EU Launches Public Database on Arms Exports

The EU has launched a publicly accessible database detailing the value, type of equipment, and destination of all arms exports from each of its member states. 

Seat of the European External Action Service 20090705Seat of the European External Action Service. (Photo: JLogan, WIkimedia, License)The online database, initiated by the European External Action Service and covering data from 2013 to 2019, will be updated annually and is intended to increase transparency in the sector in a “user-friendly manner”. 

Samuel Perlo-Freeman, a research coordinator at the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told OCCRP on Wednesday that this was a “good initiative, in that it is making this data much more accessible to the general public.” He noted, however, that “the user interface is a bit awkward.” 

He explained that while the database provides information that can already be found in EU annual reports, it can better inform the public on the global arms trade.

While the U.K. is listed in the database now, Perlo-Freeman said that it was not likely to appear in the database in the future, given its departure from the EU. 

His London-based organization has campaigned for a formal investigation into corrupt business dealings involving billions of pounds in U.K. military contracts with Saudi Arabia. Recently it launched a legal challenge against the government to stop the sale of weapons for the war in Yemen.  

The EU, the world’s second largest arms supplier behind the US, is being pressured by its members of parliament to implement an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia over the  humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the  murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“It could be very useful for journalists and civil society experts to rely on this weapons exports database,” Perlo-Freeman said, in reference to future reports and campaigns to blockade countries like Saudi Arabia from importing military equipment.