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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

Maria Eleni Koppa, Ana Gomes, Véronique De Keyser, Raimon Obiols, Pino Arlacchi on behalf of the S&D 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 its previous reports and resolutions, in particular that of 13 June 2012 on the negotiations on the UN Arms Trade Treaty[1],

–   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,

–   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,

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

–   having regard to the 14th annual report of COARM, drafted in accordance with Article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment[2],

–   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 Council Joint Action 2002/589/CFSP of 12 July 2002 on the European Union’s contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons and repealing Joint Action 1999/34/CFSP, and to the EU strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, adopted on 15-16 December 2005 by the European Council,

–   having regard to the Wassenaar Arrangement of 12 May 1996 on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, together with the lists, updated in 2011 and 2012, of those goods and technologies and munitions,

–   having regard to the adoption of the global Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013 (UNGA Resolution 67/58) and to the full text of the Treaty that was opened for signature on 3 June 2013,

–   having regard to the European Commission proposal for a Council decision authorising Member States to sign, in the interests of the European Union, the Arms Trade Treaty (COM (2013) 273 final) and to the Council conclusions of 28 May 2013 that adopted the proposal and encouraged the Member States to sign the Treaty at the solemn ceremony in New York on 3 June or at the earliest possible date,

–   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, and whereas it is therefore important to strengthen the EU’s export control policy for military technology and equipment, which should be embedded within a transparent, effective and commonly accepted and defined arms control system;

B.  whereas Common Position 2008/944/CFSP is a legally binding framework laying down eight criteria which, if not met, should lead to an export licence being denied (criteria 1-4) or consideration at least being given to doing so (criteria 5-8); whereas, however, the Member States maintain the final control on all aspects of arms export licensing, and the implementation of the Common Position is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU;

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 violated (criterion 2) or a recipient country’s development prospects would be 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, under Article 3 of the Common Position, the eight criteria set minimum standards only and are without prejudice to more restrictive arms control measures by Member States;

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

F.  whereas the Common Position’s criteria must also be taken into account in the process of restructuring Europe’s defence industry, which is vital to the small and medium-sized enterprises that create jobs;

G. whereas a development towards a stronger verification and reporting system has been observed since the presentation of the annual Council reports in accordance with 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;

H. whereas compliance with the Common Position has been the subject of academic research and published contributions from civil society; whereas there is no possibility of having compliance with the eight criteria independently verified;

I.   whereas the system for assessing and monitoring compliance with the Common Position’s eight criteria must also be extended to cover the manufacturing stage;

J.   whereas, despite the existence of the User’s Guide, Member States apply and interpret the Common Position’s eight criteria in different ways when authorising or denying export of the same categories of military goods to the same destinations; whereas there is therefore a need to seek a homogenous and ambitious application of the criteria by all Member States;

K. whereas the COARM annual report is intended to cover implementation of the Common Position and increase transparency regarding Member States’ arms exports; whereas the COARM annual reports have helped to make Member States’ arms exports more transparent, and the number of guidelines and clarifications in the User’s Guide has multiplied; whereas, because of the Common Position, the volume of information on the issuing of arms export licences has increased;

L.  whereas the EU legislation on dual-use goods regulates the export, transfer, brokering, and transit of such goods and is governed by Regulation (EU) No 388/2012; whereas an updated list of dual-use goods and technologies under the Wassenaar Arrangement was adopted in February 2012, but the large majority of dual-use goods products, particularly in the field of surveillance technology, are still not covered by a legally binding export control system;

M. whereas many surveillance technologies and surveillance software products and many other goods used in a host of recipient countries for repressive measures against their populations are included neither in the Common Military List of the European Union nor in the EU list of dual-use goods;

N. whereas developing nations continue to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers; whereas, during the period 2004-2011, the value of arms transfer agreements with developing nations comprised two thirds of all such agreements worldwide; whereas irresponsible arms transfers and arms-related debt are undermining the chance for many developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets;

O. whereas events such as the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have once again revealed the problematic link between democratisation and human rights issues as a liability when it comes to arms trading with such countries; whereas the events of the Arab Spring have shown once again the absolute necessity and importance of the Common Position and its eight criteria, as well as of broader international agreements such as the Arms Trade Treaty; whereas foresight should enable future initiatives and reports to make use of such lessons, especially when it comes to the propagation of traded arms to non-state actors as in the case of Libya and the possibility of direct transfers to rebels as in the case of Syria;

