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Defence Industry and Space

EU transfers of defence-related products

The Defence Transfers Directive



Directive 2009/43/EC on intra-EU transfers of defence-related products (the “Transfers Directive”) aims at simplifying the terms and conditions for transfers of defence-related products within the EU.

The European defence market, being fragmented and differing on national approaches, has caused many problems for the European defence industry in general, and for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular. For example, national systems to control the transfer of defence equipment did not distinguish between exports to non-EU countries and transfers between EU countries. Different national licensing regimes also imposed burdensome administrative procedures, while hampering the security of supply between EU countries.

The Transfer Directive 2009/43/EC diminishes these obstacles, progressing towards a genuine European market for defence equipment, without sacrificing EU countries' control over their essential defence and security interests. It introduced a partially new licensing system differentiating between and rationalising the use of general, global, and individual licenses.

Furthermore, it encourages EU countries to replace, as far as possible, the use of individual licenses with general licenses for easier intra-EU transfers; additionally, general licences are applied where the unauthorised risk of re-exportation to non-EU countries is strictly controlled. This includes purchases by armed forces from other EU countries and transfers of components in the context of industrial cooperation to companies certified in accordance with Article 9 of the directive.

The remaining intra-EU transfers group multiple transfers to several recipients by one supplier. The established licensing system aims at rendering individual licenses the exception. EU countries remain free to determine the products eligible for the different types of licenses and to fix the terms and conditions of such licenses. To help harmonise the licences, the Commission, in cooperation with EU countries, developed recommendations on the 5 different types of general transfer licences. These were adopted in 2016 and 2018.

Article 9 on certification and the register of the certified defence-related enterprises CERTIDER

Article 9 of the Transfer Directive lays down the general principles for the certification of defence undertakings in the EU. The certification granted at the national level is designed to testify to the special ability of defence undertakings to receive defence-related products and, where appropriate, to respect all the conditions attached to those products, such as end-use and end-user conditions.

The European Commission provides information about the certified recipients of defence-related products and makes them publicly available through CERTIDER, the central EU register of certified undertakings. As certificates have to be mutually recognised by EU countries, the European Commission also supplied the national authorities with common certification guidelines in January 2011.

The transposition of the directive into national legislation took effect on 30 June 2011 with implementation measures applied as of 30 June 2012.

Recommended links and guidance documents: