Lighthouse Reports opens an investigation into European arms exports

Half of the world's leading exporters of arms are European Union member states. Weighing the full impact of this trade is complicated by the lack of available information on where these arms end up. Lighthouse Reports has launched a new project, #EUarms, that aims to fill this information void and connect arms manufacturers to the final destination of their exports.

The EU claims that it has safeguards that prevent its arms industry from destabilize regions; its weapons from ending up in enemy hands; or from being used in human rights violations. To this end the EU has the so-called common statement: an agreement between member states that defines the grounds for rejecting requests for arms export licenses.

The problem is that once licenses have been granted and arms shipped, monitoring or enforcement ends. But what is the true destination of the weapons EU member states sell to the rest of the world? This question is central to #EUarms, a collaboration with renowned open source investigators, Bellingcat.

The new project builds on a successful and innovative investigation in the Netherlands. Lighthouse's arms investigations are based on "bootcamps" -- intensive two-week collaborations that convene experts and journalists to trace the links between specific arms in the theatre of conflict or rights abuses to European exporters. Upcoming bootcamps will be in Italy, France, Germany and Belgium.

First up is Italy, whose arms industry is growing, having long consolidated a place in the global top 10 of arms exporters. Italy's biggest customers include Algeria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The Dutch investigation was a collaboration between Bellingcat and public broadcaster KRO-NCRV. It was financed by the Dutch filmfund. The European follow-up is supported by the Open Society Foundations.