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Česká polární stanice na Antarktidě
Photo: Daniel Nývlt (©Masarykova univerzita a Česká geologická služba)
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Antarctica and its Legal Regime

 

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 the previously made territorial claims are frozen.

At the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) on May 29, 2013 in Brussels, a so-called consultative status of the Czech Republic as a Contracting Party to the Antarctic Treaty was recognized, effective from April 1, 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 of the Government of the Czech Republic of April 17, 2013, No. 280.

The Czech Republic is also a Contracting Party to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, concluded on October  4, 1991 in Madrid (No. 42/2005 Sb.m.s.), which entered into force for the Czech Republic on September 24, 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 reasearch relating to mineral resources.

The Czech Republic belongs to 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 a name of Johann Gregor Mendel, the founder of modern genetic and climatology, was built by the Masaryk University close to the northern coast of Antarctic peninsula on the James Ross Island. The Mendel station is used for the 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 the 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 the trips to Antarctica and activites 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 of April, 23, 2014, No. 284, 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 Antractic Treaty with the consultative status.

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