EU arms export control needs a “face lift” 

Press Releases 
  • Lack of uniform EU arms export control
  • Need for supervisory body and sanctions mechanism
  • Saudi Arabia should face EU arms embargo

The EU’s arms export control should be upgraded by setting up a supervisory body and sanctioning member states not complying with minimum requirements, said MEPs on Wednesday.

MEPs are alarmed at a global arms race and at military approaches to solve political conflicts. In a resolution adopted by 386  votes to 107, with 198 abstentions, MEPs criticise member states for violating EU’s common arms export control system and taking conflicting decisions on arms exports, though weapons to be exported are essentially alike and reach similar destinations and end-users. They also regret that only 20 member states fully reported on their arms export.

To remedy the situation MEPs advocate:

  • setting up an arms control supervisory body under the auspices of the High Representative;
  • creating a mechanism which sanctions member states which do not comply with the EU’s Common Position on arms exports;
  • widening the list of arms export criteria to oblige member states to assess the risk that an arms transfer could spur corruption;
  • increasing the transparency on arms export reporting by providing more and timely information on export licences and turning the EU’s annual report on arms export into a searchable online database by the end of 2018;
  • creating effective post-shipment controls to ensure that arms are not being re-exported to unauthorised end users;
  • including armed drones in arms control regimes.
  • MEPs also stress that arms export to Saudi Arabia breaches the EU’s common position. They repeat the European Parliament’s call on the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to impose an EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.



Parliament’s rapporteur Bodil Valero (Greens/EFA, SV) said: “We need to shore up arms export controls. The EU should not shut its eyes when European weapons are being used for the purpose that does not comply with our own rules. We want certain changes: better scrutiny, sanctions against those countries that break the rules and Ms. Mogherini to take initiative to use arms embargo card where this is necessary."


Quick facts


The EU28 member states are the world’s second largest arms supplier (26% of global arms exports), after the USA (33%) and before Russia (23%). The Middle East was the most significant region in terms of arms export for the EU in 2015.


The EU's Common Position on arms exports is the only legally binding region-wide arrangement on conventional arms exports. It lists eight criteria which member states have to apply when taking a decision on arms export licences, such as respect for the international obligations and commitments, particularly sanctions or respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by the recipient country.