Optimization of the Arms Trade Act approved
On 17 March, the Government of Flanders approved the draft of the act that optimizes the Flemish Parliament Arms Trade Act of June 15, 2012. This act regulates the import, export, transit and transfer of arms and military equipment for the Flemish Region.
The proposed changes don’t suggest a fundamental modification, rather than a correction of certain substantive legal gaps and some ineffective practices.
The most significant change is the reform of the control of transit. The new act extends this control to weapons and military equipment that are merely transported through Flanders without being trans-shipped. This will increase more effective action against illegal arms shipments. Along with this extension, the transit obligations concerning the so-called insensitive countries such as EU Member States, are eased. This leads to a substantial reduction of administrative tasks without sacrificing control.
Another important change is the expansion of transparency on the implementation of the Arms Trade Act. The new act anchors the wider reporting to the Flemish Parliament, which is already in practice this current legislature. This anchoring emphasized the pioneering role of Flanders in terms of transparency.
A third major innovation is the introduction of the possibility for the government to adopt general restrictive measures. The Government of Flanders is empowered to prohibit all exports of arms and military equipment to a country for a certain period, if they judge that the export is in violation of the Arms Trade Act. This way, the Government of Flanders can act when an arms embargo on the level of the UN or the EU appears to be justified, but is unlikely for political reasons.
The draft for amending the Arms Trade Act now goes to the Flemish Parliament.
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