Record-high of denied arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE

21 February 2018

In 2016, EU member states denied a historically high number of licences for arms  exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Flemish Peace Institute comes to this conclusion based on an analysis of the recently published official EU annual report on arms exports. 

EU member states denied a combined number of 18 licences for the export of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and 17 licences for export to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2016. These numbers are significantly higher than previous years. Moreover, defence companies appear to have received prior informal warnings that licences to Saudi Arabia were unlikely to be issued, keeping them from launching a formal application procedure.
In the past years, several EU member states have reassessed their position regarding arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, often as a result of parliamentary and civil society pressures. This was a direct consequence of the involvement of both countries in the Yemen and Syria conflicts. “Several countries cited the likelihood of the arms being used for human rights violations, or ending up in the hands of other end users, as the main reasons to deny arms exports to these countries”, says Diederik Cops, researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute. 
It can also be observed that those countries that deny export licences to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are the ones where there was a high amount of parliamentary and public attention for these issues. Cops remarks that “this shows that political attention for foreign policy in general and for arms trade in particular can have a considerable effect on arms export policies.

Sustained arms deliveries by some member states
 

Notwithstanding the high number of denied licences, some EU member states continued to export significant volumes of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2016. Member states such as France, Germany, Italy and the UK are among those issuing the highest numbers of export licenses.
This reflects an important conclusion of the Flemish Peace Institute’s recent comparative analysis of EU member states’ arms export control systems: “There is a set of European criteria to evaluate arms export licences. Yet governments continue to interpret these criteria in light of their own national foreign and security policy and their national economic interests. A harmonised arms export policy remains difficult to achieve as long as the EU does not develop a more unified common foreign and security policy – and vice versa,” says Diederik Cops. “In order to have a real harmonised arms export policy, Europe will need to focus more on transparency and information exchange. This would increase governments’ accountability over arms exports.

Table. Approved and denied licences by European member states, for Saudi-arabia and the UAE, 2008-2016.

 

Exports to Saudi-Arabië

Exports to the UAE

Approved licenses

Denied licences

Approved licenses

Denied licences

2008

561

0

769

0

2009

938

0

1143

13

2010

1256

0

1438

3

2011

859

1

887

3

2012

943

12

895

5

2013

882

11

929

8

2014

740

6

1049

3

2015

835

7

1131

9

2016

607

18

1025

17

 

Download the COARM report (Nineteenth Annual Report according to Article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment)

More information:

Diederik Cops
researcher Vlaams Vredesinstituut
Tel. 02 552 45 94
 
Els Roger
Communications Officer Flemish Peace Institute
tel. 02 552 45 95 | mobile 0492 22 57 16
 
www.flemishpeaceinstitute.eu 
The Flemish Peace Institute is an independent institute dedicated to peace research and hosted by the Flemish Parliament