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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on arms exports: implementation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP

5.6.2013 - (2013/2657(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
pursuant to Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Tarja Cronberg, Reinhard Bütikofer, Indrek Tarand, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Barbara Lochbihler, Franziska Katharina Brantner, Bart Staes, Judith Sargentini, Sandrine Bélier, Jean Lambert on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B7-0258/2013

Postupak : 2013/2657(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on arms exports: implementation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP


The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment[1],

–   having regard to the ongoing process, within the Council Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports (COARM), of reviewing the Common Position, which, pursuant to Article 15 thereof, must be reviewed three years after its adoption,

–   having regard to the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of 19 November 2012 on the review of the Common Position,

–   having regard to Action 11(e) of the Action Plan of the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, which commits the EEAS and the Member States to ensuring that the review of the Council Common Position takes account of human rights and international humanitarian law,

–   having regard to COARM’s Thirteenth and Fourteenth Annual Reports[2],

–   having regard to Council Common Position 2003/468/CFSP of 23 June 2003 on the control of arms brokering[3],

–   having regard to the regularly updated User’s Guide to Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment[4],

–   having regard to the adoption of the global Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013,

–   having regard to its resolution of 18 January 2007 on the Council’s Seventh and Eighth Annual Reports according to Operative Provision 8 of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports[5],

–   having regard to Regulation 1236/2005 concerning trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the review thereof in 2013 provided for in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy,

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

A. whereas arms exports and transfers have an impact on human security, human rights, democracy, good governance and socio-economic development, so that it is important to strengthen the European Union’s export control policy with respect to military technology and equipment, and to ensure that it is embedded within an accountable, transparent, effective, commonly accepted and defined arms control system;

B.  whereas Common Position 2008/944/CFSP is a legally binding framework laying down eight criteria, and whereas, if they are not met, an export licence should be denied;

C. whereas the criteria are intended inter alia to prevent arms exports as a result of which conflicts would be aggravated (criteria 3 and 4) or human rights and international humanitarian law violated (criterion 2) or to minimise the risk of transferred goods being diverted to third countries and ineligible end-users or a recipient country’s development prospects being adversely affected (criterion 8); whereas the Common Position is unrestricted in scope and, accordingly, the eight criteria apply also to exports within the EU and to arms transfers to countries closely associated with the EU;

D. whereas Article 10 of the Common Position clearly states that compliance with the eight criteria takes precedence over any economic social, commercial or industrial interests of Member States;

E.  whereas the decision-taking process for granting or denying arms export licences lies solely within the remit of Member States; whereas the eight criteria are interpreted very differently across the EU, meaning that arms export practice varies rather widely;

F.  whereas a development towards a stronger verification and reporting system has been observed since the presentation of the annual Council reports under Article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment; whereas, however, there is no standardised verification and reporting system and the Member States are to overcome legislative and operational obstacles in order to achieve better compliance with the eight criteria;

G. whereas the COARM annual reports have helped to make Member States’ arms exports more transparent, and whereas the number of guidelines and clarifications in the User’s Guide has multiplied;

H. whereas by no means all EU Member States make a full submission to COARM; whereas, because of individual Member States’ differing data collection and submission procedures, data sets are incomplete and varied, which considerably reduces transparency in this area; whereas the reporting by EU Member States fails overall to meet the minimum standards of required accountability and public scrutiny;

I.   whereas it has been argued that the events of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could not be foreseen; whereas, nonetheless, the critical human rights situation and poor record of good governance in those countries, which, in connection with issuing arms exports licences, should have been (and must be) taken into account, was (and is) known; whereas the events of the Arab Spring have revealed the weaknesses of the Common Position and, to some extent, a number of countries’ disregard for it and the criteria it contains;

J.   whereas in recent years some MENA countries have ranked, and still do, among the key buyers of European arms; whereas in 2010, EU Member States exported arms to the MENA countries to a total value of EUR 8 324.3 m – in 2011 the total was still as much as EUR 7 975.2 m – on the grounds that this would foster political stability[6]; whereas between 2006 and 2010, in respect of Libya alone, EU Member States issued export licences to a total value of EUR 1 056 m, while, during the same period, 54 applications for arms exports to Libya were denied in the light of criteria 2, 7 and 5 (most frequently criterion 2)[7];

