EU Arms Exports Threatening Global Security

Arms export controls in the expanded European Union are dangerously ineffective and stringent new regulations are urgently needed to protect human rights and safeguard people’s security, Amnesty International said today.

In a comprehensive report released today (Friday 14 May) in Brussels and London – Undermining Global Security: the European Union’s arms exports” – – Amnesty International highlights serious flaws in the European Union’s key arms control agreements, especially the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

The EU has this year promised a complete review of its Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and a meeting today (Friday 14 May) of the EU arms control committee COARM is the latest part of that process.

EU arms, security equipment and services are contributing to grave human rights abuses and the scale of potential abuse is now enormous, according to the Amnesty International report.

The major EU arms exporting countries – France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom – account for one third of the world’s arms deals. With ten new Member States, the EU now has over 400 small arms companies in 23 countries, almost as many as the USA.

The report calls for a toughening and widening of the EU Code to prevent the irresponsible export of surplus arms, arms components and security equipment used for repression as well as licensed arms production in third countries, arms brokering and transporting of arms.

“The enlarged EU now has an opportunity to become a more coherent and effective international voice for positive change. But in order to do this, the EU must put its own house in order.” said Amnesty International.

The report identifies major weaknesses, omissions and loopholes in the existing EU arms export controls, including:

  • The involvement of an Italian joint venture company in the manufacture of vehicles used as mobile execution chambers in China;
  • UK export of components for Chinese military aero engines despite an EU arms embargo on China;
  • A failure to control the huge “transit trade” of arms through the Netherlands allowing the export of armoured vehicles to Israel despite their use against civilians;
  • The transfer of Czech and Polish surplus weapons to governments such as Yemen with a history of diverting weapons to third countries;
  • Spanish satellite intelligence, military equipment and training have been promised to Columbia despite concerns that the Colombian government’s polices are exacerbating the human rights disaster there;
  • The supply by a German technology company of surveillance equipment to Turkmenistan despite a history of the government there using such methods for political repression;
  • French helicopters and parts manufactured under licence in India, delivered to Nepal where armed forces have used helicopters to shoot and kill civilians.

Amnesty International is concerned that the review will not be wide or deep enough to address the serious flaws which allow the abuse of human rights. The organization is also calling for the European Union to promote a legally binding global arms trade treaty to underpin a strengthened EU Code.

Links to document – note: large document (112 pages), delays in download possible:

For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
Tel: 32-2-5021499
Fax: 32-2-5025686
Email: [email protected]