. The research focused initially on
national entities in charge of the conventions application in Greece, in particular, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, where there has been communication with experts of the Department in
charge. Subsequently, experts coming from research institutes and, particularly, the General
Chemical State Laboratory, the Hellenic Centre for infectious diseases control were
interviewed so that specialized information could be acquired. In addition, the communication
with all the concerned entities, such as the Ministry of Interior, the Hellenic Police, the Fire
Service, the Ministry of Health, the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, the Ministry of
National Defense, was of great importance. The interview with the General Secretary of the
National Authority of Chemical Weapons and member of the Confidentiality Commission of
the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was of particular value, because of
his long experience in both national and international dimension of chemical weapons
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
3.1 International Treaties for the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons
3.1.1. The Geneva Protocol (“Protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of
asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare”), signed in
1925, is the first international Protocol to prohibit the use of chemical and biological
weapons. The massive participation of states could justify the position that the prohibitions
within the text should be comprised in customary international law. This position was,
however, doubted by the opposite view that the reservations taken by a considerable number
of states limited significantly the scope of its application. Therefore, it should be stated that,
undoubtedly, nowadays, the prohibition of the first use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other
gases and bacteriological methods of warfare during a war conflict is part of customary
international law. The Protocol prohibitions were generally respected by the states, with the
only exceptions of Italy during the war against Ethiopia (1935-1936), and Japan, during the
war against China (1937-1945).
3.1.2. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) (Convention on
the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological
(Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction) is the first international
convention to prohibit exclusively a specific category of weapons, that is the biological
weapons. The prohibition of the use of those weapons is not explicitly mentioned in the text
of the Convention. It is additional to the Geneva Protocol and it only declares that the states’
obligations continue to be valid, included the prohibition of biological and toxin weapons use.
Besides, the destruction of the existing weapons is also among the Convention’s provisions,
not including feasible supervision and verification methods. Despite the efforts to fill the
protocol deficiencies, even the approval of a generally accepted definition of bacteriological
(biological) weapons has not been successful. In addition, the possibility of biological agents
development for peace reasons does not give a satisfactory answer to the question whether the
biological agents development is included in research programs or this is just an argument for
those who o might possibly try to develop biological weapons. Hence, the lack of verification
and control methods leaves the application of the Treaty to each state’s individual
responsibility and determination to abide by the provisions of the Treaty and to cooperate
with the other member states. The fact that the Biological Weapons Convention continues to
impose the same obligations as the Geneva Protocol, does not answer to the question of what
happens with the states which, even though they have not signed the Protocol, they have
signed the Convention.
3.1.3 The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is described as more complete that the
other two conventions, because, except for its great influence, it has included provisions for
tangible verification methods, has imposed concrete national measures and has established an
International Organization: the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW), which has concrete tasks and the responsibility to observe and control the
application by the member states. However, despite the provisions of the old chemical
weapons destruction and despite the serious efforts for credible verification methods, there is
no guarantee to detect via the available mechanisms all the possible violations of the
3.2 The International Conventions application in Greece
Greece [8,12,15,16] has already ratified all three Conventions, however, their application has
serious problems, mainly because of the lack of realization of the threat and the limited
interest about it. The Greek State was not only obliged to establish a National Authority but
also to support it so that is could fulfil its role successfully. Since its establishment, in 2002,
the National Authority for Chemical Weapons has encountered many problems; The
inspections carried out are included in the hard core of the mission of the Convention;
nevertheless, they are often described as sketchy and superficial. In reality, there are many
obstacles - the most important being the confidentiality of information - to find out what
really happens during the inspections of the Greek sites, which have declared that they
possess the chemical agents described in the annex of the Convention. This indirect
conclusion arises from the inactivity of the Greek state concerning the taking of legal
measures and the administrative acts in order to apply properly the Convention. The non
establishment of the National Corps of Inspectors, in spite of the provision of the law
2991/2002, is among the signs of the lack of interest of the Greek State. Furthermore, the way
that the National Authority operates reveals that the protection against chemical threats is not
yet included among the priorities of the Greek State. In particular, its structure (constituted by
representatives of many ministries and authorities in charge) gives evidence of the intention
of the law to cover all the sectors concerned by a chemical incident. Nonetheless, there is no
report concerning the Ministry of Interior and in particular, the General Secretariat for Civil
Protection, which is the Authority in charge of the coordination of all the civil protection
actors on both national and local level. In addition, the fact that multiple ministries and
authorities are represented in the National Authority for the Chemical Weapons constitutes a
significantly positive argument about the profound and complete treatment of the matter,
nevertheless, it is worth denoting that the Authority is constituted by civil servants who
occupy “ex officio” particular positions (mostly directors general of all the ministries and
Authorities represented) and that the members of the Authority may change more often than
usual, because of the mobility of civil servants. This could be characterized as a serious
drawback, since the Greek State is unable to make the most of the accumulated knowledge
and experience acquired by a member of the Authority who is obliged to leave its position as
member because its service as the Director of a Ministry represented in the Authority has
come to end. Moreover, the absence of a proper verification and control mechanism within
the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention makes the situation more complicated and
constitutes an obstacle for the actions taken by the Greek State in the prevention as well as in
the management of a possible biological incident [9,14,17].
The responsibility of applying the conventions as well as the taking of suitable measures in
order to strengthen the conventions belongs to the international community as a whole.
However, some states, among which are mostly the USA, should play a key role, in order to
find a balance between the necessity for transparency and the obligation for confidentiality of
information concerning national security [10, 11].
Regarding the matter of application in Greece, the opportunity of the Greek state to succeed in
creating mechanisms of prevention and management of chemical and biological threats, the
following suggestions could be presented:
As far as the inspections of the industries referred in the CWC are concerned, the
immediate establishment of the National Inspection Corps or the operation of the
Service of Environment Inspectors is considered to be indispensable, so that the
efficiency of the inspections could be assured.
The acknowledgment of the National Authority in charge of Chemical Weapons is
regarded as vital. Thus, the participation of institutions and research centers, in it, is
crucial, because of their accumulated special scientific knowledge and experience and
their capacity to depose useful innovative propositions.
The participation of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection in the field of
inspections is regarded as compulsory.
The multiplication of challenge inspections in industries suspected of possessing,
producing or stockpiling chemical or biological agents should be among the priorities
of the next review conferences of the CWC.
The adoption of new technologies by the Greek state, in order to coordinate all entities
in charge of the prevention, management and mitigation of chemical incidents and the
organization of intercommunal, interdepartmental exercises and simulations in order
to come to terms with chemical and biological threat. The organization of seminars
and discussions among all actors including the local communities with the view of
strengthening the cooperation, encouraging the dialogue and exchanging ideas and
good practices. This exchange could also be carried out through the practice of town-
The establishment of a Corps of Experts in chemical and biological threats in each
administrative area (department or region) would be particularly beneficial for the task
of OPCW Inspectors as well as National Inspectors.
The promotion of cooperation among local authorities and central government is of
great importance for their activation.
According to experts [1,4,10,13], the chemical and biological threat continues to be
contemporary, mostly through terrorist attacks. Besides, to be realistic, the conventions on
arms control could never be able to solve the problem of terrorism, however, their
contribution is significant. All factors that could contribute to the limitation of weapons of
mass destruction must be encouraged and promoted. [2,3,5,6].
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