2021 was a record year for Flemish arms exports

2021 was a record year for the arms industry in Flanders. Licensed exports of military goods amounted to 143 million euros. Moreover, 2022 promises to yield even better results. De Morgen reported this on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Flemish Peace Institute speaks of a tipping point.

The Flemish arms industry is doing well. While arms exports hit a record high in 2021, 491 million euros worth of export licences have already been approved in the first seven months of 2022.

Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon (N-VA) nuances the figures. "This evolution had mainly to do with one big licensed transaction to the United States in 2021," he said yesterday during the presentation of the annual report on the arms trade in the Flemish parliament.

According to the Flemish Peace Institute, however, there is a tipping point. "Decades of reduced investment in defence budgets have come to an end, and the Ukraine crisis has reinforced this trend," Diederik Cops of the Flemish Peace Institute, a research institute of the Flemish parliament, told De Morgen.

Cops also noted that with specialised companies and research institutes, today's defence industry is much broader. For example, the Louvain-based company Epic Blue is developing artificial intelligence for aid workers, which is also applicable in a military context.

"Our research shows little knowledge and awareness among some civilian players," Cops stressed. "What if this technology falls into the wrong hands? It could make us a target of countries like Russia or China."

Flanders has its own export policy, in which the region pays attention to human rights and tries to avoid conflicts. For example, Flanders already refused licences for aircraft parts for Morocco and bulletproof clothing for Vietnam's security forces. Still, Cops warns that the context in which the federal government or Europe decides which projects it joins can limit the Flemish government's decision-making power.

Furthermore, officially, in about 80 per cent of export licences, the end user is unknown. For example, if several countries buy weapons, the licence only mentions the word industry. Minister-president Jambon, therefore, wants to carry out a study into the feasibility of mentioning the various potential end-users.


#FlandersNewsService | Detail of a scale model of the F-35 pictured during the inauguration ceremony of Sabca's new production hall for the horizontal tailplane of the F-35 fighter aircraft, in Lummen, Thursday 10 March 2022. The construction of this new facility in Limburg is part of the significant build-up of industrial activity through the BeLightning joint venture between Asco, Sabca, Sonaca, and FPIM /SFPI for the Belgian purchase program F-35.



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