EU adopts arms export code; some nations push for more

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The 15 nations of the European Union agreed Monday on a code of conduct intended to curb arms sales to countries with dubious human rights records or aggressive designs on their neighbors.
Britain, which now holds the rotating EU presidency, praised the accord as a big step toward a more ethical European arms sales policy. But several EU nations called it a weak start and pledged to push for stronger controls.
Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews said he was “genuinely upset” the EU foreign ministers did not agree on a binding ban on arms sales to governments accused of serious human rights violations.
“We see this as a beginning. It has to be built on and improved,” he said.
The code sets out eight criteria that should govern arms sales — ruling out exports to nations that might use weapons for attacking other states, internal repression or support of terrorism.
In addition, if one government blocks the sale of weapons to a particular country, other EU nations will have to come up with a detailed explanation if they want to supply similar arms.
However, the code is not legally binding. It gives individual governments leeway to determine when a prospective arms-buying nation meets the criteria.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook insisted that peer pressure would be enough to inhibit sales to questionable regimes.
EU ministers also rewarded Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic for opening talks with representatives of the ethnic Albanian community in the province of Kosovo by withdrawing — for now — a threat to stop new investments there.