Doc. 1054
4 May 2005

Need of a greater transparency in the arms trade

Motion for a resolution
presented by Mrs Westerlund Panke and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

Transparency is a scarce commodity in the area of arms export policies and governments argue that there are many different reasons why they have to maintain a degree of secrecy in this particular area.

      One set of reasons has to do with foreign policy concerns. Arms export decisions affect the recipient country's security policy and are therefore particularly sensitive. There is also the argument that one country's exports are another country's defence secrets which therefore must be respected. Finally, there are governments who would argue that arms sales are a tool of foreign policy and therefore subject to special treatment. Then there is a second set of arguments for secrecy that focus on the need for commercial confidentiality.

      So the arguments go, but there is a price to be paid for a high level of secrecy in the arms export area, in the form of a lack of democratic accountability. Since short-sighted or unwise arms exports decisions can have very unfortunate consequences for the lives and well-being of many fellow human beings, there is much to be said for increasing oversight and broadening participation in the decision-making process.

      In 1998, the European Union approved of a Code of Conduct for arms export. Eight criteria contain principles when an export license ought to be refused and what member states have to consider prior to granting exports. Another very important development has been the LOI initiative, under which six European Union member states, representing the greater part of the European defence industry capacity, have taken co-operation in the export control field much further. But still there is a lack of a broad participation in the decision-making process.

      On the issue of transparency and a democratic behavior there is a great need for establishing a reasonable compromise between the need for secrecy and the need for accountability. The Assembly should call necessary expertise and exchange of information and good practices in this field in order to actively encourage their member states to move in this direction.

Signed 1:

1     SOC: Socialist Group
      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party
      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
      EDG: European Democratic Group
      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left
      NR: not registered in a group