Ministry says all arms exports through Malta must have transit permit

Foreign ministry replies to complaints by Czech arms industry association’s that exporters are having problems exporting arms to Egypt, via Malta

The Maltese foreign ministry has denied having stopped Czech exports of armaments from being exported to destinations of their choice, after a complaint by the Czech Association of Defence and Security Industry’s head Jiri Hynek.

“Malta does not in any way stop Czech exports and Czech authorities from exporting to destinations of their choice. Malta is only involved in instances when the goods in question need to transit through its territory, in which case an application for a transit licence must be made and once approved, the transit may proceed.”

Czech arms makers have claimed that Malta was “harming their businesses” by not giving transit permits to their ships heading for Egypt, to which Czech arms worth 150 million crowns are annually exported.

“Any application needs to be submitted well before the expected shipping date to allow for sufficient time for an assessment to be made,” the Maltese foreign ministry said. “The decision as to whether or not a licence is to be approved or otherwise remains Malta’s national prerogative.”

According to the Military Equipment (Export Control) Regulations, a transit licence is required for military goods transiting Maltese territory, similar to exports.

Transits of military material falling under the EU Common Military List, similar to exports, undergo an assessment based on country of final destination and end-user. All licences, be it for export or transit, are assessed on a case-by-case basis and are guided by the EU Council’s Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, the existence of sanctions currently in force against the country of final destination, any relevant EU Council Conclusions and general information on the country of destination.

Czech complaints

Czech arms exports have complained that exports to Egypt stopped last summer when between August and October 2013, the European Union declared an embargo on the imports of weapons to Egypt over disturbances in the country.

The Czech Association of Defence and Security Industry head Jiri Hynek claimed that a “a dozen of Czech arms exporters have problems with Malta. Any exporter who has cargo on the ship that makes a stop in Malta must apply for a transit permit,” Hynek said.

The vast majority of ships sailing to Egypt stop in Malta.

Lukas Novotny, from Excalibur, one of the biggest Czech arms firms, said transit permits for various transit countries are generally a problem for Czech companies.  “But this is simply part of trade with such a sensitive commodity," Novotny told the paper.

Excalibur wants to export spare parts for BVP armoured vehicles to Egypt.

Hynek said he hoped that Czech diplomacy will try to put the situation right in Malta or the European Union. “The situation, where you must have a transit permit even for shipments that stay in the ship in the port, should be dealt with immediately,” he said.

At present, Czech arms makers export firearms and spare parts for L-39 Albatros planes to Egypt.