Dutch parliament must keep control of arms exports

29 February 2024

Dutch parliament must keep control of arms exports

Foto: SP

By joining a European defense treaty, the House of
Representatives threatens to lose control over arms exports. A bad
thing, argues Sarah Dobbe, MP for the Socialist Party.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war in
the Middle East, investment in the arms industry has boomed. It makes
sense that there is more demand for weapons so that Ukraine is able to
defend itself against Russia. But the lobby for more weapons goes
much further than the war in Ukraine or the threat from Russia.

For example, the European Commission has proposed to increase the
so-called 'European Defence Fund' (EDF) by 1.5 billion euros. The fund
already has a budget of 8 billion euros for the period 2021-2027. One of
the objectives of the fund is to promote the international
competitiveness of the arms industry in the European Union. An
objective that is far from the EU's identity as a peace project and
primarily serves the interests of the arms industry.


Those interests of the industry are huge. Over the past year, the stock
exchange prices of the arms and defense industry have sometimes risen by
25 percent or even 50 percent. Bad news for the world turns out to be
good news for shareholders of the arms industry.

A recent disturbing report by the European Network Against Arms Trade,
an anti-arms trade network, shows that the lobby and influence of the
arms industry in the call for militarization in Europe is substantial.
They even reach the European Commission.

The network also rightly warns that the focus on strengthening the arms
industry is at the expense of the focus on diplomacy and peace building.
As a result, peace does not come any closer. It is also warned of the
consequences of a global arms race, because
with more production of weapons, more weapons also have to be sold. In
this way, it fuels war and repression around the world.

Where are all those weapons going? This last question is more important
than ever. In principle, it is now the case that the export of weapons
from the Netherlands is tested for the possible use of these weapons in
situations of human rights violations, genocide
and war crimes. Just two weeks ago, the Dutch government lost a case in
the High Court for precisely that reason because of the export of parts
for F-35 fighter aircraft to Israel. The Netherlands are now not
permitted to deliver Israel those parts, at least
until the appeal has been dealt with. This statement shows how
important good control is.

But it is precisely this control that is being ravaged: the Dutch
government wants to join the 'Treaty on export control in the defence
domain'. The essence of the treaty, to which Germany, France and Spain
are also affiliated, is that the exporter of the final
product determines the conditions for export. If the Netherlands
transfers weapon parts to France, for example, and a French manufacturer
assembles the weapons, then France decides on the final export.

Critical reports

History shows that French controls on arms exports are a lot less strict
regarding possible human rights violations than the Netherlands.
Numerous critical reports have appeared on French arms exports to the
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even
Russia after the invasion of Crimea.

Not only do we have to guard for an arms race where the production of as
many weapons as possible becomes a goal in itself, which mainly
benefits the arms industry and where peace is lost sight of as an end
goal. But we must also be able to ensure that weapons
do not end up in the wrong hands and are used by wrong regimes against
innocent civilians.

For that reason, the Dutch parliament must retain control over arms
exports. We should not leave such a crucial thing as whether or not to
leave arms exports to other countries.

This opinion piece appeared on 29-02-2024 in Trouw

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