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Statement by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council regarding the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports

Dear Mr President, dear Commissioner, distinguished Members of the Parliament,

In my introduction, I would like to express my satisfaction with the traditionally good relations between the competent Working Party of the Council – Conventional Arms Exports Working Group (COARM) – and the European Parliament, i.e. its Security and Defence Sub-committee (SEDE). I am convinced that this good cooperation of the Council and the Parliament will also continue in the future. Therefore, we salute today's debate.

A few words to the subject of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. As you know, the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was adopted on 8 June 1998, under the United Kingdom's Presidency of the EU Council. It brought new momentum in the area of arms trade control within the EU. The Union started to prepare annual reports on the implementation of the Code, which figure as its annual reports on the actual arms transfers. This year, the tenth annual report of the EU is to be elaborated, whereby it has to be noted that, in the course of years, these reports have become ever more informative and transparent. 

Owing to this very Code, most of the EU Member States have started to make public their national reports on arms exports in the last years. In December 2003, the EU set up its own Common Military List covered by the Code, and started to coordinate its exports policy regarding some (disputable) third countries more closely. In compliance with the Code, the Member States exchange information concerning notified denials and actual arms exports.

Such dynamics has also been transferred to international organisations, particularly to those in which the EU Member States play a significant role; this especially holds true for the Wassenaar Arrangement.

Developments during 2006 and 2007 continued to strengthen the Code, in particular the expansion of the User's Guide.

As you know, the Code is not a legally binding document; however, the Member States are politically responsible to respect its criteria. It was their wish in the past to upgrade the Code with a Common Position that would be legally binding and relevant for their arms exports. So far, no consent has been reached on the adoption of such a Common Position.

Slovenia would appreciate the adoption of this Common Position during its Presidency, or at least the achievement of a break-through. There is no better opportunity to make progress as on preparing the Tenth Annual Report of the EU. For the time being, there is no indication whether our wish will come true. However, we do not feel discouraged to continue these attempts. Therefore, we will invite the Member States to communicate their positions on this issue and try to encourage them to achieve the Common Position. When all reserves are removed, Slovenia will be happy to complete the adoption procedure and report on the progress made to all stakeholders.

Allow me to say a few words on two other priority topics: the Common Position on Control of Arms Brokering and Member States' endeavours in the framework of the EU to conclude an international Arms Trade Treaty.

With regards to the arms brokering: the EU adopted the guidelines regarding the arms brokering in 2001. The EU Common Position relating to arms brokering was adopted by the Council in June 2003. The Member States undertook to transpose the elements of this Common Position to their national legislation and thus internally regulate the area of arms brokering. Currently the majority of Member States, precisely 20, have legislation in place which implements elements laid down in the Common Position in question. The remaining seven are expected to bring this procedure to an end.

The Presidency of the EU Council will monitor the progress in this area and encourage the countries that have not completed relevant national procedures to do so as soon as possible.

Allow me to add a few words about the International Arms Trade Treaty. The ATT project is one of the key projects in the field of disarmament. As you may well know, the EU Council adopted a decision in support of this international Treaty on 10 December 2007.

At the last year's session of the First Committee of the General Assembly, the composition of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) was confirmed. The information regarding its first meeting, which took place in New York in February, is rather promising, however, we must not forget that a lot of effort will have to be invested in this process yet.

The Presidency will closely follow the work of the GGE in the other Member States as well.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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Date: 13.03.2008