Monday

22nd Jul 2019

Libya replete with EU arms as Gaddafi massacres protesters

  • Kalashnikov. David Cameron on his current Middle East tour opted to bring along Ian King, the CEO of top British arms firm BAe Systems, as part of his delegation, as well as executives from UK weapons firms Rolls Royce and Thales (Photo: reuvenim)

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

The Union's latest report on arms exports, out in January and covering 2009, says that EU countries granted €343.7 million worth of Libya licences two years before the massacre. Figures for actual shipments are incomplete.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

With the UK's Associated Press agency reporting on Tuesday (22 February) that the streets of Tripoli "are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces," the EU report notes that Malta in 2009 granted licences and actually shipped €79.7 million of small arms to the regime. Belgium granted €18 million of licences and Bulgaria €3.7 million.

On electronic jamming, Germany led with €43.2 million of permits. The UK granted €20.7 million worth and Italy €1 million.

EU officials on Monday told this website that Libyan jamming of mobile phone, internet and GPS services is hampering attempts to get the 5,000 or so EU citizens still in Libya to safety. The EU's ambassador in Tunis, who is also responsible for Libya, is trying to co-ordinate evacuations by calling EU embassies in Tripoli on landlines. But many of these are also down.

Amid widespread reports that the Libyan airforce is bombing and shooting opposition activists, Italy led the sale of what the arms industry calls "big ticket items."

Italy granted €107.7 million of licences for military aircraft, including assault craft, and associated equipment. France granted €17.5 million worth and Portugal €14.5 million. Portugal also granted €4.6 million of permits for drones.

Other licences of note include: €4.4 million of Belgian permits for anti-personnel chemicals used to quell riots and €2.6 million of Italian licences for bomb fuses.

Paul Holtom, an arms control expert with the Swedish NGO Sipri said that Russia is Libya's main arms supplier. The EU gold rush began after the UN lifted its arms embargo in 2003, with senior British, French and Italian officials jetting in and out of Tripoli in delegations with arms and oil industry executives.

"You've seen a lot of major suppliers going for a chunk of the Libyan arms market due to its increase in resource [oil] revenues," he told EUobserver. "[Libyan leader] Moammar Gaddafi has been playing the suppliers off each other and he hasn't really signed for big ticket items [from EU companies] yet."

In the 2005 to 2009 period, the only 'big ticket' EU deals were Italy's sale of six helicopters and a French contract to refurbish Libya's Mirage combat jets.

Ottfried Nassauer from the German arms control NGO Bits, said: "Nominal [trade] standards are quite high, but in reality business interests and economic interests as well as political interests override the ethical standards in many cases." He added that Libya supplies a large fraction of German oil imports and can manipulate energy prices.

EU governments are not always as cynical as the 2009 data implies.

Belgium in 2009 in response to NGO complaints overturned a licence for FN Herstal to supply €11.5 million of small arms - including 367 rifles, 367 handguns, 50 "luxury" pistols and 22,000 grenades - for Gaddafi's elite army and police units.

The UK in 2008 blocked York Guns from shipping 130,000 Kalashnikovs to Libya because it feared they would be resold to warlords in Sudan.

The same year Romania gave the green light to sell Gaddafi 100,000 of the guns, however. And UK premier David Cameron on his current Middle East tour opted to bring Ian King, the CEO of top British arms firm BAe Systems, as part of his delegation, as well as executives from UK weapons firms Rolls Royce and Thales.

"If what we are witnessing is a true revolution in Libya, then we shall soon be able - unless the Western embassy flunkies get there first for a spot of serious, desperate looting - to rifle through the Tripoli files ... and reveal some secrets which ... [our governments] would rather we didn't know about," British journalist Robert Fisk wrote in the UK daily The Independent on Tuesday.

Correction: the lead paragraph and headline of the story were changed at 8pm Brussels time on 22 February because the original lead implied the EU arms sales were more recent. The total EU arms licence figure was also revised

Podcast

Abortion Wars

Pressures on women to avoid terminating unwanted pregnancies have been growing in countries including Croatia, Poland and Romania.

Agenda

EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK

Boris Johnson is almost certain to become the UK's next prime minister, and oversee Brexit until the 31 October deadline, as work in the EU bubble is winding down for the summer.

Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules

Only half of EU staff claim good knowledge of their workplace's ethics rules, while 82 percent of staff at the European Parliament have never attended any ethics trainings, according to a report by the European Court of Auditors.

News in Brief

  1. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  2. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  3. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  4. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  5. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  6. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  7. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal
  8. Commission fines US chipmaker for second time

Agenda

EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK

Boris Johnson is almost certain to become the UK's next prime minister, and oversee Brexit until the 31 October deadline, as work in the EU bubble is winding down for the summer.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us