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Summaries of EU Legislation

Regulating the arms trade

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Regulating the arms trade

The European Union wishes to contribute to improving the regulation of the arms trade at global level. The aim is to participate in preparing an Arms Trade Treaty and to improve control systems for this type of trade.


Council Decision 2010/336/CFSP of 14 June 2010 on EU activities in support of the Arms Trade Treaty, in the framework of the European Security Strategy [Official Journal L 152 of 18.6.2010].


This Decision presents a project prepared by the European Union (EU) to improve regulation of the arms trade. The project should lead to better control of the import, export and transfer of conventional arms worldwide.

The project has two objectives:

  • to contribute to preparatory work for an Arms Trade Treaty within the United Nations;
  • to improve arms trade control systems between United Nations Member States.

The project presented by the Council consists of organising international seminars. These seminars will bring together political representatives and experts in the field of the arms trade. They will lead to exchanges of points of view and concrete proposals.

International seminars

The seminars are to be organised in different regions of the world. They will take place over several days and bring together several types of participant:

  • diplomatic and military representatives and those working in the field of defence in participating countries;
  • United Nations representatives;
  • representatives from international organisations and non-governmental organisations;
  • members of technical and law enforcement staff that are specialised in the arms trade (border control authorities, national and international experts, industry representatives).

The organisation of the seminars will be entrusted to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). UNIDIR is, however, to perform this task under the responsibility of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In addition, the High Representative will report to the Council regularly on the application of this Decision. The budget earmarked for the implementation of this Decision is EUR 1 520 000.

Arms Trade Treaty

The aim of the seminars will be to prepare an Arms Trade Treaty at international level. This Treaty is currently being prepared within the United Nations. It shall be legally binding for signatory countries. In particular, it is to establish international standards for the import, export and transfer of arms.

The seminars organised by the EU will aim to progress negotiations between countries wishing to participate in the Treaty, and give an overview of the international situation as regards the arms trade. The objective of the seminars will be to promote the participation of the largest possible number of United Nations Member States. They will also enable concrete proposals to be made concerning the content of the future Arms Trade Treaty.

Arms trade monitoring at global level

The seminars organised by the EU also have a second objective – to contribute to the setting up of effective and coherent control systems between participating countries.

The seminars should thus:

  • provide assistance in the establishment and enforcement of licensing systems for the arms trade;
  • improve border controls and the monitoring of arms transfers;
  • improve the transparency of the arms trade through the introduction of a United Nations Register of Conventional Arms;
  • contribute to national efforts to mark and trace small arms and light weapons.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2010/336/CFSP



OJ L 152 of 18.6.2010


Council Decision 2013/269/PESC 2013/269/CFSP of 27 May 2013 authorising Member States to sign, in the interests of the European Union, the Arms Trade Treaty.

With this decision, the Member States are encouraged to sign the Arms Trade Treaty during the official ceremony in New York on 3 June 2013 or as soon as possible

Last updated: 28.02.2014