American Herald Tribune– On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging EU Member States to improve the implementation of the EU Common Position on Arms Export. The resolution calls for more transparency, a supervisory body and a sanctions mechanism for those Member States not following minimum requirements. It re-iterates the urgent need to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights reported.
EU resolution comes after the recent report that the United Kingdom (UK) exported almost £ 3.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the war on Yemen began. But the UK is not the only one: arms exports to the Middle East rose by 86 % between 2012 and 2016– Saudi Arabia has imported 212 % more than over the previous five years, the United Arab Emirates up 63%, Qatar up 245% and Kuwait up 175%. During the same period international transfers of major weapons reached the highest volume for any five-year period since the end of the Cold War. The EU emerges as the second largest arms supplier in the world (26%), after USA (33%) and before Russia (23%).
The motion, drafted by Bodil Valero, a Swedish member of the Green block, scrutinizes the level of compliance by EU member states with their own binding commitments governing the exports of military equipment and technology.
The current EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP lists 8 criteria that all EU countries have to assess before issuing arms exports licences, including respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by the recipient country, preservation of regional peace, security and stability or the attitude of the buyer country to terrorism. For instance, EU Member States shall not grant licenses if there is a clear risk that the military technology or equipment might be used “for internal repression” or “against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim”.
The resolution, titled “Resolution on arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP”, was adopted by 386 votes to 107, overcoming opposition from the conservatives. During Tuesday’s debatein Strasburg, members of European People’s Party (EPP) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), had expressed their strong opposition to the text stressing the vital importance of national sovereignty and Member States’ right to self-defence. On Wednesday, ECR voted against the resolution while EPP’s official position was merely to abstain, moving away from its previous position to strictly oppose any call for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.
In the resolution, MEPs criticise Member States for violating EU’s common arms export control system by providing weapons to countries that used them in armed conflicts or for internal repression, such as Saudi Arabia in Yemen. They condemn Member States conflicting decisions on arms export, and in particular the lack of a common approach to the situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
MEPs deplore that some Member States have continued supplying military technology to Saudi Arabia despite the fact that it is being used in the conflict in Yemen. They stress that “exports to Saudi Arabia are non-compliant with at least criterion 2 regarding the country’s involvement in grave breaches of humanitarian law as established by competent UN authorities”. MEPs also declare that such exports violate criteria 4, 6, 7 and 8 of the Common Position. They therefore re-iterate the call from the resolution of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen, and urge EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, noting that “the situation in Yemen has since further deteriorated also due to military action carried out by the Saudi-led coalition”.
The European Parliament expresses similar concerns “about possible diversions of exports to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to armed non-states actors in Syria who commit serious violations of human rights law and humanitarian law” while acknowledging that “most of the arms in the hands of insurgents and terrorist groups have come from non-European sources”.
The resolution further calls for a strict, transparent, effective and commonly accepted and defined arms control system. It asks on EU Member States and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take additional measures on arms control, including:
- to set up a an arms control supervisory bodyunder the auspices of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini,
- to create a mechanism which sanctionsthose Member States which do not comply with the Common Position,
- to expand the list of arms export criteria, to oblige member states to assess the risk that an arms transfer could spur corruption,
- to increase the transparency on arms export reportingby providing more and timely information on export licences and turning the EU annual report into a searchable online database by the end of 2018,
- to create effective post-shipment controlsto ensure that arms are not being re-exported to unauthorised end users.
However, according to the Sputnik, European countries such as Italy continue to increase arms exports to Saudi Arabia in spite of European Parliament resolutions calling for an embargo on sales to Riyadh.
Enrico Piovesana, an Italian journalist and director of the Center for Monitoring of Arms Expenditures (MILEX), told Sputnik Italia that Italy’s exports have risen dramatically.
Piovesana said, “According to the most recent data, for 2016, income from arms exports doubled in comparison with the previous year, from €7.9 billion ($9.4 billion) to €14.16 billion. This figure is even more impressive if we compare it with data for 2014: €2.6 billion.” He added, “This is significant growth, and the Italian foreign ministry considers it a triumph: in its last report, it said that this sector has finally emerged from the [economic] crisis thanks to the flexibility of its supply.”
The non-binding resolution passed by the European Parliament on Wednesday is the third call in two years by EU parliamentarians to enforce EU Council rules on the arms export control and impose an embargo on exports to Saudi Arabia.
Now that the European Parliament has spoken, once again, the ball is in the European Council’s court. It’s time that the member states lived up to their own commitments regarding arms exports.