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European Commission proposes ratification of UN Firearms Protocol Options
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2013 4:14:00 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK


The EU is ready to ratify the UN firearms protocol following the adoption of new rules on sale, possession and transfers of firearms both within and outside Europe. Today, the European Commission presents a proposal to that end, while stressing the need for further action.

The purpose of the UN firearms protocol is to strengthen cooperation against illicit manufacturing and trafficking of small arms, such as handguns and pistols. This trade generates around €180 million per year for organised crime around the globe.

"Illicit trafficking in firearms represents a growing threat to the security of the European citizens and a lucrative business for organised gangs. We need to strengthen the control of firearms entering, circulating within and leaving the EU in order to prevent their misuse. The conclusion of the UN firearms protocol confirms the EU's commitment to protect citizens against the risk of gun violence in the EU and beyond" said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.

The text of the Protocol contains provisions to:

- Maintain detailed records on the import, export and in-transit movements of firearms;
- Adopt an international system for marking firearms at the time of manufacture and each time they are imported;
- Establish a harmonised licensing system governing the import, export, in-transit movement and re-export of firearms;
- Prevent the theft, loss or diversion of firearms through the strengthening of export controls, export points and border controls;
- Exchange information regarding authorised producers, dealers, importers and exporters, the routes used by illicit traffickers, best practice in combating trafficking in order to enhance states' ability to prevent, detect and investigate illicit trafficking in firearms

What is next?
The Council should now adopt the proposal to ratify the UN firearms protocol, with the consent of the European Parliament. The Commission will present a Communication on how to limit the threat of firearms to the EU's internal security before the end of 2013.

The Commission negotiated and signed the UN firearms protocol on behalf of the EU in 2002. The conclusion of this process – the actual ratification of the protocol – was left for later, because the EU's legislation had to be updated and brought in line with the protocol's provisions. The EU then adopted the following legislation:

- Directive 2008/51/EC (amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC) establishes the rules on controls by the EU Member States on the acquisition and possession of firearms and their transfer to another EU Member State.
- Regulation 258/2012 (IP/12/225) establishes requirements for exports, imports and transit licensing, and makes it easier to track weapons. It applies to firearms, their parts and essential components and ammunition for civilian use. Military weapons are not concerned.
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2013 4:23:12 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK

Questions and Answers: the UN firearms protocol and the EU

What is the UN protocol on firearms?
The UN Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Illegal Trafficking in Firearms and Ammunition (UNFP) is the first global instrument in the fight against transnational organised crime and trafficking in firearms. It sets out a multilateral framework and a variety of important minimum standards for all participating States.

The Protocol promotes cooperation among States Parties in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

What has been done at EU level?
The existing EU legislative framework on firearms largely derives from the UN Firearms Protocol (UNFP) which was negotiated and signed by the Commission in 2002 on behalf of the EU.

The Protocol is an international instrument of "mixed" competence between the EU and its Member States and the Commission has been aiming to complete the process of transposition into EU legislation of all its provisions, essentially through:

Directive 2008/51/EC, which integrates the appropriate provisions required by the Firearms Protocol as regards intra-Community transfers of weapons. The Directive establishes rules on controls by the Member States on the acquisition and possession of firearms and their transfer to another Member State. The directive establishes 4 categories of firearms, by order of level of danger. Whilst it is prohibited to acquire and possess Category A firearms (explosive arms, automatic weapons…), for Category B weapons (ex: semi-automatic) an authorization is necessary and for Category C and D a declaration suffices.

Regulation 258/2012 (IP/12/225) which addresses trade and transfers with countries outside the EU, thereby transposing the provisions of Article 10 of the UNFP. The Regulation is based on the principle that firearms and related items should not be transferred between states without the knowledge and consent of all states involved. It lays down procedural rules for export, and import - as well as for transit of firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. Exports of firearms are subject to export authorisations, containing the necessary information to trace them, including the country of origin, the country of export, the final recipient and a description of the quantity of the firearms and related items. Member States have the obligation to verify that the importing third country has issued an import authorisation. In the case of transit of weapons and related items through third countries, each transit country must give notice in writing that it has no objection. Member States must refuse to grant an export authorisation if the person applying has any previous record concerning illicit trafficking or other serious crime.

What is the status of ratification of the Protocol?
The UNFP entered into force on 3 July 2005. To date, 18 EU Member States have signed it and 16 Member States are contracting parties, which includes 12 Member States that have ratified (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal, Sweden and Finland) and four Member States that have acceded to it (Spain, Latvia, Netherlands and Romania).

The Commission signed the UNFP on behalf of the EU in 2002. Now the Commission is in a position to take the final step by launching the ratification procedure for the EU.

This will have an effect for those Member States which have not yet ratified this Protocol which will become legally binding for them.

What is the scale of the problem?
Most illicit trafficking originates in lawful activity, as firearms which are legally registered, held and traded get diverted into criminal markets or to unauthorised individuals.

It is difficult to assess precisely the volume of illegal trafficking, although according to one estimate the illegal firearms trade generates between €125 million to €236 million per year globally, which represents between 10 to 20% of the total trade in legal firearms (1).

Such figures only cover portable firearms, and do not account for trade in heavy firearms, ammunitions and parts and components. Moreover, illicit firearms trade is often closely intertwined with other serious crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and corruption.

In the EU alone, more than 5,000 murders were committed with firearms (around 20% of all murders) last year according to the UNODC (2). No EU country is unaffected by firearms violence.

1 : UNODC, “The Globalization of Crime,” Chapter 6: Firearms (p.129), June 2010.
2 : UNODC, Global Study on Homicide, 2011
Natalie Wilkins
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013 4:17:09 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2008
Posts: 406
Location: London, UK
UK Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice announces UK is opting into the proposal to conclude the Firearms Protocol on behalf of the EU

12 September 2013

The Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): The UK has opted into the draft Council Decision to approve, on behalf of the EU, the UN Firearms Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. The Protocol supplements the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.

The Protocol creates a legal regime for the transnational movement of firearms and contains practical measures designed to assist law enforcement by enhancing international cooperation and promoting greater transparency in the legal transfer of firearms. The Commission was mandated by the EU to negotiate six of the Articles in relation to: record keeping; marking of firearms; deactivation of firearms; general requirements for export, import and transit licensing or authorisation systems; effective security of imports and exports; and brokering activities.

The Commission signed the Protocol on behalf of the Community in 2001 with the intention of concluding it once the Articles they negotiated had been enshrined in European law. This has been primarily achieved through amendments to the existing Weapons Directive 91/477 on the acquisition and possession of weapons and the adoption of Regulation 258/2012 to combat illicit arms trafficking through improved tracing and control of exports of civilian arms from the EU. These changes have already been transposed into UK legislation.

The government considers that it is in the UK’s interest to opt into the proposal to conclude the Protocol on behalf of the EU. The aims of the Protocol are broadly welcome and are consistent with current EU policies on measures to counter transnational crimes, to strengthen the fight against the illicit trafficking of firearms and to reduce the spread and proliferation of small arms around the world.

Further background from the Commons Select Committee is available here
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