The European Union (EU) is a major player in global efforts to prevent and combat the uncontrolled accumulation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. The 2005 ‘Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition’ has given a significant impetus in promoting multilateralism activities in order to establish mechanisms in relevant forums to fight illicit proliferation of SALW, in structuring and prioritizing EU small arms assistance programmes as well as mainstreaming SALW in broader peace and security initiatives.
This paper argues that a better coordination between EU export controls—which today remain a national prerogative—and small arms assistance policies is essential for a more integrated and coherent approach to fighting the illicit proliferation of SALW. In particular, EU member states should pay special attention when assessing SALW export licences to countries benefiting from EU assistance and to other destinations in the neighbourhood of such countries. Recent developments at the international and EU levels should encourage the EU to comprehensively review and update the 2005 SALW Strategy.