Arms Export Control

  1. From the 1998 Code of Conduct on arms exports to the 2008 Common Position defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment
  2. EU outreach activities to promote the control of arms exports and the principles and criteria of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP among third countries
  3. EU support for a legally binding international Arms Trade Treaty
  4. Control of arms brokering


a. From the 1998 Code of Conduct on arms exports to the 2008 Common Position defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment

The EU has for many years played a leading role in arms export control, both regionally and internationally. In 1998 the Council adopted the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports which established a notification and consultation mechanism for export licence denials, included a transparency procedure through the publication of the EU annual reports on arms exports and laid down eight criteria for the export of conventional arms. EU Member States apply those eight criteria to their decisions to grant or to deny an arms export licence:

Summary of the eight criteria guiding national licensing policies laid down in Common Position 2008/944/CFSP:

  1. Respect for the international obligations and commitments of Member States, in particular the sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council or the European Union, agreements on non-proliferation and other subjects, as well as other international obligations.
  2. Respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law.
  3. Internal situation in the country of final destination, as a function of the existence of tensions or armed conflicts.
  4. Preservation of regional peace, security and stability.
  5. Behaviour of the buyer country with regard to the international community, as regards in particular its attitude to terrorism, the nature of its alliances and respect for international law.
  6. National security of the Member States and of territories whose external relations are the responsibility of a Member State, as well as that of friendly and allied countries.
  7. Existence of a risk that the military technology or equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions.
  8. Compatibility of the exports of the military technology or equipment with the technical and economic capacity of the recipient country, taking into account the desirability that states should meet their legitimate security and defence needs with the least diversion of human and economic resources for armaments.


The Code contributed significantly to the harmonisation of national arms export control policies and its principles and criteria have been officially subscribed to by a number of third countries. The Council assessed implementation of the Code on an annual basis (see First , Second , Third , Fourth , Fifth , Sixth , Seventh , Eighth , Ninth and Tenth annual reports / for subsequent reports, see below).

Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, adopted on 8 December 2008 , marked the formal successful conclusion of a review of the Code and set another milestone in improving the EU's export control standards. The Common Position constitutes a significantly updated and upgraded instrument which replaces the Code of Conduct. It includes several new elements, which deepen and widen the scope of application. These elements include the extension of controls to brokering, transit transactions and intangible transfers of technology, as well as the implementation of strengthened procedures in order to further harmonise Member States' export policies. Recognizing the special responsibility of military technology and equipment exporting states, Member States have once again shown their determination to prevent the export of military technology and equipment which might be used for undesirable purposes such as internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability.

Article 8(2) of the EU Common Position provides for the publication of an EU annual report (see Eleventh , Twelfth, Thirteenth ,Fourteenth   and Fifteenth   annual reports). In addition to data provided in the EU annual reports, most Member States publish national reports on arms exports on the internet (see table E, of the 15th EU annual report pdf - 39 KB [39 KB] for relevant links).

In accordance with Operative Provision 5 of the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on arms exports, on 13 June 2000 the Council adopted the Common list of equipment covered by the Code of Conduct together with Declaration 2000/C/191/01 . The most recent version of the Common Military List of the European Unionwhich updates previous versions, was adopted by the Council on 9 April 2014. Article 12 of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP stipulates that the EU Common Military List shall act as a reference point for Member States' national military technology and equipment lists, but shall not directly replace them.

The User's Guide , drawn up and regularly updated by the Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports, serves as guidance to assist Member States in implementing the Common Position (cf. Article 13 of the Common Position). It is intended for use primarily by export licensing officials.


b. EU outreach activities to promote the control of arms exports and the principles and criteria of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP among third countries

EU outreach activities significantly developed with the adoption in 2008 of Council Joint Action 2008/230/CFSP that funded seminars, bringing together experts in the control of arms exports from EU Member States and interested third parties, especially near neighbours. Beneficiaries included the countries of South Eastern Europe, North African and Mediterranean partners and Eastern European Caucasian partners of the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as Turkey and Ukraine. The objectives of the seminars included promotion of the criteria and principles of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, and assistance in drafting and implementing legislation to ensure effective control of arms exports.

In view of the successful implementation of Joint Action 2008/230/CFSP, which Council considered had contributed to laying the groundwork for the establishment of increasingly responsible and effective export control legislation and practices in the countries concerned, on 22 December 2009 the Council adopted Council Decision 2009/1012/CFSP of 22 December 2009 on support for EU activities in order to promote the control of arms exports and the principles and criteria of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP among third countries. Council Decision 2009/1012/CFSP, provides for additional, more advanced outreach seminars with partner third countries. Based on an assessment of the results achieved by the implementation of Council Decision 2009/1012 and on the evolving needs of the beneficiary countries, the Council supported the continuation of outreach activities in the area of arms export controls with the adoption of Council Decision 2012/711/CFSP of 19 November 2012 that allocates 1,86 million Euros to this purpose.

c. EU support for a legally binding international Arms Trade Treaty

The adoption of the ATT by the UN General Assembly in April 2013 concluded a seven-year long discussion and negotiation process within the United Nations that the EU actively supported. Principal in the EU support have been activities funded by three Council Decisions adopted in support of the ATT process between 2009 and 2012 and allocating in total 2,5 million euros (Council Decisions 2009/42/CFSP ; 2010/336/CFSP , 2013/43/CFSP ). Those activities raised international awareness on the Treaty process in order to enlarge the scope of supporting countries, promoted the Treaty's principles of greater responsibility and transparency in arms trade and facilitated the rapprochement of negotiating positions.

Ensuring effective implementation of the ATT and workings towards universalization are now significant challenges ahead of the Treaty. Being actually able to control arms flows carries resources implications and it is clear that a number of countries will need significant legal and administrative assistance in order to be able to effectively implement the Treaty. Regulating international arms trade is by definition a global ambition and the difference the Treaty can make is therefore proportionate to its scale of adherence. To address those challenges, the EU has adopted a dedicated ATT implementation support under Council Decision 2013/768/CFSP . This Decision provides significant funding to support a number of States at their request to strengthen their arms transfer control systems with a view to being able to effectively implement the ATT. Assistance efforts developed within this framework will subsequently be addressed with the wider involvement of relevant stakeholders and through outreach to other countries.

d. Control of arms brokering

On 23 June 2003 the Council adopted Common Position 2003/468/CFSP on the Control of arms brokering aimed at regulating arms brokering. The Common Position establishes a set of provisions to be implemented through national legislation, requiring the Member States to take all the necessary measures to control brokering activities on their territory or carried out by brokers of their nationality.

In particular, it requires the Member States to subject specific brokering transactions to licence applications, to establish a system for the exchange of information on brokering activities, and to establish adequate sanctions to ensure that controls are effectively enforced.

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