Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Exporting military equipment from Europe – The EU Council Common Position

Assume you are a European producer of smoke grenades that you want to export to an Asian country. Can you do that? Yes, you can – but only if your home country has issued an export license.

Why do you need an export license?

You need an export license for two reasons: First, the EU has set out specific reasons for regulating the export, transit, and brokering of military technology and equipment. Second, smoke grenades are on the EU Common Military List and, thus, their export requires a specific license.

Why is a specific EU framework necessary?

The European Council mentions four reasons why he restricts the trade in military equipment:

  • Exporting military technology and equipment implies a special responsibility.
  • This makes it necessary to fix high common minimum standards for such exports and increase transparency in the field.
  • With regard to military technology and equipment, Europe wants to cooperate and converge.
  • Harmonizing Europe’s external relations requires consistent export activities, especially when it comes to defense material.

The EU Common Military List

EU member states need to assess export license applications for all items on the EU Common Military List.

When will you get your export license?

Focus on the importer

When appreciating whether or not to grant an export license, EU countries mainly focus on the importer:

  • Are human rights in the country of final destination respected? If there is internal repression or human rights violation, there should be no export license.
  • Is the internal situation in the country of final destination stable enough to allow for the export? If there is a possibility to provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of final destination, there should be no export license.
  • Are regional peace, security, and stability preserved? If the importer country is concerned by an armed conflict with its neighbors, there should be no export of defense material.
  • Does the buyer country respect the international community and international law?
  • Is there a risk that the military technology or equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions?
  • Is the importer technically and economically able to handle the bought military equipment?

Focus on the exporter

Let’s turn to the exporter now: He cannot export if this would violate international obligations and commitments of Member States. Examples include embargoes, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

Is there anything that the exporter could raise to defend his willingness to export defense material? Indeed, only his own national security interests and self-defense as well as his responsibility towards friendly and allied countries should receive appropriate consideration.


  • EU Council Common Position 2008/944 dated December 8, 2008
  • EU Common Military List dated February 9, 2015