Saturday

15th May 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.

EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050

The European Commission unveiled a plan to reduce pollution to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems by 2050 - including reducing the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55 percent.

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

Slovenia was supposed to nominate a delegated prosecutor for the new European Public Prosecutor Office, in charge of cracking down on corruption of EU funds. Ljubljana finalised procedures in December but has yet to send nominations, causing headaches.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us