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What measures are being taken by the E.U to tackle the problem of S.A.L.W?[1]

Article 223 of the Treaty of the European Union effectively excludes issues relating to the production and procurement of arms from community involvement, essentially placing all matters relating to the production, transfer and the acquisition of arms within the competence of individual Member States. However, within the last decade or so, legislation has been passed and initiatives put in place with the aim of controlling arms exports to a greater degree. This began in 1991 and 1992 when the Council of Ministers agreed eight criteria that Member States should take into account when licensing arms exports. These criteria include the internal and regional situation of the purchasing country, its attitude to terrorism, its human rights record, and the effect that the purchase of the arms would have on the country’s economy.[2] 

Explicit mention of arms trafficking was made in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997. In addition to a number of other changes in the arena of Justice and Home Affairs, the Treaty spelled out the instruments of co-operation between states in police and judicial matters, and specified the types of crimes that this co-operation should tackle, among them arms trafficking.[3] At the same time a growing coalition of parliamentarians, journalists and 600 non-governmental organisations across Europe were working together to press E.U governments to reach agreement on a common arms export control policy.[4] 

Before such agreement was reached, the Council of the E.U, under a Dutch Presidency, adopted a Programme for Preventing and Combating the Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms, on 26 June 1997 (Council document 9057/97, 20.6.1997). This was one of the first measures aimed specifically at controlling illicit weapon transfers within the E.U itself, and has particular relevance for the trafficking of S.A.L.W. The Programme has three main elements. Firstly, it encourages the exchange of information between Member States, who will co-operate and co-ordinate the activities of their intelligence, customs and law enforcement agencies more in order to tackle the illicit flows of arms from their territories. Secondly, it provides for assisting non-E.U countries that are blighted by S.A.L.W through the strengthening of their law enforcement infrastructure and greater regional and national co-operation on the trafficking of arms. Finally, the Programme mandates E.U members to reduce the number of arms in circulation, in post-conflict situations for example, by weapons collection, buy-back, and destruction schemes. 

After the adoption of the Programme, it was suggested by the U.K in September 1997 that assistance should be focussed on Southern Africa. This was followed by a conference in South Africa during May 1998, sponsored by the U.K Department for International Development, with the aim of developing co-operative links between the E.U and Southern Africa to address the problem of S.A.L.W proliferation and trafficking. An action plan was also drawn up, advocating, for example, tougher regulations on accumulations and transfers of weapons.[5] 

E.U funds have also been used elsewhere in Africa. In Eritrea, for example, Lome (the European Development Fund) has dispersed funds for projects to train and rehabilitate former combatants to integrate them back into civilian life. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and also the states of the former Soviet Union and Mongolia also receive assistance from the E.U through the TACIS (Technical Assistance Programme for the Commonwealth of Independent States) and PHARE schemes.  Money has been given to promote democratic structures, enhance computer systems and to develop civilian involvement in military and security matters, including setting up effective export controls. Seminars have also been given on customs law in Minsk, Kiev, Moscow and Tashkent.[6] 

The NGO-led campaign for a common arms export control policy reached fruition on 8 June 1998, when, after four months of discussion, the General Affairs Council finally adopted a Code of Conduct on Arms Exports (Council document 8675/2/98 Rev.2, 8.6.1998). Building on the eight criteria for arms exports mentioned earlier, the Code spells out what would constitute a breach of the criteria and consequently mean the export licence application would be denied. The second part of the code provides for a consultation and review mechanism between Member States and also limited transparency measures. In some cases, however, E.U states have decided to impose arms embargoes on states due to their record of external aggression or internal repression. Some embargoes are termed as ‘full scope’, meaning they encompass arms, munitions, other military equipment and generally anything on the common embargo list. Most embargoes imposed by the E.U have tended to be full scope (such as those against Afghanistan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Burma, Nigeria, Serbia, Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo). Only the embargoes against Iran and China have been ‘less than full scope’, meaning it is left to national discretion in deciding what to export.[7] 