P.  whereas the international arms trade is considered by Transparency International to be one of the three most corrupt businesses in the world; whereas investigations by the Bonn International Conversion Centre (BICC) have revealed that in Germany in 2011, for example, 5 149 of the 17 568 arms export licences issued, or just under 30 %, for export to 76 countries, allegedly violated one or more of the eight criteria;

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 and revised interpretation and implementation of the Common Position with all its obligations, while providing a mechanism whereby a Member State’s security concerns regarding arms exports could be addressed;

3.  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 improved, including in relation to crisis regions and countries with questionable human rights records and in relation to countries which present a proven risk of diverting the transferred goods in an unauthorised way to other end-users;

4.  Takes note of the commitment of the EEAS and the 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;

5.  Recalls that, operating through non-transparent processes, arms purchases have contributed significantly to the over-indebtedness of some countries, including a number of Member States; insists, therefore, that there should be greater transparency with respect to the purchase and sale of arms, and that information on the intra-Community arms trade should continue to be included in the EU annual report;

6.  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 risk assessments and decisions have been guided by the eight criteria of the Common Position in order to allow conclusions about the extent to which the criteria have been applied by national authorities; considers it important that such a system should be based on the principle of transparency;

7.  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;

8.  Regrets the fact that there is no possibility of having compliance with the eight criteria independently verified, that there are no mechanisms for sanctions for violation of the eight criteria by a Member State, and that there are no plans to that effect; takes the view that ways and means of carrying out independent verification and mechanisms for sanctions for violations of the Common Position should be provided for;

9.  Takes note of the fact that control of compliance with the criteria takes place in accordance with national regulations and that there is no possibility of having compliance with the eight criteria independently verified and 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 should carry out effective oversight of the application of the criteria;

10. Calls on the Member States and the HR/VP to seek for a homogeneous and ambitious application of the eight criteria by all the 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;

11. Calls, furthermore, for better application of the criteria of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, and suggests exploring the possibility of applying and extending the eight criteria within the provisions of the Common Position, including to arms-exports-related services; calls – where dual-use goods and technology are to be exported – for compatibility with the eight criteria to be verified if there are reasons for believing that the exports of such goods and technology would breach one of the eight criteria;

12. 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 issued export licences but does not include some important information on real export 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; requests that individual licence refusals be reported in the COARM Annual Report with reference to the criterion numbers on which refusals are based and the Member State concerned;

13. 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;

14. Calls for the COARM annual report also to include information on the final destination of exports within Europe, on onward transfers to third countries which may be problematic and on licensed production outside the EU; further suggests including in the COARM annual report a follow-up of the issues regarding arms exports identified in the previous reports, as well as measures taken by the Member States to address those issues;

15. 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;

16. Restates its full backing for the conclusion of a robust and legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), under United Nations auspices, on international trade and transfers in conventional arms; stresses, therefore, that that objective must be one of the priorities of EU external policy, and welcomes the Council decision authorising Member States to sign the ATT;

17. Urges the Member States and other negotiating parties to sign, ratify and fully implement the ATT;

18. Highlights the importance of transparency and accountability mechanisms in the effective implementation of any international agreement on arms control; calls, therefore, for the inclusion of mechanisms for exchange of information and best practices between States Parties on arms exports, imports and transfer decisions, in addition to strong, clear provisions for public annual reporting by the States Parties on all arms transfer;

19. Underlines and welcomes the fact that the treaty specifically prohibits the transfer of specified conventional weapons, including small arms and weapons, if it violates sanctions and in particular arms embargoes imposed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, if it contravenes the exporting state’s international obligations under its international agreements, in particular those relating to the transfer of, or illicit trafficking in, conventional arms, and if there is knowledge that the exported arms and items have the potential to be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and attacks against civilians;

20. Calls on the HR/VP, the Commission and the Member States to implement EU commitments regarding the combating of illicit accumulation and trafficking of small and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition; recalls that these commitments are to assisting non-EU Member States in stockpile management, marking and similar endeavours to control SALW and are complementary to EU arrangements that regulate transfer of military goods, so as to avoid EU Member States supplying countries where arms are prone to be misused;

21. 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.