Large increase in EU arms exports revealed

10 January 2013

The "Fourteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment" reveals that in 2011 European Union (EU) countries licensed arms exports valued at €37.5 billion - an increase of almost one fifth on 2010. The largest and fastest growing markets for weapons were in the Middle East and Asia, including countries embroiled in the uprisings of 2011, while Saudi Arabia replaced the USA as the largest customer.

The report was published on 14 December 2012, without a press release from the EU Council or an announcement on the European Parliament website. Groups from the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) are discussing the report and its shortcomings.

"The report is a huge document, packed with figures, but without analysis of the contents or comparison tables with data from past years. Also, as in previous years, the report is incomplete and lacks information on arms deliveries - information which is unavailable in several EU countries, including Germany and the UK," says arms analyst Giorgio Beretta of Rete Italiana per il Disarmo (Italian Disarmament Network).

He is critical of the lack of transparency in the EU report and of the time taken to deliver statistics, which were already obsolete. "It seems to take a whole year for EU officials to receive and assemble the data from national reports: reports on exports of turnips and potatoes come faster than those of arms."

Wendela de Vries of the Dutch Campagne tegen Wapenhandel (Campaign Against Arms Trade) expresses the hope that the report - unlike previous years - will be discussed in the European Parliament as an issue with high relevance for human rights, peace and security. She said: "Given that the EU has now joined the ranks of the Nobel Peace laureates, we call for action to close the gap between the EU's peace rhetoric and its profiteering from war preparations."

The report reveals that the major EU arms exporting countries are:

1. France (€9.9 billion)

2. United Kingdom (€7 billion)

3. Germany (€5.4 billion)

4. Italy (€5.2 billion)

5. Spain (€2.8 billion).

These five countries were the source of over 80% of EU military exports.

Other countries also had significant military exports, including Austria (€1.6 billion), Sweden (€1.2 billion,), Poland (€849 million), the Netherlands (€415 million), Estonia (€350 million) and the Czech Republic (€346 million).

Other relevant figures:

  • In 2011 EU arms export licences were valued at €37.5 billion - an increase of 18.3% at current value on 2010.
  • There was a decrease in arms export licences to North America (falling from €4.6 billion in 2008 to €3.6 billion in 2011) and to Central and South America.
  • There was an increase in the value of arms export licences to Asia (from €4.7 billion in 2010 to over €5.5 billion in 2011), to the Middle East (from €6.6 billion to almost €8 billion) and, on a smaller scale, to sub-Saharan Africa where exports reached €493 million.
  • Saudi Arabia was the largest single customer for EU arms sales, buying weapons worth over €4.2 billion, the largest supplier being the UK, with a contract for Eurofighter Typhoons worth over €2 billion.
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was also a major customer buying over €1.9 billion worth of arms.
  • There was a slight fall in exports to North Africa compared to 2010. Despite the ongoing Arab Spring, and the revocation of some arms licences by some countries and an arms embargo on Libya from March 2011, arms licences were issued to Tunisia (€16.5 million), Egypt (€303 million) and Libya (€34 million).
  • The EU also authorised arms exports to Algeria (€815 million, mainly from Italy) and Morocco (€335 million, mainly from France).
  • Weapons continued to be exported to areas of tension such as India (€1.5 billion) and Pakistan (€410 million) and even Afghanistan - a country still under partial arms embargo - which in 2011 saw a record €465 million of military imports from EU countries.
  • There were 48,123 arms export licences applied for in 2011 and just 379 refusals worldwide. The report lists refusals as: 94 to non-EU European countries, 74 to the Middle East, 67 to North Africa, 52 to sub-Saharan Africa, 40 to North-east Asia, 38 to South Asia, 31 to South-east Asia, 16 to Central Asia, 15 to South America and 11 to Central America and the Caribbean.

Signed by:


For further information contact Giorgio Beretta on +39-338-3041742 or email email giorgio beretta. For UK information contact CAAT Media Co-ordinator Kaye Stearman or email the press officer.


  1. The "Fourteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment" is available in pdf and html format. Previous reports are posted on the SIPRI website.
  2. European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) is a grouping of European anti-arms trade organisations, including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK.
  3. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. Around 75% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the "alternative Nobel Prize" for its "innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade".
  4. The award of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union (EU) was controversial. A statement signed by Nobel laureates Mairead Maguire, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and other peace campaigners, contended that the EU was not a "champion of peace", as specified in the will of Alfred Nobel, and the award to the EU was therefore unlawful.
Page updated 10 January 2013
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