A exports of arms from EU countries must conform to the EU code of conduct on arms exports, which establishes criteria to control such exports. Ireland was actively involved in the establishment of this politically binding code, which was adopted by the EU General Affairs Council in June 1998. The code lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to allow an export of military goods, including respect for human rights, the internal situation in the country of final destination and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability.
The review of the code of conduct on arms exports was initiated during Ireland's Presidency of the EU and is taking account of developments since the code entered into force in 1998. In this respect, proposals to strengthen and update the code are currently under consideration, including a proposal to reinforce the status of the code by transforming it into an EU common position, which would be legally binding. Ireland is in favour of such a move. We believe the first review of the code of conduct is a very necessary and important undertaking for the EU and we have been supportive of a number of proposals under discussion to strengthen the code.
We have also had several contacts with civil society on this issue. Representatives from several EU member states, including Ireland, met a number of non-governmental organisations last May to discuss and to exchange views on the ongoing review of the code. Ireland also subsequently circulated to all our EU partners, for their consideration, written suggestions made by NGOs for possible improvements to the code.
The Netherlands has made the review of the code of conduct one of its priorities for its Presidency of the EU and, in association with NGO representatives, hosted an international conference in The Hague at the end of last month to further consider the matter. An official from my Department attended this meeting and I understand that there was a very productive discussion concerning those areas of the code which would merit revision.
The examination of the code of conduct by officials from the member states is continuing in the COARM working group which had its most recent meeting in Brussels last Friday. Ireland will continue to participate actively in discussions on this matter at working group level within the EU and will seek an early agreement on the strengthening of the code.