Bodil VALERO, Députée Verts/ALE, membre de la Sous-commission sécurité et défense et membre suppléante de la Commission des affaires étrangères.
I come from Sweden, we have to … we are trying to understand why member-States still send arms to Saudi Arabia, we have to go back before the Arab Spring. Sweden has the common position on arms export, that is for all the countries in Europe, we are obliged to follow it, then we have also the national legislations.
And the national legislation on arms exports is stricter than the common position. I’ll explain more about that later.
Before the Arab Spring, we can say that all countries in Europe felt there was a big market in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, they are investing very much in arms, and all the countries wanted to be the one who could sell most. All have big arms industries, there’s a lot of creation in the arms industries, and all the countries wanted to compete about this big market. And of course if you follow the common position strictly, you cannot sell to a country that does not respect human rights. But you couldn’t sell all kinds of material, because if you can use the material, you want the military equipment that you can sell against your own population, oppress your own population, then it’s not ok with the common position. But if you cannot use it against your own population, yes you can, so if you send some marines to Saudi Arabia that’s perfectly ok with the common position. But if you sell civilian’s equipment for example, then that’s another story.
But in Sweden we have another point of view. To start with, our legislation is to forbid all kinds of arms exports. So there is a prohibition, as a base. But then you can do it if it’s in the interest of the Swedish defense, for the Swedish security policy, and not against the Swedish foreign affairs policy. And our foreign affairs policy is based on human rights, democracy, and so on. So for us it was not allowed to sell to Saudi Arabia, according to our national law. But our authorities, they try all the time to circumvent, and they try to be closer to the common position: “Well, the other ones do it, so why should’nt we?”
Then there was a big scandal once, as they couldn’t sell, in reality, anything, they tried to do a de-selling service to Saudi Arabia. The service was to make an arms factory in Saudi Arabia, to produce their own arms. Public opinion got to know about this, because the media was very on and hot on the issue, and they understood “Something is going on!”. And because of that big scandal the government decided to put a committee with all the parties representing the Swedish in Parliament in that committee … to make the already strict law even stricter, so this could not be possible again. …