Letter: EU arms code

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The Independent Online
Letter: EU arms code

TODAY, Britain and France table their proposal for a European Union Code of Conduct on arms exports. Could Europe finally be about to place principles before profit in decisions on arms exports?

EU countries account for 40 per cent of all arms exports to the developing world. All too often, countries suffering from dictatorial regimes, poor human rights records or other forms of social instability have filled their armouries with European technology. In fact, developing nations have increasingly become the weapons industry's main target market. The easy availability of European arms has enticed many Third World nations to spend more on weapons than on health and education programmes, further depriving already impoverished and suffering populations.

We firmly believe that controlling the irresponsible sale of weapons is central to alleviating many of the devastating international social problems we face today. For this reason, a demanding European Code of Conduct would be of great importance. The British government must be commended for its initiative.

But if the Code is to bring real reforms, it must go still further. We are concerned that there are a number of loopholes in the proposed country criteria. To be truly effective, the Code must have guidelines which are more restrictive and explicit; in addition, it must be accompanied by clear consultation procedures, common end-use controls and increased parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.

We consider a demanding European Code of Conduct to be an essential building block for the International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers - a proposal which we Nobel Peace laureates have formulated with fourteen of our colleagues. As the EU begins debating the British and French proposal, we greatly hope that they will seize the opportunity to make a significant contribution to international human rights, development and security by insisting on a strict Code of Conduct that will serve as a model for the rest of the world.

Dr OSCAR ARIAS

Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1987

Professor JOSEPH ROTBLAT

Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1995

JOSe RAMOS-HORTA

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