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European Parliament demands tougher controls on arms exports© AP Images/ European Union-EP  

Member states must apply the EU's eight-point code on arms exports more rigorously, particularly with the changed security environment in the EU's neighbourhood, the EP said on Thursday. It stressed that these trade flows are not in the EU's direct security interests and national political and economic considerations must not override decision-making on export licences.

"The security of European citizens is more threatened now than in past years, due to conflicts in our neighbourhood and the increased smuggling and trafficking of arms into the EU,” said the rapporteur, Bodil Valero (Greens/EFA, SE). “The EU member states exporting arms must take into account that countries to which they sold arms in the past are no longer stable and must strengthen the current arms exports regimes in the EU,” she urged, stressing that “As major global arms exporters, they also have a particular responsibility to make sure the EU remains a credible human rights advocate.”


The uncontrolled spread of weapons poses a serious risk to peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, says Parliament, in a resolution passed on Thursday by 249 votes to 164, with 128 abstentions. It notes that despite the situation in Syria and in Iraq, the increased terrorist activities and the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, no changes have been made to the EU's rules on arms exports.

In 2013, the EU member states exported arms worth a total value of EUR 26 billion to third countries.

Apply export regime more consistently, and introduce checks and penalties

The real problem, Parliament says, is that the arms export regime is being applied loosely and interpreted inconsistently. It recommends introducing independent checks and penalties if it is infringed. Member states should also include stricter national criteria, it adds.

Boost transparency and public scrutiny

The transparency and public scrutiny of the export control framework must be boosted, Parliament says. It calls on the member states to provide detailed information, through standardised reporting, on each licence issued. The annual report on EU arms exports should in future be relaunched as a public, interactive and searchable online database, MEPs suggest.


€26 billion  ; In 2013, EU Member States exported arms to third countries worth EUR 25,976 billion

  • Common Position 2008/944/CFSP is a unique legally binding framework laying down eight criteria for the export of conventional arms to be applied by EU member states to their licensing decisions. 
  • Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Canada, Montenegro and Norway have officially aligned themselves with the common position’s criteria and principles. 
  • MEPs criticise the EU member states for not applying it strictly enough.  
  • Refusal to transfer any military technology or arms remains the exclusive competence of the member states