Arms export control and the trilateral agreement


The absence of a common and harmonised arms export control in the European Union is an issue complicating Member State (MS) exports of military equipment already for a long time. Major combat systems can only be exported when all member MS originating equipment allow the OEM to do so. Sometimes also transport across another MS is also complicated by export limitations of that particular MS.

A Eurodefense working group (EWG35) researched this issue in the spring of 2024. Their report contains the following conclusions and recommendations and was endorsed by the Eurodefense Presidents Council on 22 May 2024:

1. Solid control of arms export is a major government responsibility of our respective Member States, but, if cleared, strong coordinated political support as well is desirable in a very competitive environment.

2. To achieve a critical mass for our defence industries, arms exports to third countries are of critical importance, just as the progressive establishment of a Common Security and Defence Policy within the EU, the European aspiration to strategic autonomy and the development of cooperative programs.

3. Full support of the principles of the current Trilateral Agreement (between France, Germany and Spain), its geographical extension and its ability to serve as a common reference for the programs co-funded by the EU instruments and for the updating of the Common Position. Conversely to not recourse to the Trilateral Agreement as the legal framework or as the proper pattern would trigger the creation of a different EU reference which would de facto fragilize the Trilateral Agreement.

4. Eurodefense calls upon all MS to adopt the trilateral agreement, first signed as French-German declaration on 22 January 2023. In a later stage Spain joined this agreement as well and currently the UK, the Netherlands and Italy are in the process of joining. When adopted by all MS, this would put an end to long standing contoversies in European arms exports control. 

Download the full report here

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