K. whereas the industry is calling for an expansion of arms exports in order to offset the forecast slackening in demand within the EU, and whereas that call is being backed by many politicians and political parties as a contribution towards strengthening Europe’s arms industry base;

L.  whereas the process of actively involving committed Member States, NGOs, national parliaments and the European Parliament in assessing, harmonising, carrying through and monitoring compliance with the Common Position is slow and is not being vigorously pursued;

M. whereas the third countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Canada, Croatia, Montenegro and Norway have officially aligned themselves with the Common Position’s criteria and principles; whereas none of the countries of the European Neighbourhood, nor Turkey, have officially done so;

1.  Notes that, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the EU Member States, taken as a whole, outrank the US and Russia as the world’s largest arms exporter, and that an ever-increasing proportion of arms exports - 61 % in 2011 - is being delivered to countries outside the EU;

2.  Welcomes the fact that European and non-European third countries have joined the arms exports control system on the basis of the Common Position and Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); notes with concern, however, that the eight criteria are not being applied and interpreted consistently in the EU Member States; calls therefore for a standard, more uniform, revised interpretation and implementation of the Common Position with all its obligations, while providing a mechanism where a Member State’s security concerns regarding arms exports could be addressed; notes that the EU is the only union of states to have a legally binding framework, unique in the world, through which arms export control is being addressed, including in relation to crisis regions and countries with a questionable human rights record and in relations to countries which present a proven risk of diverting the transferred goods in an unauthorised way to other end-users;

3.  Takes note of the commitment of the EEAS and Member States under Action 11(e) of the Action Plan of the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy to ensure that the review of the Council Common Position takes account of human rights and international humanitarian law; asks the EEAS to report on steps taken to meet this commitment and to involve NGOs and civil society in the review process;

4.  Takes the view that the Common Position should be complemented by a regularly updated, publicly accessible list, with detailed reasons, providing information on the extent to which exports to particular recipient countries are, or are not, in keeping with the eight criteria;

5.  Considers that a standardised verification and reporting system should be established in order to allow for public assessment as to whether, and to what extent, individual EU Member States’ exports comply with the eight criteria;

6.  Insists, in the light of the review process, that the wording in the Common Position be made clearer and more unambiguous in order to ensure that the criteria are interpreted and applied in a more uniform way; insists in particular that Article 10 of the Common Position be acted on; calls for more detailed guidance to be provided in the User’s Guide under Criterion 2, and Criterion 7, as well as an update of Annexes I to IV, including a reference to the EU human rights country strategies;

7.  Takes note of the fact that control of compliance with the criteria takes place in accordance with national regulations, that there is no possibility of having compliance with the eight criteria independently verified and that there are no consequences for violation of the eight criteria by a Member State; takes the view that ways and means of carrying out independent verification of violations of the Common Position should be provided for; is of the opinion that national parliaments or specific parliamentary bodies such as parliamentary supervisory committees must ensure effective control of the application of the criteria; calls on the Member States and the HR/VP to seek a homogenous and ambitious application of the eight criteria by all Member States; calls on the Member States and the HR/VP also to promote much higher levels of transparency by publishing more timely and complete sets of data on the arms exports of all the Member States; underlines in this regard the importance of cooperation with civil society;

8.  Calls for the inclusion in the Common Position of the post-embargo toolbox, which will offer the opportunity to regularly exchange information on a three-monthly basis on denials, issued licenses, the goods, the category in the EU Common Military List, the total number of items and the end-user; calls on the Member States and COARM also to involve other relevant EU units and working groups;

9.  Calls for the insertion of an additional criterion into the EU Common Position on arms exports obliging Member States to assess the risk of bribery and corruption before approving an arms export licence to any country;

10. Deplores the June 2011 decision of the French government to sell Mistral battleships to Russia despite its invasion of Georgia, in violation of the subsequent six-point peace plan and the general human rights situation in Russia;

