NGOs monitoring the arms trade say that the European Union's latest report on arms exports is too late and incomplete. They say it was deliberately released without publicity at a quiet time of the year.
They were commenting on the “Thirteenth Annual Report on Exports Control of Military Technology and Equipment”, which covers 2010. They say it raises many questions about the reliability of the data provided and the EU's commitment to making arms export controls effective.
The report, which inludes 470 pages of tables and data, was published on Friday 30 December.
"The fact that this report was released without publicity on the last working day of the year indicates that the EU has something to hide," said Kaye Stearman of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK.
In a joint statement issued yesterday (11 January), several NGOs from across Europe pointed out that the data was neither highlighted on the website of the Council of the European Union (which is responsible for its publication) nor on that of the European Parliament.
They argue that "this certainly suggests that the report is regarded as a mere bureaucratic necessity, rather than an important document worthy of significant public debate by member states’ governments or EU institutions".
Moreover, eight countries - nearly one third of member states - have not provided full data on deliveries. They include the United Kingdom and Germany - two of the EU's biggest arms exporters.
The NGOs insist that this "makes an accurate analysis of the actual arms exports of EU countries virtually impossible".
The total value of arms export licences in 2010 decreased by 21 per cent compared to 2009 when they reached a record 40.3 billion Euros. Nevertheless, in 2010 they amounted to 31.7 billion Euros, which is close to that of 2008 (33.5 billion Euros) and is still one of the highest figures since the implementation a common EU arms export policy in 1998.
While the value of arms exports licensed to western countries fell, arms exports to countries in the global South soared to 15.5 billion Euros - almost half of the total.
Although the value of arms exports to repressive regimes in the Middle East and north Africa fell compared to the record levels of 2009, they were still very high at 8.3 billion Euros.
"These figures reveal the hypocrisy of countries who like to proclaim their commitment to human rights and democracy yet are more than willing to sell deadly weaponry to abusive and authoritarian regimes," said Stearman.
She urged EU citizens to "tell their governments to stop arms sales to repressive regimes".
According to article 15 of the EU Common Position on the Export of Military Technology and Equipment, 2012 must see a review of EU arms export policy. Campaigners argue that such a review can only be meaningful if it is based on coherent and comprehensive information and on an informed debate.
Yesterday's statement was signed by arms-monitoring NGOs based in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. They have called on members of the European Parliament to demand a debate on the report.