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Speech: Remarks of Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska at the Press Conference on the Preparation of the 20 November Justice and Home Affairs Council and the Firearms Package

Met dank overgenomen van E. (Elżbieta) Bieńkowska, gepubliceerd op woensdag 18 november 2015.

I proposed today to the College the firearms package, which is very important for the safety of EU citizens.

Our objective is clear: the rules to acquire and trade firearms should be stricter, especially in the light of the recent security threats.

The package is composed of two elements.

First a revision of the Firearms Directive accompanied by an evaluation report on the implementation of the existing Directive.

Second, an implementing regulation imposing strict and harmonised standards of deactivation for firearms.

Let me start by this last element. This morning a technical meeting of Member State representatives voted unanimously in favour of the common standards for deactivation of firearms as proposed by the Commission. The College then adopted formally these new standards which will come into force in 3 months.

Deactivation until now was made according to different standards across Member States creating major security concerns. Badly deactivated firearms can be reactivated and then used as it was the case in some of the recent attacks.

Hence the need to for urgent action. No time can be lost in addressing this issue. By imposing stricter standards, we are increasing our security. By imposing EU common standards, we remove divergences between Member States.

But having stricter standards will not be enough. Our current legal framework on firearms needs to be seriously improved. This is why the College adopted today a proposed modification of the Firearms Directive.

This Directive defines two main elements: the rules under which private persons can acquire and possess weapons; and the transfer of firearms to another EU country.

We have modified the Directive on several specific points.

First, we propose to enlarge the scope of the directive to especially include collectors who then will be subject to an authorisation. It doesn't mean they won't be able to collect arms, but they will have to get an authorisation in advance.

Second, we impose stricter rules to ban certain semi-automatic firearms, which will not, under any circumstance, be allowed to be held by private persons. These weapons are dangerous. We need to be strict on this.

Third, we impose stricter conditions on deactivated firearms. Today, deactivated firearms are not considered as weapons, but as simple pieces of metal which can freely move within the internal market. The Commission proposes a radical change: deactivated firearms should still be considered as firearms. For the most dangerous of them, they should be banned and destroyed. For the others, authorities should be able to trace them.

Fourth, we want to ensure traceability of firearms by imposing stricter and harmonised marking rules.

Fifth, we want to make sure that a private person can neither buy nor sell firearms or parts of them online.

Finally, we need to ensure efficient exchange of information between Member States. In particular, it is extremely important that a person not authorised to buy firearms in one Member State cannot get authorised to do so by another Member State.

With this package, the Commission is now putting in place a very strict framework. This will be complemented by the Action Plan against illegal trafficking of weapons announced also today.

Thank you


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