Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

EU figures show crisis-busting arms sales to Greece

Official figures show that EU countries sold Greece over €1 billion of arms at the same time as negotiating its first bail-out back in 2010.

France was by far the biggest seller, with a €794 million aircraft deal, according to recently-released European Council data on arms licences granted by member states. It also sold €58 million of missiles and €19 million of electronics used for aircraft countermeasures and target acquisition.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Greek soldier - the country is buying billions of euros of arms from EU countries despite the crisis (Photo: Nikita Avvakumov)

Pro-austerity advocates the Netherlands and Germany together sold almost €90 million of mostly electronics and ground vehicles. Italy sold €52 million of rifles and aircraft parts and Spain sold €33 million of military-grade chemicals.

Greece is currently trying to shave every possible centime off its budget, but it still remains one of the biggest arms spenders in the region due to a perceived threat from Turkey.

The then Greek deputy defence minister, Panos Beglitis, in 2010 told Reuters that fellow member states did not put pressure on Athens to buy the arms in order to get the bail-out. "This [large scale arms purchases] has always been the case with these countries. It is not because of the crisis, there is no link," he said.

But an aide to the then Greek leader, George Papandreou, who asked to remain anonymous, told the news agency: "No one is saying 'Buy our warships or we won't bail you out.' But the clear implication is that they will be more supportive if we do."

Looking to the Middle East, the 2010 figures tell a tale of EU countries arming their Sunni Muslim allies against Shia Muslim enemies Iran and Syria.

EU countries granted €2.5 billion of licences for exports to Saudi Arabia, €1.5 billion for the United Arab Emirates and €1.2 billion for Oman. Sales to smaller Sunni-controlled regimes - Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen - added up to €1.1 billion.

They sold almost nothing to Iran and Syria (barring half-a-million-worth of Greek aircraft parts for Syria's President Assad, who buys mostly from Russia).

The arms sales overlap with EU Arab Spring politics.

EU countries over the past year gave Sunni dictatorships plenty of leeway on repression while condemning human rights abuses in, for instance, Iran, or strategically less important countries in north Africa.

Arms for autocrats

Some EU diplomats are worried Algeria could see unrest in May elections, where Islamist political groups will challenge septuagenerian autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

If Algeria becomes the next Libya or Syria, there will be no shortage of EU-made weapons on the ground.

Total arms licences in 2010 were €933 million, including €584 million of British and Italian aircraft; €94 million of Italian and French electronic countermeasure equipment; €40 million of French naval vessels; and €24 million of Bulgarian ammunition.

EU licences for pre-Arab-Spring dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia came to €531 million.

The weapons are still sloshing around in Libya, which on Tuesday (6 March) split in two when leaders in the oil-rich east claimed autonomy.

The figures also show how much wiggle-room there is in the EU arms ban on China, which goes back to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Despite the embargo, it granted almost €218 million of licences in 2010.

The lion's share came from France and the UK for aircarft and ground vehicle parts, electronic equipment, missiles and over €13 million of: "Chemical or biological toxic agents, 'riot control agents,' radioactive materials."

Clear risk

The EU figures are collected on the basis of a 2008 Code of Conduct, which says member states should not sell to places if there is "a 'clear risk' that the weapons will be used for internal repression" or "could provoke or prolong armed conflict."

The reporting system is known for its sloppiness.

In 2009, for instance, Italian firm Beretta sold €8 million of guns to Libya. But the shipment was incorrectly registered as being of Maltese origin and worth €80 million, after a shipping firm, W.J. Parnis England, made a typo which went unnoticed for two years.

"If this is what is happening in the official and legal arms trade, I can only imagine what is happening in the illegal arms trade," Francesco Vignarca, the director of Italian arms control NGO, Rete Disarmo, told EUobserver at the time.

Libya replete with EU arms as Gaddafi massacres protesters

As dead bodies pile up on the streets of Tripoli and blocked phone lines hamper the EU evacuation effort, the Union's latest figures show that EU countries just two years ago granted over €160 million of export licences to Libya for rifles and electronic jamming equipment.

EU arms trade booming despite crisis

Firms in the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Europe's own European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company made around €75 billion from selling weapons in 2010.

Focus

Leaked cable shows fragility of EU arms ban on China

With EU talks on lifting the arms embargo on China expected to revive after the summer break, a freshly-leaked US cable shows how close the union recently came to dropping the ban.

Opinion

Greece: It's the geopolitics, stupid!

The eurozone decided to grant Greece a second bailout, but this does not mean that the country received a wallet full of money and that the risk of default is gone, writes MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen party in new EU fraud allegations
  2. May to end rights of EU nationals after Article 50 triggered
  3. Nato warns against Armenia-Azerbaijan 'escalation'
  4. EU: No military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh war
  5. EU adopts visa-free brake mechanism
  6. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  7. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  8. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFA Deadly Journey for Children: The Migration Route From North Africa to Europe
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  4. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  6. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  7. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  8. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  9. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  10. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen