EU News
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Council adopts Commission proposal to combat trafficking of firearms

Through new EU legislation adopted yesterday by the Council, Europe establishes stronger regulations to effectively fight illegal arms trafficking. It establishes requirements for exports, imports and transit licensing, and makes it easier to track weapons.

The illegal firearms' trade generates about €180 million per year globally1. This amount reflects only part of the real threat posed by arms trafficking which often involves other serious crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and corruption.

Welcoming yesterday's adoption in the Council, Commissioner Malmström said: "Trafficking in firearms is a threat to the security of our citizens and is a lucrative business for organised crime. I am therefore particularly glad that the European Parliament and Council has approved the Commission's proposal to tighten the rules for exports and imports of firearms and to improve traceability. Stronger control of firearms entering or leaving the EU will help us prevent their misuse."

To avoid unnecessary administrative burdens, the Regulation sets up simplified procedures for temporary export, import and transit of small numbers of firearms for ‘verifiable lawful purposes’, such as recreational, repair or exhibition.

The new legislation improves the tracing and control of imports and exports of civilian firearms from and to the EU territory (firearms intended for military purposes are governed by other rules). It brings EU legislation in line with Article 10 of the UN Firearms Protocol, allowing its ratification by the European Union which has been pending since 2002.


More effective controls on and tracing of firearms

The Regulation is based on the principle that firearms and related items should not be transferred between states without the knowledge and consent of all states involved. It lays down procedural rules for export, and import - as well as for transit of firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

Exports of firearms will be subject to export authorisations, containing the necessary information to trace them, including the country of origin, the country of export, the final recipient and a description of the quantity of the firearms and related items.

Member States have the obligation to verify that the importing third country has issued an import authorisation. In the case of transit of weapons and related item through third countries, each transit country must give notice in writing that it has no objection. Member States must refuse to grant an export authorisation if the person applying has any previous record concerning illicit trafficking or other serious crime.

Legislative Procedure

The existing EU legislative framework on firearms largely derives from the UN Firearms Protocol (UNFP) which was negotiated and signed by the Commission in 2002 on behalf of the European Community.

To transpose the provisions of the Protocol and address transfers of firearms within the Union, the EU already adopted Directive 2008/51/EC (amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC). The 2008 Directive established the rules on controls by the EU Member States on the acquisition and possession of firearms and their transfer to another EU Member State.

The Regulation adopted today addresses trade and transfers with countries outside the EU, thereby transposing the provisions of Article 10 of the UNFP on ‘General requirements for export, import and transit licensing or authorization systems’. It applies to firearms, their parts and essential components and ammunition for civilian use. Military weapons are not concerned.

After the Parliament gave its agreement in October, today's adoption by the Council of the Regulation put forward by the Commission in May 2010 (IP/10/635 and MEMO/10/225) paves the way for the final ratification of the UN Firearms Protocol by the European Union once the Regulation has entered into force (120 days following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union).

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)

1 : Conversion from US$ 240 million - UNODC, "The Globalisation of Crime", Chapter 6: Firearms, June 2010.

The UK Public Sector Deserves a Better Way to Pentest