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Thursday, 4 July 2013 - Strasbourg
Arms exports: implementation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP

European Parliament resolution of 4 July 2013 on arms exports: implementation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP (2013/2657(RSP))

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 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(2),

–  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(3), and to the EU Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, adopted by the European Council on 15-16 December 2005(4),

–  having regard to COARM’s Thirteenth(5) and Fourteenth(6) Annual Reports,

–  having regard to the United Nations international Arms Trade Treaty establishing common binding standards for the global trade in conventional arms,

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2012 on the negotiations on the UN Arms Trade Treaty(7),

–  having regard to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union and to Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 110(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas arms exports can have an impact not only on security but also on development, making it important to strengthen the European Union’s export control policy for military technology and equipment;

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 (criteria 1-4) or consideration should at least be given to doing so (criteria 5-8);

C.  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; whereas decisions on whether or not to issue arms export licences in accordance with the criteria are, in every case, a matter for individual Member States;

D.  whereas Article 10 of the Common Position clearly states that the Member States, where appropriate, may also take into account the effect of proposed exports on their economic, social, commercial and industrial interests, and whereas these factors must not affect the application of the eight criteria;

E.  whereas according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the EU Member States, taken as a whole, are the world’s second-largest arms exporter, only slightly behind the United States, and whereas a growing proportion of arms are being delivered to countries outside the EU;

F.  whereas the main extra-EU destinations of arms transfers by the Member States are the Middle East, North America and Asia; whereas the main country recipients are Saudi Arabia, the United States and the United Arab Emirates;

G.  whereas the European industry tries to compensate for the decreasing European defence demand by seeking access to third country markets, and whereas that is being backed by many politicians and political parties as a contribution towards strengthening European defence industries, technological know-how, security of supply, and preparedness; whereas research and development in the defence industries have an important spill-over effect contributing to numerous civilian applications;

H.  whereas significant progress has been made on reaching agreement between the Member States with regard to applying and interpreting the Common Position’s eight criteria, principally thanks to the Common Position User’s Guide, drawn up by COARM, which gives detailed definitions of best practices with regard to the application of the criteria;

1.  Applauds the fact that the EU has a legally binding framework, unique in the world, through which arms export control is being improved, including in crisis regions and countries with questionable human rights records, and welcomes the fact, in this connection, that European and non-European third countries have joined the arms exports control system on the basis of the Common Position; notes, however, that the eight criteria are applied and interpreted with varying degrees of rigour in the EU Member States; calls, therefore, for more uniform interpretation and implementation of the Common Position with all its obligations and regrets that the EU still does not have a common policy on arms transfers to third countries;

2.  Maintains that the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Position should not be at variance; considers that it is up to the Member States and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to ensure the coherence of the Common Position and foreign policy;

3.  Emphasises the right of Member States to proceed in accordance with their national policies, while complying fully with international law and agreements, and commonly agreed rules and criteria, such compliance being controlled in accordance with national regulations;

4.  Is of the opinion that the European Parliament, national parliaments or specific parliamentary bodies must ensure effective control of the application and enforcement of the Common Position’s agreed standards at national and EU level and of the establishment of a transparent, accountable control system;

5.  Is of the opinion that the language of the User’s Guide should be more accurate and less subject to interpretation and that it should continue to be updated when needed;

6.  Calls for the criteria of the Common Position to be better applied before new ones are suggested;

7.  Recognises the coherent and consistent role played by EU Member States in support of the international process to establish binding rules governing the international arms trade; urges the EU and its Member States to focus their efforts on those countries which remain outside of international agreements;

8.  Notes that COARM’s annual reports have made Member States’ arms exports more transparent; considers it regrettable, however, that data sets are incomplete and vary on account of individual Member States’ differing data collection and submission procedures; reminds the Member States to make a full, annual submission of information on their arms transfers to COARM as agreed and laid down in the Common Position;

9.  Calls for an analysis of how the Common Position is implemented in national systems; is of the opinion that COARM’s capacity to analyse arms export control should be strengthened;

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

11.  Is of the opinion that an improved system allowing for regular, up-to-date exchanges of information between Member States on arms transfers to ex-embargo states should be set up;

12.  Calls for an annual debate in Parliament, together with an annual report, on the implementation of the Common Position, so as to ensure the appropriate degree of parliamentary oversight and transparency at European level;

13.  Welcomes the conclusion, under the auspices of the United Nations, of a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on international trade in conventional arms, creating an effective international arms control system through greater transparency and accountability, and establishing the highest international standards, thus making the irresponsible and illicit use of conventional arms ever more difficult; recognises the coherent and consistent role played by the EU and its Member States in support of the international process to establish binding rules governing the international arms trade;

14.  Stresses the importance of effective, credible implementation of the ATT, and encourages the Member States to focus their international effort on moves towards universal sign-up and early entry into force;

15.  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 Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

(1) OJ L 335, 13.12.2008, p. 99.
(2) OJ L 146, 10.6.2009, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 191, 19.7.2002, p. 1.
(4) Council of the European Union, 05319/2006, 13.1.2006.
(5) OJ C 382, 30.12.2011, p. 1.
(6) OJ C 386, 14.12.2012, p. 1.
(7) P7_TA(2012)0251.

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