Thursday

21st Jan 2021

Latvia and Lithuania call for tighter EU rules on arms sales

  • The Mistral: Estonian defence analysts say the sale would "change the balance of power" in the Baltic Sea region (Photo: David Monniaux)

Latvia and Lithuania have called for tighter EU rules on arms exports in reaction to French plans to sell a state-of-the-art warship to Russia.

The Baltic countries made their appeal during an informal EU defence ministers' meeting in Majorca on Thursday (25 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The EU and Nato should only sell their military equipment and weapons to third countries if it does not create risks of regional security tension," Latvian defence minister Imants Liegis said, according to his press statement. "EU member states should consult among themselves on issues that might compromise the security of other member states before clinching strategic and military deals."

"I said I supported my Latvian colleague," Lithuanian defence minister Rasa Jukneviciene told EUobserver in a phone interview. "It is time for the EU and Nato to formulate a more clear and firm policy on rules for military export control. There are no clear rules now."

The two former Soviet republics raised the alarm earlier this month when they found out via media that France is in talks to sell a Mistral class warship to Russia.

The vessel can be used to launch large-scale amphibious assaults, with a Russian admiral recently remarking that he could have won the 2008 war against Georgia in 40 minutes with the help of such a ship.

The Latvian and Lithuanian ministers also voiced their concerns in bilateral meetings with French defence minister Herve Morin at the Spanish event.

"They don't understand our relationship with Russia. They don't see a problem. France said that times have changed, that we should forget about the past," a Latvian official said.

The Lithuanian meeting was friendlier. "We left with different positions on the subject. But I was told that no final decision [on the sale] has been made yet," Ms Jukneviciene said.

"A number" of EU states, including Poland, voiced support for her proposals on new rules in the margins of the Majorca gathering, she added.

The EU already has a Code of Conduct on arms exports, adopted in 2008. But it is not legally binding and is routinely flouted by EU states.

Defence ministers eye new powers

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton skipped the Majorca meeting to be at the inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev. But her proposals for an institutional shake-up on EU defence policy, put forward in a letter, gained wide support.

Currently, EU defence ministers meet just four times a year and do not take formal decisions, which are left up to EU foreign ministers. But Ms Ashton said they should meet as often as once a month and to have executive powers.

"This should happen. I don't see any problems at all," an EU official said. The proposal is to be discussed again in April.

EU defence ministers also sketched out plans for expanding the EU's anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. The Atalanta mission may in future seek to establish control over Somalian ports which support pirate activity and target assailants' refueling boats.

"The maritime mission has to look landward now to see what is happening there," Spanish defence minister Carme Chacon said. "It's very important for our fishing vessels that we neutralise them [the pirates] and their refueling vessels," she added, referring to Spanish tuna boats which operate in the region.

Coronavirus

EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer

The European Commission has announced targets to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination, and the intention of "a common approach" on possible vaccine certificates. Both topics will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday.

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  2. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  3. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference
  4. EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex
  5. Untapped potential of the single market could boost European recovery
  6. Biden's 'Age of Aquarius'? Mars and Venus will clash over China
  7. The new dimension of 'ever-closer union'
  8. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us