Arms trade

At the level of the European Union

The European Union adopted a Code of Conduct on Arms Exports in June 1998, which was translated into a Common Position in 2008 (2008/944/PESC). Member states made commitments on military technology and equipment export.

The member states are determined to set high common standards for the management of weapon exports. Moreover, they commit to strengthen the exchange of relevant information with a view to achieving greater transparency.

This Common Position, applicable to all exports of military technology and equipment, from ammunition to tanks, contains the following dispositions:

  • criteria that all Member States shall take into consideration before granting an arms export license;
  • a procedure to notify the other Member States when an export license was denied;
  • an obligation to consult the Member State which denied an export when confronted with a similar export demand.

On the global level

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is the main international instrument in this field. Approved by the General Assembly of the UN and opened for signature on 2 April 2013, it was immediately signed by Belgium. The Belgian legislation in place, both at federal and at regional level, did in fact already comply with the obligations resulting from the ATT.

On 3 June 2014, our country deposited the instrument of ratification, after approval by the federal and the three regional Parliaments.

The Arms Trade Treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.

Right from the beginning of the negotiations, Belgium focused on an ambitious ATT with firm criteria regarding human rights and international humanitarian law.

The action of our country was focused on the following points:

  • to define the broadest possible scope regarding the categories of arms as well as the types of transfers;
  • to advocate more transparency;
  • to implement solid follow-up systems so as to guarantee the continued relevance of the Treaty in the future;
  • to integrate into the Treaty a reference to gender violence and violence against civilians, especially women and children.

The diplomatic action of Belgium also strove to keep the major arms producers at the negotiation table.

The Wassenaar Arrangement on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies was adopted in 1995 and entered into force in 1996. It gathers about forty states willing to coordinate their national policies in the field of goods and knowledge transfers as well as the promotion of transparency on the subject. The procedures that have been established in this framework aim at avoiding arms, goods and technologies’ exportation being used for purposes contrary to stability and security.