These measures were reinforced on 17 December 1998 when a Joint Action to ‘combat the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons’ was adopted under German initiative. Member States set out three main objectives in the document: Firstly, to combat and contribute to ending the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms. Secondly, to contribute to the reduction of current accumulations of S.A.L.W to levels consistent with a country’s legitimate security needs, and thirdly, to help solve the problems that result from such accumulations.[8] Since the adoption of the Joint Action the E.U has contributed to several specific projects in pursuit of the Joint Action’s objectives. A project in Cambodia was started in 1999 and involves the E.U assisting the Cambodian Government, police and security forces in a variety of ways, including the construction of several weapons and ammunition storage facilities and also a computerised system for the registration of weapons. The E.U has also been involved in Operation Rachel in Mozambique, using intelligence to find cache locations and then destroying them on site. Funding has been provided for the purchase of equipment to support a project in Georgia/South Ossetia, under the aegis of the OSCE, in which peace-keeping forces are conducting a programme for the voluntary handover of small arms. Finally, funds have been given to support the U.N Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in Lima, Peru.[9] 

The Development Council’s Resolution on small arms, adopted on 21 May 1999, further confirmed the other policies mentioned so far, and reiterated the E.U’s commitment to combat the spread and accumulation of S.A.L.W around the world. It was suggested that action mentioned before in the Joint Action and other policies (such as public education programmes and incentives for people to surrender their weapons), be targeted on Southern and Western Africa. It is also pointed out that it is an important prerequisite that recipient countries of assistance are themselves committed to establishing political and social stability, and in time willing to make their own contribution to relevant schemes.[10] 

The E.U has also been trying to forge links with other countries as far as establishing common export control policies is concerned. In December 1999, for example, the E.U and United States agreed a Statement of Common Principles on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Both countries recognised that the ‘problem of the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons demands the urgent attention of the international community’, and that there needs to be a comprehensive approach to tackle the problem, including increased contact and enhanced export control procedures.[11] A similar agreement has been reached with Canada regarding S.A.L.W, and also includes reference to anti-personnel landmines.[12]

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[1] Though this website is primarily concerned with the illicit and illegal transfers of S.A.L.W, I have included in this section pieces of legislation aimed at increasing control over the legal trade in S.A.L.W. As will be apparent from perusing this site, I believe that legal, illicit, and illegal transfers of weapons are somewhat linked. In order to stop weapons in the legal market being transferred to the illegal one, closer control over legal weaponry and where it is exported to must come first.

[2] William Benson, Light Weapons Controls and Security Assistance: a review of current practice (U.K, International Alert: http://www.international-alert.org/pdf/pubsec/lw_controls&security.pdf, accessed 15.04.02), p.22.

[3] Domitilla Sagramoso, The proliferation of small arms and light weapons in and around the European Union: Instability, organised crime and terrorist groups (London, Saferworld: http://www.saferworld.co.uk/Domitilla.pdf, published July 2001/accessed 14.04.02), p.49.

[4] Paul Lansu, Light Weapons, the Question of International Regulations, and the Role of both Global and Regional Institutions (London, International Action Network on Small Arms: http://www.iansa.org/documents/research/1999/sept_99/lansu_small_arms.pdf, published November 1998/accessed 14.04.02), p.6. 

[5] William Benson, Light Weapons Controls and Security Assistance: a review of current practice (U.K, International Alert: http://www.international-alert.org/pdf/pubsec/lw_controls&security.pdf, accessed 15.04.02), p.23.

[6] Ibid.,  pp.29-30.

[7] Ibid., p.23.

[8] Domitilla Sagramoso, The proliferation of small arms and light weapons in and around the European Union: Instability, organised crime and terrorist groups (London, Saferworld: http://www.saferworld.co.uk/Domitilla.pdf, published July 2001/accessed 14.04.02), p.52.

[9] For more detailed information of these projects see: Small arms and light weapons: The response of the European Union (Brussels, Europa: http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/cfsp/doc/small_arms_en.pdf, published 2001/accessed 28.04.02), pp.14-17.

[10] Development Council Resolution on small arms (Brussels, Europa: http://europa.eu.int/comm/development/prevention/councres-smarms.htm, published 21.05.99/accessed 01.05.02).

[11] U.S-E.U Statement of Common Principles on Small Arms and Light Weapons (London, International Action Network on Small Arms: http://www.iansa.org/documents/regional/dec_99/us_eustatement.htm, published 17 December 1999/accessed 01.05.02).

[12] Canada-EU Statement on Small Arms and Anti-Personnel Mines (London, International Action Network on Small Arms: http://www.iansa.org/documents/gov/gov6.htm, accessed 06.05.02).