European Union (EU) countries including the UK are facing criticism for their arms sales to the Mubarak regime in Egypt. Figures reveal that the number of arms exports licences issued by EU member states for sales to Egypt increased by 69% in the year 2008-2009.
For other troubled north African countries the increase was greater. EU arms export licences allowed arms sales to Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to more than double in value, from €985 million to €2 billion.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who drew attention to the statistics yesterday (8 February) said that the weapons will inevitably be used by authoritarian governments to crush dissent.
France and Germany have recently suspended arms sales to the Mubarak regime, although the UK government has failed to do so.
“For years the UK has been selling weapons to these authoritarian regimes, although it is obvious that their main use would be for internal repression,” argued Kaye Stearman of CAAT.
The massive increases are contained in a little noticed report on control of exports of military technology and equipment published by the EU on 13 January.
The highly technical arms exports data was analysed by Giorgio Beretta of Unimondo (One World, Italy) on behalf of groups in the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT).
It found that arms exports to north Africa had risen dramatically over a five-year period. In 2005, the five north African countries were licensed to receive arms exports worth €372 million - 1.4 per cent of EU arms exports. By 2009 this had risen to €2 billion - 5 per cent of the total.
The report reveals that in 2009 the largest EU arms exporter to north Africa was France, with sales worth €816 million. The UK was in seventh place on €44 million.
Approved arms export licences from the UK to Tunisia and Libya rose considerably between 2008 and 2009, although UK sales to Algeria, Egypt and Morocco fell slightly.
UK licences for Libya almost doubled, from £14.5 million to £27.4 million. UK arms licences to Tunisia more than trebled, from £1.6 million to £5.9million.
Algeria and Libya are identified as priority countries by UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the UK government's arms sales unit.
Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco were invited to the UK’s two largest arms fairs in recent years - Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEi) in September 2009 and the Farnborough arms fair (attached to the Farnborough Air Show) in July 2010.
Stearman said, “France and Germany have belatedly suspended arms exports to Egypt, but not the UK, even though Foreign Secretary William Hague is visiting the region to support more ‘free and open societies’.”
She urged him to “back up these noble sentiments with positive action and place an immediate arms embargo on the whole region”.