One of the key weaknesses in controls on the international arms trade is the absence or penury of national regulations on arms brokering activities. At present, only about sixteen countries in the world are known to control the activities of those negotiating, arranging or otherwise facilitating arms transfers between buyers and sellers. Moreover, unscrupulous brokers have demonstrated their ability to circumvent existing controls by exploiting differences in national approaches, or by simply conducting their activities from another country with lax or no controls at all. This weak link in arms control allows unscrupulous brokers to engage with impunity in undesirable or illicit activities such as arranging arms transfers to embargoed governments or non-state actors.
An important regional initiative to counter this phenomenon is the EU Common Position on the Control of Arms Brokering. Under this instrument, EU member states have committed themselves to establishing a clear legal framework for brokering activities taking place within their territory. By creating common standards, the EU Common Position thus represents a significant step forward. However, there remain concerns that these standards still fall short of what is required to effectively combat undesirable or illicit brokering activities.
The first part of this report identifies key issues in this respect and suggests concrete measures governments should consider when deciding on what controls they deem appropriate. The second part of this report presents an overview of already existing or planned brokering controls in certain EU member states. The report concludes that despite the progress presented by the EU Common Position, there are still shortcomings regarding the controls that would seem necessary for effectively combating unscrupulous brokers and their activities. Where appropriate, governments of EU member states should therefore individually be encouraged to ensure that their national approach fully addresses arms brokering. This would also facilitate possible future efforts on the level of the EU to further strengthen common commitments. In turn, such further efforts to counter undesirable brokering will be required to strengthen member states’ abilities to combat and prevent illicit arms transfers.