European arms sales to Middle East reach record level

By staff writers
February 1, 2014

European Union countries licensed arms exports in 2012 valued at €39.9 billion, according to newly released figures. This included a record €9.7 billion in sales to the Middle East – a 22 percent increase on sales in the previous year.

The statistics are revealed in the Fifteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment.

The European Network Against the Arms Trade (ENAA) says that the figures show ittle change in arms export policy, despite the Arab Spring and the violent suppression of protests in many of the countries concerned.

Overall, 47,868 arms export licences were applied for in 2012 by all EU countries. Of these, only 459 were refused. While 4,705 licences were granted to sell arms to the Middle East, only 100 were refused.

Of the 51 authoritarian governments listed in the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2012, licenses were awarded for military sales to 43 of them.

Saudi Arabia, which was the largest single customer for EU arms sales, obtained licences for over €3.5 billion worth of weapons. Their largest supplier was France, which accounted for almost €1.6 billion of that total.

It was a record year for the licensing of small arms to the Middle East, which were worth almost €265 million. It was also a record year for sales of weapon-firing equipments and ammunition to the region, with the value of exports reaching €1.2 billion and €448 million respectively.

Giorgio Beretta, an analyst at Italian Disarmament Network, pointed out that the report had “been published after a long delay and without any public announcement by the European Council”.

Despite hostilities between Israel and Gaza in March and October 2012, military export licenses from Europe to Israel increased from €157 million to €613 million, a rise of 290 per cent.

Sales to Libya have continued, following the military intervention in 2011, and were worth over €22.5 million, and licences to Egypt increased by over 20 per cent to €363 million.

“The Arab Spring should have been a chance for European countries to review how they do business with the Middle East” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (UK), “But unfortunately this report shows that arms sales to authoritarian and oppressive regimes in the region have increased significantly.”

The figures only include licences where total values are known, meaning that they do not include all types of licences, so the total figures can be viewed only as a minimum.

Beretta added, “There is a lack of data on exports of weapons from some countries, including some the major arms exporters such as Germany and the United Kingdom. Furthermore France and Italy, two major exporters, have not disclosed figures on the specific categories of military systems they have sold, making it impossible to know what types of weapons they have actually exported.”

He insisted that, “This lack of transparency should no longer be tolerated”.

Five countries – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – were the source of eighty per cent of EU military sales.

The report shows export licences to several countries under EU arms embargoes, inculding Burma, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A small note explains that “exports to destinations subject to EU arms embargoes comply with the terms, conditions and possible exceptions set out in the decisions imposing such embargoes”.

The report has taken 13 months to compile but campaigners are calling for future annual reports to be published within six months.

ENAAT says that in the report, the figures reported in the worldwide total do not match with the sum of figures for single states. Furthermore, the sum of figures reported for regions do not match with the worldwide totals.

Wendela de Vries of the Dutch Campagne tegen Wapenhandel (Campaign Against Arms Trade) called on the European Parliament to discuss the report. De Vries said that MEPs “cannot let growing arms exports to the Middle East go unnoticed."

The report was published only days ahead of the beginning of trials in the UK of people arrested for peaceful protests against the London arms fair in 2013. The first five people to be tried will appear in court in London on Monday 3 February.


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