The terrorism threat in Europe has boosted calls for stricter arms controls. On Wednesday MEPs debate a report calling for the EU's code on arms exports to be applied more strictly, followed by a vote the next day. In 2013 alone EU member states exported €26.7 billion worth of arms to countries outside the EU. In addition MEPs will soon be asked to have their say on new EU rules to strengthen firearms controls.
The report on the EU's arms exports was written by Bodil Valero, a Swedish member of the Greens/EFA group. "The security situation of Europe is completely different from what it was five years ago," she said. "For many years we sold a lot of weapons to countries that were stable at the time, but that are now in conflict. If we do not have a proper risk assessment then we will have problems. We now see that weapons that we sold can be used against us."
In her report Valero calls on member states to support the creation of an independent European Arms Control Authority: "The authority would have the role to ensure everyone was respecting the minimum rules, but countries would still be free to apply stricter rules."
Stricter exports controls could also have consequences for Europe's arms industries. "Of course it can affect them, but there are also a lot of other markets where there are not so many conflicts," Valero said. "We have a defence industry to protect ourselves and our citizens. Of course the industry has to sell, but we have to make sure that they don't sell arms to the wrong people."
Limiting access to arms
In the wake of the Paris attacks on 13 November, the European Commission proposed to reinforce controls on firearms. It presented its plans to Parliament's internal market committee on 7 December after which its members debated the draft EU rules to ban semi-automatic weapons for civilian use and prevent both the reactivation of deactivated weapons and the purchase of spare parts online. MEPs will have the chance to debate and vote on the plans once they have been formally submitted.