Full text 
Procedure : 2014/2534(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B7-0075/2014

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 04/02/2014 - 21
CRE 04/02/2014 - 21

Votes :

PV 05/02/2014 - 9.12

Texts adopted :


Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 5 February 2014 - Strasbourg Final edition
Arms Trade Treaty

European Parliament resolution of 5 February 2014 on the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) (2014/2534(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2010/336/CFSP of 14 June 2010(1) and previous Council decisions on EU activities in support of the Arms Trade Treaty and to the draft Council decision authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Union, the Arms Trade Treaty (12178/2013),

–  having regard to Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons(2) ,

–  having regard to Directive 2009/43/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 simplifying terms and conditions of transfers of defence-related products within the Community(3) ,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 258/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2012 implementing Article 10 of the United Nations Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UN Firearms Protocol), and establishing export authorisation, and import and transit measures for firearms, their parts and components and ammunition(4) ,

–  having regard to Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment(5) ,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 21 June 2007 on an arms trade treaty: establishment of common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons(6) , of 13 June 2012 on the negotiations on the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)(7) , and of 13 March 2008 on the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports – failure of the Council to adopt the Common Position and transform the Code into a legally binding instrument(8) ,

–  having regard to Articles 21 and 34 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207(3) and 218(6) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C7‑0233/2013),

–  having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the international trade in conventional weapons is a business handling at least USD 70 billion per year and whereas according to UN calculations almost one million of the eight million weapons manufactured daily worldwide are lost or stolen, ending up usually in the wrong hands, and whereas one person in the world dies every minute as a result of armed violence;

B.  whereas, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the EU as a whole accounts for 26 % of the world’s arms exports and whereas 61 % of these exports go outside the EU;

C.  whereas since the adoption of Directive 2009/43/EC a common EU global licensing system governs trade in military equipment within the EU, and whereas the EU is competent to conclude international agreements on areas that fall within its exclusive competence;

D.  whereas the Council Common Position of 2008 lays down four binding criteria that can lead to the denial of export licences and four other criteria that need to be taken into consideration; whereas these criteria are without prejudice to more restrictive arms control measures by Member States;

E.  whereas respect for human rights constitutes the cornerstone of the common values on which the European Union is built, and whereas according to the Treaties trade policy as part of the EU’s external action should contribute to respect for human rights;

F.  whereas arms exports have an impact not only on security but also on research and development, innovation and industrial capacity, bilateral and plurilateral trade, and sustainable development; whereas instability created by increased availability of arms often leads to economic slowdown and poverty; whereas trade in arms, especially with developing countries, often leads to corruption and over-indebtedness and extracts important resources for development from their societies; whereas international trade can only live up to its potential of providing sustainable jobs, growth and development in a climate of international good governance, if not full peace, security and stability;

General considerations

1.  Welcomes the conclusion under the auspices of the United Nations of a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty on international trade in conventional arms after seven years of long negotiations; recalls that the Treaty aims to establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating the international trade in conventional arms, and to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability and the reduction of human suffering; believes that the effective implementation of the Treaty may significantly contribute to enhancing respect for international human rights and humanitarian law worldwide; welcomes the substantial contribution of civil society organisations from the inception to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty;

2.  Stresses that the long-term success of the ATT regime depends on the participation of as many countries as possible, including and in particular all major actors in the international trade in arms; welcomes the fact that the majority of UN member states have already signed the Treaty and urges others to follow suit and to ratify it as soon as possible; calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to add to its foreign affairs objectives, as well as topics to be included in bilateral agreements, an invitation for third countries to join the ATT;

3.  Notes that some trade agreements include clauses which promote non-proliferation objectives and agreements with regard to weapons of mass destruction and calls, therefore, on the Commission to explore to what extent current and future trade instruments can be used to promote ratification and implementation of the ATT;

4.  Underlines the fact that unlawful or unregulated arms transfers cause human suffering and fuel armed conflict, instability, terrorist attacks and corruption – with their corollary of undermined socio-economic development – and violations of democracy and the rule of law, human rights law and international humanitarian law;


