Saudi Arabia: MEP Francesc Gambùs (PPE) issued a parliamentary question on the Member States of the European Union and the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

On 30th August 2018, MEP Francesc Gambùs (PPE) wrote a parliamentary question on the ratification of the UN Arms Trade Treaty by the Member States of the EU.

MEP Gambùs asserted that all of the Member States of the EU have signed and ratified the ATT, despite the fact that the “EU is a peace project which has delivered the longest period of prosperity and well-being in Europe’s history.” Mr. Gambùs stated that the adherence to the ATT is merely a formality, in view of the fact that the sales of arms to Saudi Arabia by the United Kingdom was not a violation of the abovementioned treaty. Nevertheless, atrocities continue to be perpetrated in the Yemen War, which contribute to the already major humanitarian crisis in the country.

In light of these facts, MEP Francesc Gambùs (PPE) asked the following questions:

  1. Is the Commission monitoring Member States’ adherence to both the spirit and the terms of the Treaty?
  2. If not, is it considering doing so?
  3. In the framework of the development of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), what instruments can the Commission use to monitor the export of arms from Member States?

In a reply to Mr. Gambùs, Commissioner Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska remarked that only States can be parties of the ATT. However, when the Treaty covers matters that fall under the EU competence, Directive 2009/43/EC is applicable. At the same time, according to the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP “the control of arms exports is a responsibility of EU Member States”, while the Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports (COARM) monitors the policies of the Member States concerning arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. Therefore, Ms. Bieńkowska concluded that the monitoring of Member States’ arms exports is not included in the scope of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the parliamentary question issued by MEP Francesc Gambùs (PPE). ECDHR is pleased that the European Parliament, along with the European Commission, have expressed concern over the deterioration of human rights in the ongoing war in Yemen and the arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Yet, given the uninterrupted violations of human rights in Yemen and the Saudi connivance in the war, more concrete action is mandatory.

——-

Please find below a full copy of the question of MEP Francesc Gambùs (PPE) and the response of Commissioner Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Question for written answer E-004411-18 to the Commission, submitted by MEP Francesc Gambús (PPE) on August 30 2018.

The EU is a peace project which has delivered the longest period of prosperity and well-being in Europe’s history and, against that backdrop, all its Member States have signed and ratified the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Even so, it appears that adherence to the ATT will be strictly a formality, given that one year ago, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the Government selling weapons to Saudi Arabia did not constitute a violation of the treaty, despite the atrocities perpetrated in the civil war which are tearing Yemen apart and have sparked and continue to contribute to a major humanitarian crisis in the country.

  1. Is the Commission monitoring Member States’ adherence to both the spirit and the terms of the Treaty?
  2. If not, is it considering doing so?
  3. In the framework of the development of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), what instruments can the Commission use to monitor the export of arms from Member States?

Answer given by Commissioner Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, on January 28 2019.

At this stage, the European Union is not a party of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), as only States can be parties thereto. Nevertheless, insofar as ATT covers matters falling under the EU competence, Directive 2009/43/EC simplifying terms and conditions of transfers of defence-related products within the Community(1) is applicable. 

Under the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP(2) the control of arms exports is a responsibility of EU Member States. It is their responsibility to assess the risks of arms transaction against a set of criteria that include the risk that the arms might be used for internal repression or international aggression, for violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. The Common Position also provides for transparency. Every year the EU Council reports on the implementation of the Common Position and provides detailed information on granted and denied export licences. In 2017(3) Member States shared information on 14 cases of export denials to Saudi Arabia, including 6 denials on exports of military listed items based on Common Position criteria. The Council Working Party on Arms Exports (COARM) regularly addresses the policies of Member States on arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, but any licencing decision rests fully with the Member States. 

In line with Articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on European Union, permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) is focused on jointly developing the military capabilities of the participating Member States and increasing their operational availability, deployability, flexibility and interoperability. The monitoring of Member States arms exports falls outside the scope of PESCO.

Related Posts