- EU-27 and UK were collectively the second largest arms supplier in the world
- Common Position criteria take precedence over national interests
- Need for greater transparency in arms exports
MEPs condemn the increasing arms race evolving across the world, calling on the EU to play an active role in the areas of non-proliferation of arms and global disarmament.
In the “Arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP” report, adopted by the European Parliament´s Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday evening, MEPs looked into how the member states were implementing the EU’s common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment.
The latest SIPRI figures show that arms exports from the EU-28 amounted to some 26 % of the global total in 2015-2019, collectively making the EU-28 the second largest arms supplier in the world after the USA (36 %) and followed by Russia (21 %), point out MEPs.
Greater transparency in arms exports
In light of the EU’s growing importance in arms production, they support the Council´s commitment to strengthen the control of arms exports. Its recent decisions reflect a growing awareness among member states of the need for greater transparency in this area, MEPs say.
The ambition to make the European defence sector more competitive must not undermine the application of the Common Position’s eight criteria as they take precedence over any national economic, social, commercial or industrial interests, warn MEPs.
The rapporteur Hannah Neumann (Greens/EFA, DE) said: “Arms exports need parliamentary and public scrutiny. With increasing EU cooperation and EU funding in arms production, EU oversight and regulations are needed more and more. The report demands clear advances in this regard and should guide member states and the Commission in the coming years.”
Implementing arms embargoes
MEPs recall that the EU has been implementing a number of arms embargoes on several countries, ensuring that the EU does not contribute to humanitarian crises, human rights abuses and atrocities. Welcoming Operation IRINI´s objectives to strictly implement the UN arms embargo, they call on all member states to halt any transfer of weapons, surveillance and intelligence equipment to all the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.
MEPs also welcome the decisions of some member states to restrict their arms exports to countries who are members of the Saudi-led coalition involved in the war in Yemen and call again on the High Representative to launch a process that would lead to an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia
They welcome the EU´s efforts to make the Arms Trade Treaty universal, to which all EU member states are party, and call the major arms-exporting countries, such as the USA, China and Russia, to sign and ratify the Treaty.
MEPs also stress the need to strengthen public oversight in this domain as well as the importance of regularly consulting the European Parliament, national parliaments, arms export control authorities, industry associations and civil society to establish a meaningful level of transparency.
The report was adopted by 33 votes for, 11 against and 26 abstentions.
Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, adopted in 2008, is a legally binding set of rules containing eight criteria that are to be taken into account when issuing export licenses. The criteria include the respect for human rights in the country of final destination, the preservation of national and regional stability as well as the compatibility of arms exports with the development of the recipient country.
The plenary debate and vote on this report is set to be held in the autumn.