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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 27, June 1998

European Union Code of Conduct for Arms Exports

'European Union Code of Conduct for Arms Exports,' agreed by European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers on 25 May; formally adopted at the EU Council of Ministers, 8-9 June 1998

Editor's note: see last issue for background and reaction. Resolution and Criteria

"The Council of the European Union,

Building on the Common Criteria agreed at the Luxembourg and Lisbon European Councils in 1991 and 1992,

Recognising the special responsibility of arms exporting States,

Determined to set high common standards which should be regarded as the minimum for the management of, and restraint in, conventional arms transfers by all EU Member States, and to strengthen the exchange of relevant information with a view to achieving greater transparency,

Determined to prevent the export of equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression, or contribute to regional instability,

Wishing within the framework of the CFSP [Common Foreign & Security Policy] to reinforce their cooperation and to promote their convergence in the field of conventional arms exports,

Noting complementary measures taken by the EU against illicit transfers, in the form of the EU Programme for Preventing and Combating Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms,

Acknowledging the wish of EU Member States to maintain a defence industry as part of their industrial base as well as their defence effort,

Recognising that States have a right to transfer the means of self-defence, consistent with the right of self-defence recognised by the UN Charter,

have adopted the following Code of Conduct…:

Criterion One

Respect for the international commitments of EU Member States, in particular the sanctions decreed by the UN Security Council and those decreed by the Community, agreements on non-proliferation and other subjects, as well as other international obligations

An export licence should be refused if approval would be inconsistent with, inter alia:

a) the international obligations of Member States and their commitments to enforce UN, OSCE and EU arms embargoes;

b) the international obligations of Member States under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention;

c) their commitments in the frameworks of the Australia Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement;

d) their commitment not to export any form of anti-personnel landmine.

Criterion Two

The respect of human rights in the country of final destination

Having assessed the recipient country's attitude towards relevant principles established by international human rights instruments, Member States will:

a) not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression;

b) exercise special caution and vigilance in issuing licences, on a case-by-case basis and taking account of the nature of the equipment, to countries where serious violations of human rights have been established by the competent bodies of the UN, the Council of Europe or by the EU.

For these purposes, equipment which might be used for internal repression will include, inter alia, equipment where there is evidence of the use of this or similar equipment for internal repression by the proposed end-user, or where there is reason to believe that the equipment will be diverted from its stated end-use or end-user and used for internal repression. In line with operative paragraph 1 of this Code, the nature of the equipment will be considered carefully, particularly if it is intended for internal security purposes. Internal repression includes, inter alia, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, summary or arbitrary executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and other major violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in relevant international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Criterion Three

The internal situation in the country of final destination, as a function of the existence of tensions or armed conflicts

Member States will not allow exports which would provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of final destination.

Criterion Four

Preservation of regional peace, security and stability

Member States will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim. When considering these risks, EU Member States will take into account inter alia:

a) the existence or likelihood of armed conflict between the recipient and another country;

b) a claim against the territory of a neighbouring country which the recipient has in the past tried or threatened to pursue by means of force;

c) whether the equipment would be likely to be used other than for the legitimate national security and defence of the recipient;

d) the need not to affect adversely regional stability in any significant way.

Criterion Five

The national security of the Member States and of territories whose external relations are the responsibility of a Member State, as well as that of friendly and allied countries

Member States will take into account:

a) the potential effect of the proposed export on their defence and security interests and those of friends, allies and other Member States, while recognising that this factor cannot affect consideration of the criteria on respect of human rights and on regional peace, security and stability;

b) the risk of use of the goods concerned against their forces or those of friends, allies or other Member States;

c) the risk of reverse engineering or unintended technology transfer.

Criterion Six

The behaviour of the buyer country with regard to the international community, as regards in particular to its attitude to terrorism, the nature of its alliances and respect for international law

Member States will take into account inter alia the record of the buyer country with regard to:

a) its support or encouragement of terrorism and international organised crime;

b) its compliance with its international commitments, in particular on the non-use of force, including under international humanitarian law applicable to international and non-international conflicts;

c) its commitment to non-proliferation and other areas of arms control and disarmament, in particular the signature, ratification and implementation of relevant arms control and disarmament conventions referred to in sub-paragraph b) of Criterion One.

Criterion Seven

The existence of a risk that the equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions

In assessing the impact of the proposed export on the importing country and the risk that exported goods might be diverted to an undesirable end-user, the following will be considered:

a) the legitimate defence and domestic security interests of the recipient country, including any involvement in UN or other peace-keeping activity;

b) the technical capability of the recipient country to use the equipment;

c) the capability of the recipient country to exert effective export controls;

d) the risk of the arms being re-exported or diverted to terrorist organisations (anti-terrorist equipment would need particularly careful consideration in this context).

Criterion Eight

The compatibility of the arms exports with the technical and economic capacity of the recipient country, taking into account the desirability that States should achieve their legitimate needs of security and defence with the least diversion for armaments of human and economic resources

Member States will take into account, in the light of information from relevant sources such as UNDP, World Bank, IMF and OECD reports, whether the proposed export would seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country. They will consider in this context the recipient country's relative levels of military and social expenditure, taking into account also any EU or bilateral aid."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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