The EU has maintained an arms embargo on Burma in various forms since 1996 and the early 1990s. The embargo covers arms, munitions and military equipment. Subsequent resolutions have extended the embargo to cover equipment that might be used for internal repression or terrorism. In 2012 most EU sanctions on the Burmese government were lifted. However, the arms embargo was maintained. In reaction to widespread violence and human rights violations by the military and security forces against minority groups in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States the EU reconfirmed and widened the scope of the arms embargo.
The European Union established an arms embargo on Burma at some point prior to the agreement on a Common Position on Burma/Myanmar 1996/635/CFSP in October 1996. The Common position reaffirms the following measures that had already been adopted in 1990 and confirmed in a Declaration by the General Affairs Council on 29 July 1991:
(i) expulsion of all military personnel attached to the diplomatic representations of Burma/Myanmar in Member States of the European Union and withdrawal of all military personnel attached to diplomatic representations of the Member States of the European Union in Burma/Myanmar;
(ii) an embargo on arms, munitions and military equipment and suspension of non-humanitarian aid or development programmes. Exceptions may be made for projects and programmes in support of human rights and democracy as well as those concentrating on poverty alleviation and, in particular, the provision of basic needs for the poorest section of the population, in the context of decentralized cooperation through local civilian authorities and Non-Governmental Organisations;
This embargo covers weapons designed to kill and their ammunition, weapon platforms, non-weapon platforms and ancillary equipment. The embargo also covers spare parts, repairs, maintenance and transfer of military technology. Contracts entered into prior to the date of entry into force of the embargo are not affected by this common position.
However, there is no reference in earlier EU documents to the embargo which was, it is assumed, established through an informal decision among the Member States.
In April 2000, the Council agreed on Council Regulation (EC) No 1081/2000 that supplemented the Common Position by adding a ban on the export from the EU of any equipment that might be used for internal repression or terrorism.
The arms embargo was extended and amended by Common Position 757/2001/CFSP until 29 April 2002. Since then the embargo has remained in force through regular motions including on 12 April 2011 by Council Decision 2011/239/CFSP until 30 April 2012.
In April and May 2012, the EU passed a number of resolutions, including Council Decision 2012/225/CFSP, suspending certain sanctions on the Burmese government, but maintaining the arms embargo until 30 April 2013.
In response to the political developments in Burma in April 2013 the EU lifted all sanctions against Burma, except for the arms embargo, which has been extended for a year every year since 2013.
In February 2018, the EU Council condemned widespread, systematic grave human rights violations committed by the Myanmar/Burma military and security forces. It confirmed the relevance of the existing embargo and on 26 April 2018 it expanded the restrictive measures on Myanmar/Burma with a prohibition on the export of dual-use goods for military and Border Guard Police end users, restrictions on the export of equipment for monitoring communications that might be used for internal repression, and on military training and military cooperation.
The arms embargo is currently in force until 30 April 2023.