Saudi Arabia: MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn (GUE/NGL) issued a parliamentary question on the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia

On the 17th of September 2018, MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn (GUE/NGL) addressed the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a parliamentary question to VP/HR Federica Mogherini and the EU Commission.

On the 17thof September 2018, MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn issued a Parliamentary Question to VP/HR Federica Mogherini and the EU Commission on Spain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2017 in the context of the war in Yemen. MEP Guzmàn asserted that “the Spanish arms industry made profits of more than EUR 932 million” and that the Spanish Government had just confirmed the sale of 400 more bombs. Furthermore, she stressed the fact that, according to the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, Member States should not “issue export licences when there is a risk of breaching human rights”, and recalls that the Resolution 2017/2849(RSP)calls for the imposition of an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, in light of these observations, MEP Guzmàn asked the following questions:

  1. Can the Commission say: does it consider that Spain has breached the Common Position with these sales?
  2. What specific measures has it implemented to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia?

In a reply to Ms. Guzmàn, VP/HR Federica Mogherini underlined that the abovementioned Common Position 2008/944/CFSP “lays down eight risk assessment criteria against which each EU Member State has to assess arms export applications to grant an export licence.” These criteria “cover the risk of violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the risk of diversion, especially via unauthorised re-exportation, and the behaviour of the recipient country with regard to its attitude to terrorism, the nature of its alliances and the respect for the international law”. Ms. Mogherini remarked that the single States have the “authority to grant or deny export licences on the basis of the criteria set by the Common Position”, and that “details of applications for export licences denied in accordance with the criteria of the Common Position together with an explanation of the grounds for refusal” shall circulate. For example, there were 18 denials concerning export requests to Saudi Arabia in 2016and 14 in 2017. After that, she stated that not all arms export deals are authorised and that a “formal EU arms embargo would require a Council decision to be adopted by unanimity.”

To conclude, she reiterated that the “EU continuesto advocate for an inclusive political solution to the conflict in Yemen and is implementing the targeted arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Yemen”, calling for the importance of a strict application of the rules set in the Common Position 2008/944 on arms exports.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the Parliamentary Question issued by MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn. ECDHR is pleased that the European Parliament and its MEPs, along with the European Commission have expressed their concern over the deterioration of human rights and the ongoing war in Yemen and the arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Notwithstanding, given the continuous violation of human rights in Yemen, the growing death toll and the omnipresent Saudi connivance in the war, more concrete action is mandatory. The EU Member States (EUMS) should address the involvement of Saudi Arabia in this conflict more vigorously.

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Please find below a full copy of the question of MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn (GUE/NGL) and the response of HR/VP Federica Mogherini.

Question for written answer E-004685-18to the Commission (Vice-President/High Representative), submitted by MEP Marina Albiol Guzmàn (GUE/NGL) on September 17 2018.

Since the war in Yemen began in 2015, more than 7 000 people have died as a direct result of attacks and more than 3 million people have been displaced. Tens of thousands of people have died from hunger or illnesses linked to the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, which has left the population without access to basic resources. Saudi Arabia is defending the dictator Hadi with troops on the ground, along with the United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Sudan and Morocco. The coalition has been accused of war crimes for bombing civilian targets, such as hospitals and schools, and using rape, torture and child soldiers.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Spanish arms industry made profits of more than EUR 932 million through selling the arms that Saudi Arabia is now using in this war. The Spanish Government has just confirmed the sale of 400 more bombs.

Common Position 2008/944/PESC sets out that Member States shall refuse to issue export licences when there is a risk of breaching human rights. Resolution 2017/2849(RSP) calls for the imposition of an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

  1. Can the Commission say: does it consider that Spain has breached the Common Position with these sales?
  2. What specific measures has it implemented to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia?

Answer given by High Representative/Vice President Mogherini, on January 18 2019.

Common Position 2008/944/CFSP(1) defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment lays down eight risk assessment criteria against which each EU Member State has to assess arms export applications in order to grant an export licence. These criteria do cover the risk of violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the risk of diversion, notably via unauthorised re-exportation, and the behaviour of the recipient country with regard to its attitude to terrorism, the nature of its alliances and the respect for international law.

It is within the discretion of the national authorities to grant or deny an export licence on the basis of the criteria set by the Common Position. Member States shall, however, circulate details of applications for export licences denied in accordance with the criteria of the Common Position together with an explanation of the grounds for refusal. 

For instance there were 18 denials concerning export requests to Saudi Arabia in 2016(2) and 14 in 2017(3). Such denials demonstrate that the risk assessment regarding the destination in question can be negative and that not all arms exports are necessarily authorised. A formal EU arms embargo would require a Council decision to be adopted by unanimity.

The EU continues(4) to advocate for an inclusive political solution to the conflict in Yemen and is implementing the targeted arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Yemen(5) (6) (7), reiterating in this regard the importance of a strict application of the rules set in the Common Position 2008/944 on arms exports.

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