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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 22 March 2013

Combating firearms trafficking: Commission proposes ratification of UN protocol and further action

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:

  1. Maintain detailed records on the import, export and in-transit movements of firearms;

  2. Adopt an international system for marking firearms at the time of manufacture and each time they are imported;

  3. Establish a harmonised licensing system governing the import, export, in-transit movement and re-export of firearms;

  4. Prevent the theft, loss or diversion of firearms through the strengthening of export controls, export points and border controls;

  5. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Useful Links

Cecilia Malmström's website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

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Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)

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