The 2011 Libyan civil war prompted a reassessment of the normative foundation of the EU's conventional arms export control regime as armaments manufactured in Europe were used by Gaddafi's forces during the war. The EU's foreign policy identity is based, partly, upon a common approach to arms export involving respect for common criteria for export licences. Yet, prior to the civil war, considerable amounts of military equipment had been exported by member states to Libya, notwithstanding grounds for restraint on the basis of several of the criteria. This article traces member states' arms export to Libya during 2005–2010 to explore whether member states favoured restraint or export promotion. It concludes that although aware of the risks of exporting, in a competitive market for military goods, member states sought commercial advantage over restraint, and comprehensively violated export control principles. This casts doubts on assertions of the EU acting as a “normative power”.
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