The Impact on Domestic Policy of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports: The Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Spain

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Series Details Number 21
Publication Date May 2008
ISSN 1653-7548
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In June 2008 the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports celebrates its 10th anniversary. The EU Code is a Council declaration under which EU member states have committed themselves to set ‘high common standards which should be regarded as the minimum for the management of, and restraint in, conventional arms transfers’ and ‘to reinforce cooperation and to promote convergence in the field of conventional arms exports’ within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.During its lifetime, the EU Code of Conduct has had an eventful and, at times, controversial history. While big advances have been made in the field of information exchange, and participation has expanded from 15 to 27 as EU membership has increased, critics have contested that impact has either been too weak or too inconsistent. On the one hand non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and parliamentarians have contested that the mechanism has done little to genuinely raise standards by preventing transfers to human rights abusers and conflict hotspots. On the other, defence companies have complained that their government is interpreting the Code more restrictively than others, placing them at a commercial disadvantage.

This Policy Paper examines the impact of the EU Code over the course of its 10-year lifespan via a close examination of three middle-ranking EU arms exporters: the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Spain. The analysis therefore moves beyond the three biggest European arms exporters—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—who originally drove the development of the EU Code of Conduct and have been the main subjects of research in this area. This allows the study to take a look at what role middle-ranking arms exporters have had on the evolution of the EU Code and, in turn, what effect the EU Code has had on these state’s decision making in the issuing and denying of arms export licences. This approach leads to recommendations for how the EU Code could be strengthened and made to function more effectively.

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