Taking the initiative: The European parliament and EU arms export controls

Release date: 2019-12

The Council and the member states seem to have no common vision for developing a restrictive EU arms export control system. Likewise, the Commission focusses mainly on competition and industrial policy.

Against this background, the author Charlotte Kehne makes the following policy recommendations:

\ The European parliament should take the initiative and develop a concept of restrictive EU arms export controls

The Council of the European Union and the member states have failed to counter the substantial weaknesses of EU arms export controls. It is now the European parliament’s turn to take the debate forward by developing its own concept of restrictive EU arms export controls.

\ No competence for arms export controls for the Commission

A communitisation of arms export controls under the authority of the European Commission is unrealistic and undesirable. While it would offer the possibility of formal sanctions, it might lead to an even less restrictive control system than the existing one. Instead, the European parliament should build on the regulatory potential of social sanctions and naming and shaming-effects within the current division of competencies.

\ Stimulate the debate on a ‘presumption of denial’, ‘White List’ and justification mechanism

Arms exports to non-EU countries should not be permitted on principle. An exemption to this exclusion would have to be specifically justified. Therefore, member states should agree on a ‘White List’ of recipient countries for European arms, which are assessed unanimously as acceptable. If member states nevertheless grant licences to non-EU countries that are not listed on the White List, they would be obliged to justify these decisions on COARM or Council level. To stimulate the debate on these instruments, the European parliament itself should work on a ‘White List’ and assess the member states’ export practices against this background.

\ Establish a subcommittee on arms export controls

The European parliament should create a subcommittee on arms export controls to discuss improvements of EU arms export controls and to act as a supervisory body. The subcommittee would publish an annual report assessing member states’ export practices. An advisory body that ensures exchange between members of the European parliament, national parliamentarians and societal actors should assist this subcommittee.