In 2007, the Commission issued a set of documents known as the 'Defence Package'. This was the first step towards the establishment of a sound industrial policy and legislative framework to improve competitiveness, introduce greater transparency, and cut unnecessary red tape in the defence sector.
The package included a Communication and two directives.
Directive 2009/43/EC on intra-EU transfers of defence related products aimed to simplify the terms and conditions for transfers of defence-related products within the EU. The 'transfer directive' alleviates obstacles caused by the fragmentation of the European defence market, to progress towards a genuine European market for defence equipment. This is achieved without sacrificing national control over essential defence and security interests.
Until recently, the fragmentation of the European defence market and differing national approaches caused many problems for the European defence industry in general, and for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular. For example, national systems to control the transfer of defence equipment did not distinguish between exports to non-EU countries and transfers between EU countries. Different national licensing regimes also imposed burdensome administrative procedures, while hampering the security of supply between EU countries.
The Transfer Directive (2009/43/EC) alleviates these obstacles, progressing towards a genuine European market for defence equipment, without sacrificing EU countries' control over their essential defence and security interests. The Transfer Directive introduced a partially new licensing system differentiating between and rationalising the use of general, global, and individual licenses.
The Directive encourages EU countries to replace, as far as possible, the use of individual licenses by issuing general licenses for intra-EU transfers, considered unproblematic and where the unauthorised risk of re-exportation to non-EU countries is strictly controlled. This includes purchases by armed forces from other EU countries and transfers of components in the context of industrial cooperation to companies certified in accordance with Article 9 of the Directive.
Global licenses, grouping multiple transfers to several recipients by one supplier, cover most of the remaining intra-EU transfers. The established licensing system aims to render individual licenses the exception. EU countries remain free to determine the products eligible for the different types of licenses and to fix the terms and conditions of such licenses.
Article 9 of the Directive lays down the general principles for the certification of defence undertakings in the EU.
Certification is granted at national level and is meant to testify to the special ability of defence undertakings to receive defence-related products and, where appropriate, to respect all the conditions attached to those products, such as end-use and end-user conditions.
The Commission collects information from EU countries about certified recipients of defence-related products and makes them publicly available through CERTIDER , the central EU register of certified undertakings. As certificates have to be mutually recognised, the Commission provided the national authorities with common certification guidelines in January 2011.
The Commission also collects information on available general licences in EU countries and publishes this information on the CERTIDER webpages.
The transposition of the Directive into national legislation took effect on 30 June 2011 with implementation measures applied from 30 June 2012.
Directive 2009/81/EC on defence and security procurement aims to coordinate procedures for contract awards in defence and security. The 'procurement directive' focuses on the coordination of procedures for certain work, supply, and service contracts that are awarded by contracting authorities or entities.
The Defence and Security Procurement Directive (2009/81/EC) sets EU procurement rules, which are adapted to the specificities of the defence and security sectors. It allows the use of the negotiated procedure with publication, as the standard procedure and provides special provisions for security of supply and information.
The existence of this Directive makes it easier for EU countries to limit the use of the exemption provided for in Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to exceptional cases, in line with Court of Justice rulings.
Taking into account the increasingly blurred dividing line between security and defence, the new rules also apply to sensitive contracts in non-military security. The transposition of this Directive into national legislation took effect on 21 August 2011.
In the area of civil (non-military) weapons, the abolition of all police and customs formalities at intra-EU borders for the establishment of the internal market, made it necessary to adopt specific rules on the acquisition and possession of different categories of firearms intended for civil use. This is to facilitate commercial exchange within the EU, while guaranteeing the safety of EU citizens. To do this, Directive 91/477/EEC on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons was adopted in June 1991.
The Firearms Directive, as amended by Directive 2008/51/CE, defines rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons, as well as the transfer of firearms to another EU country. It was adopted as an accompanying measure for the internal market and it imposes restrictions on the circulation of civil firearms.
For the acquisition and possession of firearms, EU countries must impose the requirements laid down in the Directive into their laws. They are also entitled to adopt more stringent measures than those provided for by the Directive.
The Directive provides rights and obligations for private persons, dealers, and brokers. There are more flexible rules for hunting and target shooting, in order to avoid unnecessary impediments.
For this purpose, the Directive introduced the European Firearms Pass, a document, which is issued upon request by national authorities to a person lawfully possessing and using a firearm (see Commission Recommendation 2005/11/EC)
The amending Directive 2008/51/EC reinforces the security aspects of the Directive, allowing a partial alignment with the UN Firearms Protocol against transnational organised crime. It recommends the complete marking of firearms, as well as computerised record-keeping systems for firearms, for a minimum of 20 years.
The Commission has adopted different reports on the implementation of this Directive:
Currently, most EU countries submit the acquisition of firearms to 'authorisation' (Category B) or to 'declaration' (Category C).
In some countries, the authorisation or declaration is interlinked with additional requirements like hunter or marksmen licenses. In line with the minimum harmonisation principle, EU countries can 'upgrade' a weapon in their national legislation, e.g. raise it from category C to category B, or from category B to category A (prohibited weapons).
It also means that if an EU country subjects all weapons to authorisation internally, it also has the right to subject to authorisation, any weapon that enters its territory, even one which is simply subject to declaration under the rules of the country of origin.
This diversity reflects EU countries’ concerns about security, as much as their slightly different preferences regarding State administrative action and their traditions regarding the control of hunting activities. The classification into four categories also provides a common reference for the level of danger posed by weapons, which is also useful and applicable in other aspects of the Directive.
On 18 November 2015, the European Commission proposed a revision of the Firearms Directive (Directive 91/477/EEC as amended by Directive 2008/51/EC).
This proposal is based on the conclusions of studies the European Commission recently conducted evaluating all provisions of the Firearms Directive and their implementation in EU countries. The reports highlight a number of weaknesses and loopholes in the current legislation which the Commission's proposal aims to address.
The main elements of the proposed revision are:
The amendments to the Firearms Directive that the Commission has proposed needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
One of the main studies on which the Commission's proposal is based is the evaluation on the Firearms Directive which looks into how the Firearms Directive has been implemented in all EU countries:
In light of the findings of this study, the Commission submitted a report to the European Parliament and Council to present the findings and to make proposals for the way ahead concerning legislation. The report was submitted as part of the revision package on 18 November 2015.
The Firearms Directive provides for the transfer of certain weapons without prior authorisation from Member States.
In particular, Article 11 (4) of the Directive states that "Each Member State shall supply the other Member States with a list of firearms the transfer of which to its territory may be authorized without its prior consent. Such lists of firearms shall be communicated to dealers who have obtained approval for transferring firearms without prior authorization under the procedure laid down in paragraph 3.
The Firearms Directive allows the Commission to adopt standards and rules on the deactivation of firearms. The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2403 of 15 December 2015 (Deactivation Regulation) establishes common guidelines on deactivation within the EU with the objective to circumvent problems due to the illegal re-activation of firearms by using pieces of other deactivated arms, home-made pieces or pieces acquired via the internet.
This regulation sets out common and strict minimum criteria for the way EU countries must deactivate weapons so that they are rendered irreversibly inoperable.
The Commission Implementing Regulation has been developed in discussion with EU country experts and is based on technical specifications for deactivation developed by the Permanent International Commission for the Proof of Small Arms (the CIP).
The new EU rules on the deactivation of firearms foresee that the Commission publishes a list of all national entities authorised by EU countries to verify that firearms have been deactivated correctly (including their contact details and symbol (where applicable)).