Friday, 25 February 2011

Europeans busy peddling arms to North Africa and the Middle East

EU countries have been busy peddling arms to North Africa and the Middle East in recent years. According to Kaye Stearman of British arms control group Campaign Against Arms Trade EU arms sales between 2008 and 2009, in North Africa alone, went from just under one billion euros to two million euros.

A recently published EU document outlines the figures for 2009:

The EU document, which refers to annual figures in 2009, says the bloc's member states granted export licenses worth 343 million euros ($470 million) to Libya. Italy was shown to have approved exports worth 112 million euros, the most taken up by military aircraft. It was followed by Malta which authorized the sale of an 80-million-euro consignment of small arms.
Germany was third on the list, with 53 million euros of licenses, mostly for electronic jamming equipment used to disrupt mobile phone, Internet and GPS communication.

Russia has been the biggest arms supplier to Libya, but French, Italian and German defense companies have been steadily increasing their business ties with Libya. It is interesting to note that US companies have largely kept out:

"As opposed to Europe, the general perception in the US is to take a much harder line on Gadhafi," David Hartwell, Middle East analyst at UK-based IHS Jane's told Deutsche Welle. "There's a lot of political pressure within Congress not to do big business with Gadhafi after the Lockerbie bombing," he said.

It certainly looks like European arms technology has been used by at least the regimes in Bahrein and Libya to silence their own citizens:

Analysts say that's hard to prove but reports that governments both in Bahrain and Libya may have done just that have sparked angry debates and accusations of double standards in some European countries.

"Only if we stop selling arms to these countries, then their governments have much less chance of repressing their populations," Kaye Stearman said.
She added however that there's little sign of that happening.
British Premier David Cameron who was on a tour of the Middle East this week paid a visit to the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi with more than 1,000 companies showing their military equipment and services. Cameron was accompanied by eight leading British arms industry executives.
"That sends an absolutely disastrous signal to pro-democracy movements in the Arab world," Stearman said.

Read the entire Deutsche Welle article here.

It certainly does not look like Britain would be planning to cut its arms sales to undemocratic Gulf regimes any time soon.
This from the IDEX 2011 home page:

Gerald Howarth MP, UK Minister for International Security Strategy, delivered his vision for greater international cooperation and highlighted the enduring connection between Britain and the UAE during the second keynote address: "We in Britain want to build strong, reliable, and enduring strategic partnerships throughout the Gulf region – strengthening existing alliances, and promoting alliances with new, important allies...The United Kingdom has a long historical connection with the UAE, and with the Arabian Gulf more generally. Over many years, our bonds of friendship, understanding, and respect have grown and endured – through good times and bad."

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