Arms made in factories based in EU Countries have ended up in the hands of Da’esh, fuelling wars and instability in Syria and Iraq as well as conflicts afflicting the Arabian peninsula for the past years to the detriment of the Yemenite people in particular. Thus on November 14, in a non-legislative resolution, MEPs put forward the request to adopt a mechanism to enforce sanctions on EU member Countries that break the rules on arms exports.
Common regulations. During the plenary meeting in Strasbourg the European Parliament approved a resolution – by 427 votes to 150, with 97 abstentions – that draws the attention of Member States to the fact that EU-made weapons are illegally sold beyond European borders and are being used in armed conflicts throughout world regions. In fact the EU has commonly agreed rules, setting the criteria on arms exports, that is the only is the only legally binding region-wide arrangement on conventional arms exports. Yet member States have systematically failed to apply them and the manufacturers of rifles, bombs, and missiles bypass insufficient state controls; hence the request for penalties to whoever supplies arms to belligerent countries or even to terrorist groups.
Worrying figures. The 13-page Resolution and the debate in the EU Assembly in Strasbourg highlighted the figures released by the 19th Annual Report on arms exports which states that the EU “is the second largest arms supplier in the world (27% of global arms export), after the USA (34%) and before Russia (22%).” In 2016, 40.5 % of licences for arms exports (amounting to 78 billion) “were granted to countries in the Middle East and North Africa”. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) “account for the bulk of those exports” (EUR 57.9 billion).
Eight criteria. German MEP Sabine Lösing, Rapporteur of the adopted document, declared: “Arms exports do not stabilise foreign countries or regions, neither do they help create peace. Arms amplify conflicts” and they are “fundamentally responsible for the war taking place.” Lösing underlined the urgent need for the effective implementation of sanction mechanisms, (while not repealing the prerogative of European war material production), reiterated once again in 2018 by the EU Council, with 8 specific criteria which member States have to apply when taking a decision on arms export licence to avoid that war materials “are not diverted to undesirable end-users.” The Resolution points out that many States are failing to apply this provision and explicitly points the finger at Bulgaria and Romania.
Wasted money. Local conflicts and terrorism, which cause death and material devastation; violations of human rights; political instability: these are situations that, in various countries, often already afflicted by violence and poverty, are further fuelled by arms imports from the United States, Russia, Europe, China, with disbursements of huge financial resources that could instead be used for economic investments , social or educational interventions. MEPs underlined that EU-made weapons have been used against EU and UN peace-keeping activity.
In terrorist hands. The Resolution adopted by MEPs mentions several cases that include, inter alia, Saudi Arabia: “even though arms exports to the country violated six out of eight criteria” established by the EU, “it got a green light from EU member States, thus undermining the entire European arms control effort.” Exported warships “helped to reinforce a naval blockade on Yemen, while aircraft and bombs were fundamental to the air campaign, leading to the ongoing suffering of people in Yemen.” Positive examples are given by Germany and the Netherlands, “which stopped selling arms to Saudi Arabia. MEPs said they are “shocked at the amount of EU-made weapons and ammunition found in the hands of Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq.”
EU “ambitions.” The Resolution “points out “the EU’s ambitions to become a global actor for peace;” takes the view that “the EU should meet its increased responsibility for peace and security in Europe and the world by means of further improved export control mechanisms and disarmament initiatives”, and that, ” as a responsible global player, it should lead the way, i.e. the EU should play an active role, with Member States doing their utmost to seek a common position in the areas of non-proliferation of arms, global disarmament and arms transfer controls, as well as in enhancing research and development into technologies and processes for conversion from military to civil use structures, and by measures such as granting export advantages for the goods concerned.”