5.  Considers it regrettable that the Treaty does not introduce a common and precise definition of conventional weapons and only applies to the eight arms categories laid down in Article 2(1), and regrets the absence of a list describing the specific types of weapons included within each of these categories; welcomes, however, the use of broad categories to determine which types of weapons are concerned; is particularly satisfied about the inclusion of small arms, light weapons, ammunition/munitions, parts and components; calls on the States Parties to understand each category in its widest sense within their national legislation; regrets that the trade in weaponised remotely piloted air systems (drones) is not included in the scope of the Treaty;

6.  Regrets that technical assistance including repairs, maintenance and development, all of which has been incorporated into EU legislation on the matter, remains outside the scope of the Treaty;

7.  Calls on the Member States to clarify that the term ‘transfer’ referred to in Article 2(2) of the Treaty applies to gifts, loans and leases and all other forms of transfer and that these activities therefore fall under the scope of this Treaty;

8.  Calls on the States Parties, with regard to export controls and the application of Article 6 (Prohibitions) and Article7 (1a-iv) (Export and Export Assessment) of the ATT, to pay greater attention to goods which may be used for both civilian and military purposes, such as surveillance technology, and similarly to spare parts and products suitable for use in cyber warfare or for non-lethal human rights abuses, and suggests exploring the possibility of extending the scope of the ATT to include arms exports-related services and dual-use goods and technology;

9.  Welcomes the provisions aimed at preventing the diversion of arms; notes, however, that extensive leeway is left to States Parties in determining the level of risk of arms diversion; regrets the fact that munitions and parts and components are not explicitly covered by the provisions concerned, and calls on the States Parties to remedy this in their national laws, and particularly those that are EU Member States, in accordance with the Council Common Position of 2008;

10.  Recognises the importance of the arms industry for growth and innovation, in addition to its fundamental role of supplying vital capabilities; recalls states’ legitimate interest in acquiring conventional arms, exercising their right to self-defence and producing exporting, importing and transferring conventional arms; recalls also that it is in the best interest of States Parties to ensure that the arms industry complies with international law and binding arms control regimes, so as to preserve and protect the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and humanitarian law, and to promote conflict prevention and conflict resolution;

11.  Calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service to help develop binding codes of conduct for private actors involved in the trade in military goods, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; strongly encourages the European arms industry to contribute to implementation support efforts in an open and transparent manner, including where appropriate through public-private partnerships, and to foster compliance, in particular with strengthened accountability obligations and the obligation deriving from the responsibility of preventing illegal arms transfers;

Criteria and international standards

12.  Underlines the importance of the obligation imposed by the Treaty on the States Parties to put in place a national control system for arms transfers (export, import, transit, transhipment and brokering);

13.  Welcomes, in particular, the prohibition on all transfers where the state has knowledge at the time of authorisation that the arms are to be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes;

14.  Welcomes the fact that, in a manner broadly consistent with various regional transfer control agreements and instruments, including the Council Common Position of 2008, arms transfers may not be authorised if States Parties consider that there is an overriding risk that the weapons will undermine peace and security or may be used to: (1) violate humanitarian law, (2) violate human rights law, (3) commit organised crime or (4) commit terrorism; encourages all States Parties to develop elaborative guidance so that these criteria are applied with due rigour and consistency;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure more coherence between different European instruments regulating the movement (exports, transfer, brokering and transit) of weapons and strategic items, such as the Council Common Position of 2008, the dual-use Regulation (EC) No 428/2009, Regulation (EU) No 258/2012 on Article 10 of the Firearms Protocol and targeted measures pursuant to Article 218 of the Treaty, in terms of the institutional set-up at the EU level and implementation mechanisms, in order to avoid legal confusion and excessive additional costs for relevant EU economic operators;

16.  Welcomes the requirement that States Parties take into account the risk of the weapons to be transferred being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children in the licence decision-making process;

Implementation and reporting

17.  Stresses the importance of effective and credible implementation of the Treaty, with a clear definition of States Parties’ responsibilities; remarks, in this connection, that a large margin of interpretation is left to the States Parties;

18.  Draws attention to the fact that there is no obligation to assess the existence of tensions or armed conflicts in the country of destination, nor to take account of its level of development;

19.  Points out that the States Parties are required to report annually on their exports and imports of conventional arms; strongly calls for the relevant reports to be made publicly available as a rule; calls on the Member States, accordingly, to commit to transparency and publicly disclose their annual reports on arms transfers, without waiting for a universal acceptance of the principle;

20.  Believes that full transparency depends to a large extent on accountability to parliaments, citizens and civil society organisations, and calls for the establishment of transparency mechanisms which will enable such citizens and organisations to be involved in order to hold their authorities accountable;

