Preventing and Combating Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms

1997 saw increased recognition of the problems associated with small arms trafficking within the EU. During its 1997 EU presidency, the Netherlands drafted proposals on illicit weapons trafficking. The subsequent "Programme for Preventing and Combating Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms", was adopted by the EU Council of Ministers working group, COARM, on 26 June 1997.

The Programme provides a broad framework for activities to tackle the problem of illicit trafficking from the viewpoint of both suppliers and recipients. Commitments to address the problem were given in three areas: Combating illicit trafficking into or through EU territories; providing capacity building to other countries; and developing measures to reduce the number of weapons in circulation. 

Combating illicit arms trafficking through EU territories is to be effected via enhanced co-operation and coordination amongst intelligence, customs and other law enforcement agents at both a national and international level and through improved information exchange with international databases.

Capacity building in other countries is to be facilitated via ensuring adequate numbers of appropriately trained police and customs officials in order to enforce national arms export control legislation and by promoting regional, sub-regional and national co-operation amongst police, customs authorities and intelligence services. 

Measures to reduce the number of weapons in circulation includes ensuring close co-operation with UN programmes, and establishing weapons collection, buy-back and destruction programmes. It also suggests funding education programmes to promote awareness of the negative consequences of illicit weapons trafficking and by integrating ex-combatants into civilian life.

The EU Programme provides a coherent framework for tackling illicit weapons trafficking. However, it only represents a statement of intent by the member states; it is a political declaration rather than a legally binding document. Unlike some of the other EU initiatives, the Programme makes no provisions for reviewing, reforming or harmonising regulations among EU member states.

A first annual report on the programme was published on 8 July 1998, and a second on 19 January 2000. The reporting procedure under the programme is now coordinated with that of the Joint Action. See our pages on the EU Joint Action on Small Arms and Light Wepons for further reports on the EU Programme on illicit trafficking in conventional arms.

/2003 - NISAT