EU weapons may have ended up in the hands of ISIS and terrorists in Europe
Share article:
Share article:

EU weapons may have ended up in the hands of ISIS and terrorists in Europe

Croatian Elmech EM-992 7.62 x 51mm sniper rifle taken in Avdoké, Syria, on 13 July 13 2014.

The European Parliament discussed this week the EU arms industry and export policy. The topic has received new urgency following negligent reporting by individual member states. Some countries are not always clear on where their arms export go. What makes the matter more worrisome is that the weapons may end up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

EU member states are major global arms exporters, accounting for about 38 billion euro in exports in 2013, thereof 73 percent to non-EU countries. Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy are the biggest exporters. The world arms trade is dominated by the US and Russia, which together accounted for 58 % of total exports in 2010 – 2014 according to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

At a meeting on September 21, the European Parliament’s subcommittee on Security and Defence discussed a draft report on EU’s arms export. Rapporteur Bodil Valero, from the Swedish Environment party, presented the draft which will be amended in a second meeting in October and put to the vote of the parliament in December.

With a background in reviewing Swedish arms control legislation, Ms Valero underlined that arms differ from other commodities and its export must be subject to control. The Parliament acts a watchdog against national governments and the European Council who publishes annual reports with statistics on arms exports.

Due to reduced domestic demand for military equipment in Europe, the European arms industry has been looking for new markets in recent years. However, weapons often end up in the wrong hands. Bodil Valero stressed that keeping up local employment is no valid reason for arms export. 

The draft report quotes another report (“Exporting tomorrow’s organized crime”) by Europol, EU’s law enforcement agency, according to which firearms exported to third countries have found their way back to Europe with “unprecedented ease” and fallen into the hand of terrorists. This was the case with the weapons used in the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen.

As regards the Islamic State (IS), their heavy weapons which have been taken as war trophy or been acquired in the black market, may originate in Europe. “We can only guess,” Bodil Valero says. Without singling out any EU member state as the country of origin, there is a real risk that arms exported from the EU have ended up in the hands of ISIS.

EU is facing a dilemma. If it exports weapons to other countries like Ukraine or semi-independent entities like Kurdistan, to help them defend themselves, the weapons may fuel ongoing wars or be lost to terrorist organizations. On the other hand, without weapons for defense and deterrence, the other side will get the upper-hand.

Judging from the debate in the subcommittee, there are those who favor EU export to other countries for self-defense and those who want to restrict it even more, especially when the importing countries are violating human rights and using the weapons to subdue their own populations.

A member of the committee remarked that the report should reflect the differences in arms exports by country. Member states are required to report their arms export but some countries are negligent in their reporting.

Only 21 member states made full contributions to EU’s statistics on arms export. Greece did not provide any data at all, Germany and United Kingdom did not submit any data on actual arms export, and France provided a total figure without any breakdown.

Member states are free to export arms but since 2008 they are bound of a European Council “Common Position” which defines common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment. A member of the committee stated that the decision has been in a “limbo” since then and that the situation has rather deteriorated.

The decision lays down four criteria for denying export licenses and four criteria which should be taken into account. The criteria are baselines and member states can apply a stricter policy. The draft report calls on member states to ensure a stricter application of the criteria and to ensure a coherent approach to embargos.

If this is enough for coordinating the export policies of the member states and restricting the arms sales to countries who use them to prolong armed conflicts, attack another country, support terrorism or violate human rights – just to mention some of the criteria – remains to be seen after the adoption by the parliament of the final report.

Brussels Times Correspondent

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...