Belgium’s arms export system was altered in several ways in 2003. Firstly, the law of 5 August 1991 which underlies the exercise of legal controls of arms exports underwent a considerable modification by strengthening the duties to be met and incorporating the European Union Code of Conduct’s criteria in law, making them binding. Secondly, legal competence for arms exports was divided among four levels of power – the federal state and the three Regions of Belgium.
Have these changes impacted on Belgium’s foreign policy, which is still managed federally? How do the different levels of power exercise this competence? Are there any coordination mechanisms?
The report starts by surveying the rules in force in Belgium – the European Union Code of Conduct, the 1991 law, the 2003 amendment of the 1991 law and the 2003 regionalisation of competence for the 1991 law.
Exercise of this legal competence is then examined in the four levels of power - the three Regions and the Federal State. For each, the method for awarding licences is examined, along with the balance of power and analysis of how it is exercised vis-à-vis the political choices and specific nature of the area concerned (particularly the nature of the arms industry).
Finally, the report gives an overview of the coordination methods used by the various levels of power and analysis of the 17 July 2007 Cooperation Agreement. The discussion finishes with critical comments on the exercise of this competence.