How Europe is arming murderous Middle East regimes

A new report highlights how the European Defence Fund subsidizes companies acting in total violation of the EU’s Common Position on arms exports, and without any democratic control. Among the clients of these companies: the authoritarian and repressive regimes of the Middle East which cause death and suffering to millions of civilians. As the European Parliament elections scheduled for June 6-9, 2024 are approaching, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), its member leagues in the MENA region and l’observatoire des armements, co-authors of the report are calling on candidates and future elected representatives to the European Parliament to commit to profound reforms regarding the sale of arms and the accountability of European states.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024
How Europe is arming murderous Middle East regimes

Paris, May 14, 2024.  Producing more weapons in Europe, even at the cost of democracy. This is the effect of the European Defence Fund, this €8 billion envelope, financed by the taxpayers and managed solely by the European Commission without the slightest right of scrutiny from the European Parliament. However, the representatives of the people of the European Union should be seized of this issue, particularly when the growth of the European armaments sector benefits not only Ukraine's defense capabilities but also countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and even Israel.

EU-subsidized companies, for example, have no qualms about pursuing or concluding new contracts with countries in the Middle East that commit serious human rights violations. Oppressive and violent states, both within and outside their borders. Arms exports to these countries are, however, in total contradiction with the EU's Common Position on arms exports. The continuation or resumption of conflicts in several countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and the Gaza enclave, illustrates this crescendo of violence inflicting suffering on millions of people, particularly women and children.

“The elected representatives of the EU must not turn a blind eye to a Europe that arms persecutors. The European Parliament must address this issue and legislate for a common coercive position. It is also necessary for the European Parliament to monitor and control the distribution of the European Defence Fund in order to ensure strict compliance with human rights criteria. If applicable, the potential responsibility and complicity of governments and companies in the perpetration by repressive authorities and belligerents of armed conflicts, of human rights violations and international crimes could be raised. “says Yosra Frawes, head of FIDH's Middle East and North Africa office.

For Tony Fortin, of the Observatoire des armements, “The European Union has built a model in which governments and industrialists  hold almost all the powers, while the role of Parliament remains marginal. This opacity and lack of transparency are not the product of chance, but of the refusal to give effective control tools to European deputies and civil society actors. It is therefore parliamentary and democratic control that must be built up at the European level if we want to reverse the current logic and ensure that exporting states are subject to genuine independent control over their compliance with their human rights commitments.”

“Violence and oppression against the peoples of the Middle East is not inevitable,” says Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH.  “The means of this violence, currently deployed by Israel on an unprecedented scale in Gaza, are being sold by members of the EU. European values end where arms contracts begin”.

Over the period 2018-2022, the EU alone represented 24% of global arms sales, with the Middle East as the largest customer region. France is the leading European exporter to the region, closely followed by other member states such as Germany and Italy.

The report is available Here


• International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

• Mwatana for Human Rights

• Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

• Observatoire des armements