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European Union External Action

Arms Export Control

In the EU, arms exports have to be assessed against eight far-reaching risk assessment criteria relating notably to the risk of human rights and humanitarian law violations, the risk of diversion, the risk of internal or regional instability.

The EU promotes responsibility and transparency by both exporting and importing countries, as well as adherence to the highest regional and international standards, such as:

The EU Common Position on arms export controls lays down a notification and consultation mechanism for export licence denials, including a transparency procedure (publication of EU annual reports on arms exports).

See: Annual Reports on arms exports

It also contains 8 risk assessment criteria that all EU countries apply to their licensing decisions for exports of conventional weapons.

The EU Common Position has contributed significantly to the convergence of national arms export control policies.  It extends controls to brokeringtransit transactions and intangible transfers of technology.  Its principles and criteria have also been officially subscribed to by a number of countries outside the EU.

It requires EU governments to apply risk assessments and transparency measures to goods listed by the 'EU Common Military List'.

The User's Guide is intended to help Member States apply the EU Common Position.  It does not replace the Common Position in any way, but summarises agreed guidance for the interpretation of its criteria and implementation of its articles.  It is intended for use primarily by export licensing officials. 

Since 2008, the EU has funded arms export control outreach activities towards 16 countries in its eastern and southern neighbourhoods. Activities relate to regulatory assistance, training of relevant officials, exchange of best practices and case-studies. Follow on activities were funded by (Decisions 2015/2309/CFSP, 2012/711/CFSP and 2009/1012/CFSP ).

The EU supports the effective implementation and universalisation of the ATT, notably through Decision 2017/915/CFSP (and previously through Decision 2013/768/CFSP).

Common Position 2003/468/CFSP requires EU Member States to regulate brokering activities on their territory or carried out by their nationals, in particular by:

  • requiring arms brokers to apply for a licence
  • establishing an information-sharing system on brokering activities
  • laying down adequate penalties for illicit brokering.