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Estonian government takes a leap forward in the production of weapons and ammunition

The government supported the Minister of Defense’s proposals to eliminate bureaucracy in the production of weapons and ammunition.

On July 4th, the government approved amendments to the Weapons Act and related laws to strengthen Estonia’s defense industry and provide a competitive environment for the defense sector in Estonia, particularly in the field of weapons and ammunition production.

“Our goal is for the defense industry, which is a crucial part of defense capability, to grow and develop robustly in Estonia. To achieve this, we are eliminating bureaucracy and establishing clear rules for entrepreneurs dealing with military weapons and ammunition. Additionally, we are creating opportunities for companies from countries with friendly relations and defense cooperation with Estonia to contribute to our defense industry,” said Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur.

The legislative changes will reduce bureaucracy so that background checks are only conducted for those who are directly involved in handling military weapons and ammunition or related information. Definitions related to military weapons, and various types of ammunition will also be clarified, enabling entrepreneurs and licensing authorities to unequivocally understand which activities require a license and which do not. For example, in the production of airstrike ammunition, a license is only required for the production of the warhead or charge and its installation on the drone, but the drone itself can be produced without a license.

The transportation of military weapons and ammunition will also be simplified for companies registered in another European Union member state that have a license for such transportation in that country. These companies will not need to apply for a transportation license in Estonia.

“The smooth movement of military weapons and ammunition across European Union and NATO country borders is in Estonia’s national defense interests and is especially important in a crisis situation,” said Pevkur.

Bureaucracy will also be reduced by amending the Explosive Substances Act, where duplication in license applications will be eliminated. Entrepreneurs will no longer need to obtain both an activity license and a handling site license under the Weapons Act and the Explosive Substances Act.

Additionally, it will be possible to involve entrepreneurs from countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in addition to those from NATO or European Union member states. These countries include, for example, Australia, Israel, Japan, or South Korea. The legislation will also apply to companies whose boards include citizens from countries with which Estonia has a mutual agreement on the protection of classified information, such as Ukraine. Exceptionally, with the consent of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior, it will be possible to involve citizens of other countries who do not meet these conditions but whose contribution to the development of the defense industry could be significant, such as Singapore.

“The state is establishing a defense industry park for ammunition manufacturers. The legislative changes will also create a more favorable legal environment for the future users of the defense industry park” Indrek Sirp, Special Advisor for Defense Industry Development at the Ministry of Defense.

“The amendments to the Weapons Act will increase the competitiveness of our companies in both domestic and foreign markets. Reducing bureaucracy will provide entrepreneurs with more resources to focus on developing and producing their products and services. The legislative changes will also provide greater opportunities to involve international partners and additional capital to develop production and increase production volumes, which in sum will enhance national defense capability,” said Kalev Koidumäe, Managing Director of the Estonian Defense and Aerospace Industry Association.

The draft law will amend not only the Weapons Act but also the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Explosive Substances Act, the State Fees Act, the State Secrets and Classified Foreign Information Act, and the Strategic Goods Act. The Penal Code will be updated to specify provisions related to the illegal handling of firearms and military weapons, and terminology will be harmonized in accordance with the amendments to the Weapons Act. The amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure will create the possibility for the voluntary surrender of illegal military weapons, their essential parts, or military-purpose ammunition to the Police and Border Guard Board without initiating criminal proceedings.

The changes are planned to come into force on January 1, 2025. Full statement from the Department of Defense (Estonian)

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