Blog AnalysisArms export, disarmament

Who in Europe is exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia? Is Paris a privileged partner of Ryad?

(B2) According to the latest figures compiled by the European Union in its 19th report on arms export licenses, for the year 2016, it is France which wins all categories combined in trade with the 'Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia an important partner for Europeans (credit: European Commission)

We took into account not only the latest report from the European Union, but in order to put the figures into perspective, the two previous ones. In all three cases, France is outrageously in first position, even if (very strangely) the actual sales figure remains well below the authorized figure.

Saudi Arabia, privileged partner for France

215 licenses were granted in 2016 for a total amount of 13,8 billion euros, and 1,08 billion exports were made that year (*). This represents one third of the licenses authorized in the EU and the actual amount exported for the year, and almost nine tenths (87%) of the amounts authorized in the European Union. The 28 Member States have, in fact, authorized exports for a total amount of 15,8 billion euros (607 licenses) and actually exported 3,22 billion euros.

A champion of all categories of arms exports

France exported a little in all categories in 2016: ships (2,62 billion), aircraft (343 million euros), ammunition, torpedoes, weapons with a caliber greater than 20 mm ( 2,98 billion), military technology (1,31 billion), electronic equipment (507 million), imaging equipment (265 million), and even toxic chemical or biological agents (6,3 million), etc.

United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain

Followed (far behind) the United Kingdom with an amount of 613,2 million euros (134 licenses), Germany with 529,7 million (164 licenses), and Italy with 427,4 million (16 licenses ).

In fifth position - contrary to what one might think - is not Spain with 154,8 million (10 licenses), but Bulgaria with 203,7 million (32 licenses). Sofia mainly sells weapons (less than 20 mm and more than 20 mm) and ammunition to Saudi Arabia, which were transferred, according to certain sources, to troops supported by the monarchy.

If we go down a notch, in the countries which have an average level of exports, we find Belgium with 33,5 million euros (13 licenses), Poland with 29,8 million, Romania with 16,6, 5 million (12 licenses), the Rep. Czech with XNUMX million.

Finally, some countries export little or barely: the Netherlands with 21.400 euros (1 license), Portugal with 24745 euros (1 license), Denmark 2774 euros (1 license), etc.

18 denial of licenses

In 2016, 18 licenses were refused by Member States for essentially three reasons: material that could be used for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, risk for regional stability, risk of misappropriation of technology or equipment military in the purchasing or re-exporting country. A single refusal mentions proximity to terrorist groups.

In 2014 and 2015, France remains in the lead

Three quarters of export licenses

In 2014, France already dominates, being in first place in arms exports to Saudi Arabia, by signing export licenses worth 2,7 billion euros (through 188 licenses). export), out of a total value of 3,9 billion euros (or 72% of the total). The declared value of exports that year stood at 644 million, in almost all categories of weapons (except energy materials).

It is followed by its Belgian neighbor, which signs for 397 million (50 licenses), Germany for almost 209 million euros (187 licenses) and Italy for 163 million (64 licenses). Further afield, we find Bulgaria for 85 million euros (9 licenses) and the United Kingdom for 83 million (175 licenses). Then Spain, which signs with Riyadh 69 million (11 licenses) and Slovakia for 60 million euros (7 licenses).

A leap forward in 2015

In 2015, France was already in the lead, signing for a total of 16,8 billion euros (219 licenses), out of a European total of 22,2 billion euros (835 licenses). It thus provides 76% of the amount of export licenses authorized in the European Union, even if it only declares having exported that year for 900 million euros.

It is followed, from a distance, by the United Kingdom with 3,3 billion (228 licenses), which constitutes a real leap forward. Spain, for its part, granted licenses for 584 million euros (18 licenses) and Belgium for 576 million (34 licenses). Also closely followed are Berlin, for 270 million (138 licenses) and Rome, for 257 million (110 licenses). Bulgaria also remains a regular partner, having authorized exports to the tune of 101 million (23 licenses) and Croatia to 100 million (8 licenses).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with Aurélie Pugnet, st.)


Statistics to be used with caution

Let us point out that these statistics have a relative value. Some countries 'forget' to fill in certain boxes. This is the case of Germany or the United Kingdom which do not declare any amount of exports actually made (a regular oversight on the part of London). In fact, the European Union itself recognizes, these statistics are not entirely reliable. They are established “ differently depending on the Member States. No uniform standard is used ". According to the current national procedures on the export of arms or " Data protection ", not all countries " submit the same information ". However, these statistics have one merit: they allow a minimum of comparison at European level and obtain information (at least overall) which is not provided by all countries.


(*) This figure can cross-reference the exports actually made during the year (corresponding to previous licenses) as well as the amount actually paid (in the event of spreading payments). Certain export authorizations do not necessarily give rise to contracts.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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