LUXEMBOURG (CN) – Europe’s highest court annulled the European Union’s 2004 decision to support a moratorium on small arms and light weapons in West Africa, ruling that the EU’s action usurped the power of member states to make and enforce their own treaties.
The Commission of the European Community, backed by the European Parliament, claimed that the EU, while well-intended, meddled in the member states’ 2000 agreement to push for development and peace in West Africa and other regions.
The European Community had signed an agreement in 2000 to promote the economic, cultural and social development of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group states. The agreement included a provision for “addressing an excessive and uncontrolled spread, illegal trafficking and accumulation of small arms and light weapons.” Specifically, the European Commission agreed to cut off small-arms trade in West Africa.
In July 2002, the EU adopted a joint action outlining a plan for implementing the commission’s agreement. It established authority over the commission and offered to provide money and technical support to stop the proliferation of small arms. It also decided to convert the moratorium to a convention on small arms and light weapons, to be attended by the Economic Community of West African States.
The Council of the EU, supported by the governments of member states, claimed the campaign to curb weapons should not be handled by the community.
The European Court of Justice had to determine whether the EU’s action fell within the European Community’s development cooperation policy or within the scope of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which the EU governs.
The court ruled that the EU had erroneously adopted the joint action on the basis of CFSP, even though it falls within development cooperation policy.
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