11. Calls on the Member States, with regard to export controls and application of the eight criteria, 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 non-lethal human rights abuses;

12. Regrets the fact that, in 2010, only 63 % of EU Member States submitted complete sets of data relating to their arms exports; notes that the countries which repeatedly supply incomplete information on their exports are also some of both the EU’s and the world’s largest arms-exporting countries;

13. Notes that methods for collecting data on arms exports, as well as practices for publishing data sets recorded, vary across the Member States, as a result of which the COARM annual report includes standardised information on export licences issued but does not include some important information on actual exports of arms; calls accordingly for the introduction of a standardised reporting submission procedure for information on actual exports to be applied uniformly in all Member States, welcomes initiatives by the Member States to improve the situation so as to submit and publish accurate, up-to-date and exhaustive information; asks for individual licence refusals to be reported in the COARM Annual Report with reference to the criterion numbers on which refusals are based and the Member State concerned;

14. Suggests in this connection that additional information be collected from the Member States and published both at national level and in the COARM annual report, in particular a list of countries to which arms exports would violate one or more of the eight criteria, together with a comprehensive list of EU Member States that have exported arms to those countries during the data reporting period;

15. Calls on the Member States to provide additional, more up-to-date information that could, if necessary, be used as a basis for drawing up a joint list of countries’ arms exports and transfers which would violate one or more of the eight criteria, and as a basis for a better understanding and better controls on the part of national and commonly agreed international supervisory bodies, as well as being used for the COARM annual report; suggests, in this connection, setting up a post-export control mechanism;

16. Notes that the Directive simplifying terms and conditions of transfers of defence-related products within the Community has made arms exports within Europe considerably easier; calls in this connection for the COARM annual report also to include detailed information on arms exports within Europe that violate one or more of the eight criteria; calls for the COARM annual report also to include information on the final destination of exports within Europe and on onward transfers to third countries which may be problematic;

17. Underscores the important role of civil society, national parliaments and the European Parliament in both implementing and enforcing the Common Position’s agreed standards at national and EU level and in establishing a transparent, accountable control system; calls therefore for a transparent and robust control mechanism which bolsters the role of parliaments and of civil society, including through the establishment of an independent group of experts to provide advice to COARM on the application and implementation of the eight export criteria, as well as on drawing up a list of third countries requiring special caution and vigilance in issuing licences as referred to under Article 2.2 (b) of the Common Position; calls for an in-depth discussion of the COARM annual report in a joint session of the DROI and SEDE subcommittees of the European Parliament;

18. Stresses the significance and legitimacy of parliamentary oversight of data relating to arms export control, and of how that control is carried out, and therefore calls for the necessary measures, backing and information to ensure that this oversight function is performed to the full;

19. Notes with satisfaction that government officials responsible for issuing national export licences are consulted, and should be more regularly, at COARM meetings in cooperation with the Council Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM), since they can make an important contribution to implementing the Common Position and help improve the quality of the information exchanged; considers, furthermore, that consultations should extend to civil society organisations and to defence industry representatives addressing the issue of arms export control;

20. Recalls that under Article 11 of the Common Position, Member States are to use their best endeavours to encourage other States which export military technology or equipment to apply the criteria of the Common Position; calls on the EEAS to report back on efforts made in this direction; regrets the fact that none of the countries of the EU’s Neighbourhood, nor Turkey, have officially aligned themselves with the Common Position’s criteria and principles; calls on the EEAS and the Member States to urge these countries to align themselves with the Common Position;

21. Reiterates its full backing for a robust and legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), under the auspices of the United Nations, on international trade and transfers in conventional arms; stresses, therefore, that this objective must be one of the priorities for the EU’s external policy;

22. Deplores the insufficient linkages and the lack of coherence between the various EU tools with regard to trade in arms and security equipment, including Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, the Dual-Use Regulation, and EU Regulation No 1236/2005 on Products used for Capital Punishment and Torture; calls for a single, comprehensive EU framework for regulating trade in arms and security equipment;

23. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative on Human Rights, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.