The Flemish Peace Institute is an independent
institute for peace research at the Flemish Parliament.

European arms export to the Middle East reaches record high

The Flemish Peace Institute has analyzed the official figures on European arms export from the 15th annual Consolidated EU report on export of military technology and equipment that was published today (21 January 2014). Licensed arms export from EU Member States valued almost €40 billion in 2012. This is an increase of 6% compared to 2011. The 2012 record value is mainly the result of strong increase of arms export to the Middle East.

Record value European arms export

Analyses of the most recent report of the Working Party on Conventional Arms Export (COARM) indicate that EU Member States have issues arms export licenses in 2012 for a total value of €39.9 billion. This is an increase of 6% compared to record year 2011 and 26% compared to 2010. According to this report, the main exporting countries in 2012 are France (€13.8 billion), Spain (€7.7 billion), Germany (€4.7 billion), Italy (€4.2 billion) and the UK (€2.7 billion). Together they account for more than 80% of licensed EU arms export worldwide.

Strong increase in arms export to the Middle East

In recent years national defense budgets in the EU decreased as a result of the financial crisis and the implementation of austerity policies. European defense companies are therefore increasingly searching for new markets outside of Europe. This has led to a decrease in the value of licensed arms export to other EU Member States, while export to the Middle East, Latin-America and Oceania increased strongly.

Especially the Middle East is a growing market for European defense companies. The Middle East is currently in the middle of an arms race. Several countries are trying to strengthen their regional position by acquiring large quantities of high-quality military equipment. European defense companies are trying to fulfill this demand and seem increasingly successful. Total EU licensed arms export to the region in 2012 valued €9.8 billion compared to €8.0 billion in 2011 (+22%). The main recipient countries in 2012 are Saudi Arabia (€3.6 billion), Oman (€2.2 billion), United Arab Emirates (€1.5 billion), Kuwait (€631 million), Israel (€613 million) and Qatar (€558 million). Despite the unrest in the country, EU licensed arms export to Egypt was valued €363 million in 2012, while EU arms export to Bahrain valued €79 million. EU arms export to Syria, Libya and Yemen was very limited.

The main EU arms exporters to the Middle East are France (€4.4 billion), Germany (€1.6 billion), Italy (€954 million), Spain (€802 million) and UK (€775 million). Especially arms export from France, Germany and Italy to the region increased strongly in recent years.

European export of small arms and light weapons (SALW) to the Middle East valued €265 million in 2012. As in previous years, most of the EU SALW export came from Belgium (40%).

Here is a link to the Fifteenth Annual Report according to Article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment