1 February 2011
European Union arms sales soar to regions of conflict
Arms export licences from European Union (EU) countries totalled a record €40.3 billion in 2009, up 20 percent on 2008. Just over half (53 percent) of arms sales went to non-western countries, with Middle Eastern countries taking the largest share. France remained the major exporter (€12.7 billion) followed by Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.
These and other startling facts are contained in a little noticed report XII Report on control of exports of military technology and equipment published on 13 January by the European Union. The report has been analysed by Giorgio Beretta of Unimondo (One World, Italy) on behalf of groups in the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT).
The report reveals that the major EU arms exporting countries are:
1. France (€12.7 billion compared with €0.6 billion in 2008)
2. Italy (€6.7 billion; €5.6 billion in 2008)
3. Germany (€5 billion in 2009; €5.8 billion in 2008)
4. United Kingdom (€3.5 billion; €2.5 billion in 2008)
5. Spain (€3.2 billion; €2.5 billion in 2008).
These five countries covered over three-quarters of EU military exports. Other countries also showed significant increases in exports.
The EU exported arms to all regions of the world. Of the total value of export licences listed by regions of destination (€36.5 billion), 53.3 percent (€19.5 billion) went to Southern (non-western) countries and 46.7 percent to Western countries (North America, EU and other European countries including Turkey, Japan and Oceania).
Intra-Community transfers of weapons fell from €10.6 billion in 2008 to €9.6 billion in 2009, while exports to non-EU European countries almost halved from €3 billion in 2008 to €1.6 billion in 2009.
However, exports to other regions rose rapidly. Arms exports to the Middle East, one of the regions of greatest tension, almost doubled from €4.9 billion in 2008 to over €9.6 billion in 2009. Exports to North Africa doubled from €985 million to €2 billion and exports to Central and South America nearly tripled from €807 million to €2.3 billion.
Despite an EU arms embargo on China, licences worth €209 million were granted in 2009, mainly by France (€199 million) for “military aircraft” and “equipment for viewing images or countermeasure".
The high value and percentage of arms export licences to countries in the South is a deeply worrying trend, said Giorgo Beretta. The EU report does not comment on this aspect but it should be carefully evaluated by national Parliaments. This should be done without delay since EU member country governments are implementing new policies to facilitate arms transfers.
Giorgio Beretta also criticised problems with methodology of the report and the gaps in reporting:
There is a serious and relevant lack of information, especially considering that guidelines for the compilation of the report were defined ten years ago and confirmed two years ago with the implementation of the new Common Position. The lack of information on actual deliveries by two of the major international and European exporters of military equipment (Germany and the UK) cannot be explained away on the basis of mere “technical problems”: it is clearly a political decision which the governments should account for.
For further information contact Giorgio Beretta of Unimondo on +39-338-3041742 or email email giorgio beretta. For UK information contact CAAT Media Co-ordinator Kaye Stearman or email email the press officer.
1. European Network Against Arms Trade ENAAT) is a grouping of European anti-arms trade organisations, including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK.
2. A fuller analysis of the report is available from CAAT.
3. "XII Report on control of exports of military technology and equipment". Previous reports are posted on the Council’s website: