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4th Dec 2021

EU countries outgunned on arms trade

Arms sales to European countries have fallen by over 20 percent since the financial crisis, according to a report released on Monday (18 March).

An annual survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think-tank, indicates that European countries are being outstripped by Asia on the military front.

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  • Asian countries are closing the gap on arms (Photo: Defence Images)

Overall, international transfers of major conventional arms grew by 17 percent between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, with Asia and Oceania taking 47 percent of arms imports.

In contrast, deliveries to European countries declined by 20 percent as governments attempt to make cuts to national defence budgets.

Crisis-hit Greece, one of the EU's biggest arms importers prior to the financial crisis, has fallen from 4th to 15th in the bloc's list of arms buyers.

Deep cuts to Greek defence spending were one of the preconditions for the country's multi-billion rescue package.

Meanwhile, SIPRI says that other member states, including Portugal and Spain, are bidding to sell military aircraft that they no longer have the money to maintain.

Mark Bromley, a SIPRI analyst commented that "with the financial crisis in Europe, the withdrawal from Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, we can expect to see Europe trying to export a considerable volume of surplus military equipment."

The US comfortably remains the single largest exporter of weapons, accounting for 30 percent of worldwide arms sales between 2008-2012.

Its former Cold War adversary Russia is responsible for 26 percent of sales, while Germany and France are third and fourth with 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The UK fell out of the top five for the first time since records began in 1950, with China taking its place.

In a statement, SIPRI said this was the first change to the top five sine the end of the Cold war.

Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, noted that "recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier."

He added that China’s rise is primarily driven by “large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan.”

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.

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