EU pledges to end trade in small arms

The project for an international Treaty on Arms Trade, which aims to outlaw the trade in small arms such as rifles, pistols, machine guns and grenades, has won official EU support.

The decision to support the treaty project was taken at the External Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 3 October 2005. The conclusions of the Luxembourg Council meeting say: “The Council further agreed that the United Nations was the only forum that could deliver a truly universal instrument and called for the start of a formal process at the United Nations at the earliest opportunity.” 

The main challenge for the treaty, a year-old British initiative, is now to gain the support of the world’s other big traders in handguns and small weapons, namely the United States, Russia, the Ukraine and China. At the United Nations ‘Millennium+5’ Summit in mid-September, a number of governments, among them Germany, as well as the World Council of Churches, had declared their support for the treaty project, which UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw actively fought for. At that time, the US dismissed the project. 

Simon Gray, Control Arms campaign manager at Oxfam, commented: “The backing of the EU for the international Arms Trade Treaty brings the treaty much closer to being a reality. Dozens of countries from around the world have already backed the treaty, attention now turns to the UN arms conference next year and ensuring that the treaty tops the agenda.” 

A United Nations conference on 26 June 2006 will discuss small arms. Estimates by Interpol say 600 million illegal small arms in the world are being used to kill half a million people every year. The EU currently accounts for 39% of global arms sales. 

Further Reading

  • 2678th General Affairs and External Relations Council:Press release(3 October 2005; see page 15)

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