21.  Emphasises the important role of national parliaments, NGOs and civil society in both implementing and enforcing the ATT agreed standards at national and international level and in establishing a transparent, accountable control system; calls, therefore, for support (including financial support) to be given to an international, transparent and robust control mechanism which will bolster the role of parliaments and civil society;

22.  Welcomes the provisions on international cooperation and assistance and the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to assist the States Parties that need support to implement the Treaty;

23.  Welcomes also the setting-up of a Conference of States Parties, which will be regularly convened in order to review the implementation of the Treaty and, inter alia, to ensure that the trade in new weapon technologies is covered by the Treaty;

The EU and its Member States

24.  Recognises the consistent role played by the EU and its Member States in support of the international process to establish common binding rules governing the international arms trade; welcomes the fact that all Member States have signed the Treaty; looks forward to rapid ratification by the Member States once Parliament has given its consent;

25.  Calls, therefore, on the Greek Council Presidency to give the highest priority to the ratification and implementation of the ATT and to report regularly to Parliament on the respective activities; urges the Member States to implement the ATT swiftly, effectively and in a uniform manner across the European Union while continuing to fully implement the Council Common Position of 2008 as the current basis for shared European standards in arms exports controls;

26.  Reminds the Member States of their joint responsibility to apply and interpret the Council Common Position of 2008 on Arms Exports uniformly and with an equal degree of rigour;

27.  Urges the Member States to fulfil both their EU and UN reporting obligations in a spirit of transparency and completeness, and to promote transparency and the exchange of information and best practices on arms transfers and arms diversion globally;

28.  Welcomes the active role played by the EU in the ATT negotiations; considers it regrettable, however, that the ATT does not contain provisions which would allow the EU or other regional organisations to be parties to the Treaty; underlines the need for regional organisations to play an active role in implementing the Treaty, and calls for provisions to be inserted into the ATT at the earliest possible opportunity that will allow the EU or other regional organisations to be parties thereto;

29.  Welcomes the fact that under the Treaty states are required to submit an annual report on both their exports and their imports (Article 13(3)), this being a very positive aspect which promotes trust between states as it enables information to be obtained on weapons being purchased by other countries;

30.  Calls on the Commission to submit an ambitious proposal for a Council decision on an EU support mechanism for the implementation of the ATT;

31.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to provide support to third countries in need of assistance in fulfilling the Treaty obligations; welcomes in regard to this the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of 16 December 2013 allocating EUR 5,2 million from the EU budget to the voluntary trust fund to be established under the Treaty;

32.  Stresses that any implementation support efforts should be closely coordinated with activities of other donors and other ATT parties, and take into account the views of research institutes and civil society organisations, such as those funded under the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Coordination on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR), and should encourage local civil society participation;

33.  Calls on the Commission and the EEAS to design and implement a coherent ATT outreach programme, integrating and building upon all the existing activities of ATT parties and taking into account activities relating to the local advocacy initiatives of civil society organisations and the outreach activities of other donors and civil society organisations, with due consideration for lessons learned in this area;

34.  Draws attention to the provision for amending the Treaty as a last resort by a majority of three-quarters of the States Parties should this become necessary, and encourages the EU and its Member States to make use of this provision in the future to further strengthen the regime and remove loopholes; calls on the Commission, in the meantime, to promote bilateral solutions in the context of trade relations regulated by treaty;

35.  Calls on the Hellenic Parliament, in the framework of the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU, to include the issue of ATT ratification and the Council Common Position of 2008 on the agenda for the upcoming Interparliamentary Conference for the CFSP-CSDP;

36.  Calls on the Council, given that the ATT concerns both exclusive EU competences and national competences, to grant the Member States permission to ratify the ATT in the interest of the European Union;

o   o

37.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the national parliaments of the Member States, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

(1) OJ L 152, 18.6.2010, p. 14.
(2) OJ L 256, 13.9.1991, p. 51.
(3) OJ L 146, 10.6.2009, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 94, 30.3.2012, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 335, 13.12.2008, p. 99.
(6) OJ C 146 E, 12.6.2008, p. 342.
(7) OJ C 332 E, 15.11.2013, p. 58.
(8) OJ C 66 E, 20.3.2009, p. 48.

Last updated: 19 July 2018Legal notice