Transport of firearms from Belgium to non-EU countries

The Belgian delegation of the CIC recently drew our attention to the difficulties encountered by Belgian residents departing from Brussels airport to take their hunting firearms to non-EU countries, as they need to obtain in advance an export permit (first-time infractors are however allowed to pursue their trip after receiving a warning).

EU Regulation 258/2012, which implements the EU Article 10 of the UN Firearms Protocol, exempts hunters from the requirement of an export permit and only requires them to substantiate the reasons of their journey (e.g. through a hunting invitation) and produce a European firearms pass (or, at the hunters’ choice, another national document if they leave the EU from their home country) – see FACE Annual Report 2012 p.54. However, until the Regulation is fully applicable on 30 September 2013, national laws for the export to and import from outside the EU can continue applying.

In a letter sent this month, FACE called on the Belgian authorities to not require an export permit from hunters from now. FACE mainly pointed out that:

- the exemption would be in line with the Regulation, which national authorities will soon have to apply anyway;

- there is no public order reason to maintain that administrative burden (which is illustrated by the absence of such requirement already in virtually all EU Member States and the adoption of the Regulation by all of them);

- the risk of hindering the free movement rights of hunters from other EU Member States that exit the EU via Brussels airport, since they would probably need to obtain an export permit (and thus prefer to use another airport);

- the ineffectiveness of such a requirement: it can be bypassed by using other EU airports outside of Belgium to exit the EU;

Similar problems may be encountered in other EU Member States so it is always useful to remind national authorities of their obligations under the Regulation.