Flemish arms exports rise to all-time high

Licensed Flemish arms exports have reached a record high. The monthly reports of the Flemish Strategic Goods Control Unit revealed that licences worth at least 412 million euros were approved. The war in Ukraine has not played a major role in this remarkable increase.

The Flemish arms trade consists mainly of exports of technologies, such as parts for aircraft, vehicles and other equipment, most of which are destined for foreign defence companies. In 2021, exports of those products accounted for about 125 million, but last year that amount more than tripled to at least 412 million euros.

The actual amount may be even higher. "Due to the administrative limitations of the reporting system, it is still unclear for some licences how often they should be counted," said Diederik Cops of the Flemish Peace Institute.

Regardless, Flemish arms exports have increased substantially. "We expected this increase," Cops said. "It is a consequence of the defence budgets that have been increasing around the world since 2015-2016. The investment programmes launched then, like that of the F-35 fighter, are now starting to be reflected in export licences."

"This rapid increase in the defence budget will become the reality of the coming years," Cops explained, pointing out that the F-35 programme will continue for decades to come. Belgian companies produce parts for the landing gear and horizontal tail surfaces of those aircraft.

The war in Ukraine had no major effect on Flemish arms exports in 2022. Flanders did export bullet-proof vests and protective clothing to Ukraine. "But that only amounts to a few hundred thousand euros," Cops said. The conflict has led a lot of countries to further increase their defence budgets. "We are going to see the effect of those investments within a few years", he concluded.



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