European arms exports to Middle East reach record high in aftermath of Arab Spring

In a joint press release, the European Network against Arms Trade condemns the European arms export to the Middle East which, since the Arab Spring, has only increased

The publication of the Fifteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment reveals that in 2012 European Union (EU) countries licensed arms exports valued at €39.9 billion.

This included a record €9.7 billion in licensed sales to the Middle East, an increase of 22% since 2011.

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.

The increasing sales have come despite the Arab Spring and show little change in export policy, with record licences in many categories.

It was a record year for the licensing of small arms to the Middle East, which were worth almost €265 million265 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.

Overall, 4,705 licences were granted to the Middle East and only 100 were refused.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:

The Arab Spring should have been a chance for European countries to review how they do business with the Middle East, but unfortunately this report shows that arms sales to authoritarian and oppressive regimes in the region have increased significantly.

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, an increase of 290%. The majority of this increase came from the advanced trainer aircraft Alenia Aermacchi M-346 deal with Italy which was worth €472 million: in exchange Italy has agreed to purchase military equipment from Israel for a similar amount.

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% to €363 million.

Giorgio Beretta, an analyst at Italian Disarmament Network said:

The report, which has been published after a long delay and without any public announcement by the European Council, presents several problems. There is a lack of data on exports of weapons from some countries, including some the major arms exporters such as Germany and 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. This lack of transparency should no longer be tolerated.

The figures only include licences where total values are known, this means that they do not include all types of licences, so the total figures should be viewed as a minimum. The report reveals that the major EU arms exporting countries are:

  1. France (€13.7 billion)
  2. Spain (€7.7 billion)
  3. Germany (€4.7 billion)
  4. Italy (€4.1 billion)
  5. United Kingdom (€2.6 billion)

These five countries were the source of over 80% of EU military sales. The report has taken 13 months to compile but campaigners are calling for future annual reports to be published within six months. In the EU Report, the figures reported in the Worldwide Total do not match with the sum of figures for single states. Furthermore, in the report, 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) said:

This is a European Parliamentary election year and we are urging all MEPs to show their commitment to peace, security and human rights by ensuring that the report is discussed in the European Parliament. They cannot let growing arms exports to the Middle East go unnoticed.

Other relevant figures:

  • In 2012 EU arms export licences were valued at €39 billion- an increase of 5% since 2011.
  • Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were also major customers buying over €2.2 billion and €1.5 billion worth of arms.
  • 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.
  • Weapons continued to be exported to areas of tension such as India (€1.7 billion) and Pakistan (€377 million). Sales to China were worth €174 million.
  • The value of aircraft sales was a record €18 billion, with the largest supplier being Spain and the largest non-EU customer being Brazil.
  • There were 47,868 arms export licences applied for in 2012 by all EU countries, and only 459 refusals. The report lists 27 refusals for sales to Bahrain, 25 refusals to Russia and 24 to China and Egypt.
  • Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom do not supply data for the deliveries that follow licenses, while France and Italy have reported total values only rather than a category breakdown.
  • The Report shows also export licences to some countries under EU arms embargoes (Afghanistan, Burma, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe. 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” (p.8). In particular, the almost €7 million of “ground vehicles” sent from Germany to Syria regard “cross country vehicles” for United Nations offices and EU delegations (p. 493).
  • Licences can be viewed on the ENAAT website http://www.enaat.org/export/licence.en.html

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