EU Arms Exports to Egypt (or the limits of official statistics)

In a report out on 25th May 2016, Amnesty International says that EU states are supplying arms to Egypt despite of the agreement of September 2013 “to suspend export licences to Egypt of any equipment which might be used for internal repression.” 1)

The point of criticism: "In 2014 alone, EU states authorized 290 licences for military equipment to Egypt, totalling more than €6 billion (US$6.77). The items have included: small arms, light weapons and ammunition; armoured vehicles; military helicopters; heavier weapons for use in counter-terrorism and military operations; and surveillance technology." 1)

Can we track these deals also in the official EU statistics? Here are some findings (EU exports to Egypt, extracted from Eurostats's "Intra-extra- EU trade database" 2)):

Total trade flows to Egypt

Reflected to Amnesty's reference year 2014, the official EU statistic documents exports to Egypt, totalling arround 17 billion Euro (in 2016 USD: 19 billion). So the military part would have been nearly 36%. For further details, lets have a look at the relevant export statstics chapters:

Designated military equipment

The "Arms-" and "Tank-"figures amount to total exports of around 40 million Euro (USD: 45 million) in 2014. That's less that 1% of Amnesty's USD 6.77 billion. But there are goods that can be used for both civilian and military applications (-> dual use 3)). Here are the main groups of goods possibly in question:

Not explicitly declared for militay purposes (perhaps dual use possible)

The unidentified "dual use" figures amount to total exports of around 4.8 billion Euro (USD: 5.3 billion) in 2014. Even if we add the "Arms" and "Tanks", the official EU-trade statistics can't explain Amnesty's numbers. And probably only a fraction of the exported machines and apparatus are finally used for military purposes.

Limits of official trade figures

Apart from statistical secrecy which might distort the official data, it seems to be obvious that only little military hardware was shipped from the EU to Egypt. But what's not documented by these merchandise statistics are licences and brokering activities or foreign direct investments, which can substitute the trade by producing and selling goods and services in countries other than where the former exporter was established.

The work of Amnesty also dramatically documents the deficits in statistics and therefore in political control. Without improving the statistical knowledge base, politicians are "risking complicity in a wave of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture" 1), not only in Egypt.


2) Intra-Extra EU Trade Data, here: DSI's specially prepared time series application

EU states 'complicit' in Egypt repression

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