The European Parliament in Strasbourg today voted in favour of strengthening the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports by a resounding majority. Green Euro MP Jean Lambert, who gave her qualified support to the vote, welcomed the Parliament’s push for an International Treaty and warned that spending on arms was a significant diversion from achieving the Millenium Development Goals.
Eight years after the signing of the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports, the Council has yet to make it a legally-binding instrument. Narrow commercial interests in Europe, including in the UK, have been blamed for blocking rules that aim to prevent human rights violations and armed conflict. Speaking following the vote Jean said, “No company in any country should profit from the misery and human rights abuses that we see, for example, in Darfur. Countries that speak the language of diplomacy should not be profiting from fuelling conflict. As the report says, we need to find better ways to ensure the end use of our licensing systems is the intended use, not a diversion to oppressive regimes or opposition movements.”
The report found that EU arms (or arms components) still find their way to countries under UN or EU arms embargoes – such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq and China.
Jean also welcomed the reference to subsidies provided by export credit guarantees, whilst expressing a wish that the report had gone further; “Member states should not be underwriting arms sales. At the very least this represents a distortion of competition, and at its worst, it increases debt repayments as we have seen in Tanzania recently, making it more difficult for poor countries to invest in health, education and true sustainable development. The code must be strengthened and member states should agree to binding implementation as a matter of urgency.”