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EU arms exports: need for more control and transparency

EU citizens have to be better informed about their governments’ strategic choices on an issue that directly affects their security, warn MEPs.

  • EU-27 and UK collectively the second largest arms supplier in the world
  • Common Position criteria take precedence over national interests
  • Uniform data from member states would contribute to more transparency

In light of the EU’s growing importance in arms production, MEPS call for strengthened public oversight on exports of military equipment and technology, in a resolution adopted on Wednesday with 341 votes for, 124 against and 230 abstentions.

Assessing how member states were implementing the EU’s common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment, MEPs remind member states that these rules, in line with European values, take precedence over any national economic, social, commercial or industrial interests.

Independent surveys (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) show that arms exports from the EU-28 amounted to some 26 % of the global total in 2015-2019, collectively making the EU-28 the second largest arms supplier in the world after the USA (36%) and followed by Russia (21%).

Middle East and North Africa the most prominent regional destinations

The countries of the Middle East and North Africa, regions in which several armed conflicts are ongoing, remain the foremost regional destinations for exports, according to the last two annual reports on EU exports of military technology and equipment (for the years 2017 and 2018).

MEPs also warn that there are no sanction mechanisms in place should a member state engage in exports that are clearly not compatible with the criteria in the EU common rules.

Setting up an interactive online arms exports database

MEPs believe that the publication of the two last reports represents progress towards a common EU position on arms exports. Still, they note that while all member states submitted data for the 2018 report, one third of them were incomplete in their submissions.,

Calling for more uniformity in the data submitted, MEPs welcome the Council’s decision to introduce clear standards on how member states should provide their figures. MEPS also welcome the decision to transfer the annual report onto an interactive online database that should be up and running before the 2019 report is published.

The rapporteur Hannah Neumann (Greens/EFA, DE) yesterday said:

"This report recognizes that increasing European cooperation and EU funding in arms production and development requires EU-level monitoring and control. We simply say: Where EU money is involved in arms development, we also need an enforceable mechanism for EU control of any future exports. This would be based on the restrictive application of the eight existing criteria of the EU Common Position on arms exports and allow for sanctions for cases where member states do not comply with these rules."

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