Saudi Arabia: MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE) issued a parliamentary question on the arms exports to Saudi Arabia

On the 25th of September 2018, MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE) addressed the issue of arms exports to Saudi Arabia by the Spanish government to the Commission and VP/HR Federica Mogherini

On the 25th of September 2018, MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE) issued a parliamentary question to the Commission and to the Vice-President/High Representative Federica Mogherini on this subject. MEPs drew the attention to the official statements of the Spanish Minister of Defence Margarita Robles who announced that Spain would proceed with the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, after the deal was halted amid concerns over the Saudi role in the war in Yemen. While several human rights groups have denounced Western arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a war which has killed more than 10000 people and left 8.4 million on the brink of famine, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell has declared that precision weapons “do not create collateral effects” and sees no reason that could “bar [this contract] from happening.” Thus, it is contradicting the eight grounds for turning down an arms export licence defined in the EU common position on arms exports and Parliament’s resolution of 30 November 2017 on the situation in Yemen, a common position which summarises the multiple grounds for an EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and which criticises Member States for selling arms to the Gulf kingdom.

Considering these observations, MEPs Solé and Terricabras asked the following two questions:

What actions will the VP/HR pursue to guarantee that Spain does not export arms to Saudi Arabia that can be used to perpetrate human rights violations?

Will the VP/HR open investigations to clarify whether Spain has exported arms to Saudi Arabia that have been used in Yemen, and if so, oblige Spain to take responsibility?

In a reply to Mr. Solé and Mr. Terricabras, the Commission and VP/HR Federica Mogherini replied that under EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, the handling of authorisations for the export of military technology and equipment is primarily a task for the EU Member States. It is also their responsibility, each one of them, to assess the risks prior to authorising any arms transaction. Furthermore, each Member State assesses the export licence applications on a case-by-case basis against the eight criteria set out in the Common Position. These criteria include assessing 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 among EU Member States on the exports of military equipment and specific technology. Moreover, the EU’s reports also give information on the number of denials of authorisation per destination. In late 2017, Member States reported on 14 cases of export denials to Saudi Arabia. Such denials demonstrate that the risk assessment regarding the destination in question can be negative and that not all arms exports are necessarily authorised.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the question of MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE) and the combined answer of the EU Commission and VP/HR Mogherini. We share concerns over the ongoing arms exports taking place among the EU Members. ECDHR calls upon the Commission and the VP/HR Federica Mogherini to sustain and maintain the level of regulations stated in the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP and to continue to promote the campaign of sensibilisation on such matter among EU Members. Lastly, ECDHR calls upon the EU States to adapt to the eight common grounds and to adjust national interests to Communitarian ones.

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Please find below a full copy of the question of MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE).

Question for written answer to the EU Commission, submitted by MEPs Jordi Solé (Verts/ALE) and Josep-Maria Terricabras (Verts/ALE) on September 25, 2018

The Spanish Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, announced this week that Spain will go ahead with the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, after the deal was halted amid concerns over the Saudi role in the war in Yemen.

While several human rights groups have denounced Western arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a war which has killed more than 10 000 people and left 8.4 million on the brink of famine, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has said that precision weapons ‘do not create collateral effects’ and sees no reason that could ‘bar [this contract] from happening’.

Given the eight grounds for turning down an arms export licence listed in the EU common position on arms exports and Parliament’s resolution of 30 November 2017 on the situation in Yemen, which summarises the multiple grounds for an EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and criticises Member States for selling arms to the Gulf kingdom.

What actions will the VP/HR pursue to guarantee that Spain does not export arms to Saudi Arabia that can be used to perpetrate human rights violations?

Will the VP/HR open investigations to clarify whether Spain has exported arms to Saudi Arabia that have been used in Yemen, and if so, oblige Spain to take responsibility?

Answer given by the European Commission, on February 8, 2019.

Under EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on the control of arms exports, the handling of authorisations for the export of military technology and equipment is primarily a task for the EU Member States. It is also their responsibility to assess the risks prior to authorising any arms transaction.

Each Member State assesses the export licence applications on a case-by-case basis against the eight criteria set out in the Common Position. These criteria include assessing the risk that the arms might be used for internal repression or international aggression, for violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. Attached to the Common Position is a User’s Guide that suggests ways to make operational the criteria in the Common Position.

The Common Position also provides for transparency among EU Member States on the exports of military equipment and technology: the EU Council reports every year on the implementation of the Common Position and provides detailed information on the destination and volume of arms exports authorised by EU Member States.

The EU’s reports also give information on the number of denials of authorisation per destination. In 2017, Member States reported on 14 cases of export denials to Saudi Arabia. Such denials demonstrate that the risk assessment regarding the destination in question can be negative and that not all arms exports are necessarily authorised.

The Council Working Party on Arms Exports (COARM) regularly addresses national policies but any licencing decision rests fully with the Member States.  

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