EU agrees `ethical' arms sales code

A DEAL agreeing the first European Union ethical arms export policy was secured by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday.

Mr Cook hailed the voluntary agreement with his counterparts in the EU as a "ground breaking" deal to limit the supply of weapons to repressive regimes, but the code was diluted in last-minute talks to meet French objections.

Hubert Vedrine, the French Foreign Minister, who fought against openness in the arms trade, which might harm France's lucrative armaments industry, said the agreement was "useful and realistic".

Human rights groups fear the code will be meaningless. It is intended to make arms sales more open to ensure "peer pressure" discourages EU governments from grabbing military contracts refused by other member states acting on ethical grounds, or from fears that the arms would be used for repression. Governments are committed to assessing all export licensing decisions in the light of human rights and to refuse them if there is "a clear risk" that the material will be used for repression. The code sets out a mechanism for all states to consult each other.

EU states account for about 40 per cent of the world's arms exports, so stricter curbs should in theory have a significant impact. But the code's strength will rest largely on moral pressure to refrain from supplying without consultation.

The risk of loopholes ishuge. A government wanting to supply arms to a regime turned down by another EU government, does not have to make a declaration of intent. It is merely expected to inform the state which refused the licence. This duty to consult only comes into play if the contract is identical to the one refused by the first member state.

David Andrews, the Irish Foreign Minister, who wanted a tougher code, criticised the text. "We wanted a total ban on exporting arms to regimes with an identifiable record of human rights abuses. Africa is littered with them,'' he said. Ireland considered blocking the code but relented, saying a weak code was better than nothing.

Mr Cook said the code "was not toothless. This represents a big step forward.''

Saferworld, an organisation campaigning for a code of conduct on arms exports, welcomed the agreement, but said: "The key now is that it is implemented rigorously and is continually strengthened." Oxfam called for full public disclosure of all arms transactions.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor