German arms dealers logged record foreign sales in 2010, according to an annual government report. The opposition has urged more limits for weapons exports.
Plans to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia sparked controversy
German arms manufacturers exported weapons worth 2.1 billion euros ($ 2.8 billion) in 2010 - a record turnover in export statistics and a significant increase from 2009. On an international scale, Germany ranked third after the US and Russia last year.
According to the German government, more than half of the revenue was due to the export of three warships to NATO partners: Portugal bought German submarines and parts for warships worth more than 800 million euros; Greece, too, purchased a German submarine.
German-made small arms are highly sought after
Warships are at the top of armament manufacturers' export lists - as are handguns, ammunition, military electronics and track vehicles, including the Leopard 2 combat tank, produced by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Last year, Leopard 2 tanks were sold to Chile, Turkey and Singapor, among other countries. German government plans to sell hundreds of Leopard 2 vehicles to Saudi Arabia triggered a wave of criticism during the summer, with opposition politicians branding the tank deal as the wrong signal to the democracy movement in the Arab world.
The German government must agree to every single weapons export. The government must adhere to specific guidelines: Arms exports are only permitted to countries that respect human rights and are not involved in armed conflict. Every year the government declines requests for weapons exports. In 2010, rejections included exports to Belarus and Yemen.
Controversial export plans
Critics say exports to Saudi Arabia should also be rejected because Riyadh helped the government in neighboring Bahrain forcefully put down an uprising. Apart from in its annual weapons export report, the German government has remained silent on the issue. Where transparency is concerned, Berlin lags far behind many of its neighbors.
In 2010, German firms sold handguns, ammunition and military communication equipment to Saudi Arabia. The country ranks 10th among the 20 most important recipients of German arms exports.
German firms are not supposed to sell weapons to countries that do not respect human rights
This is something that outrages Jan van Aken, a Left party parliamentarian.
"Especially disgusting is the unimpeded sale of arms to states which disrespect human rights in the worst way," Aken said. "Every euro that is earned from war is one euro too many."
Weapons are also sold to developing countries - more in 2010 than in the previous year.
"The exception has become the rule," criticized Green party parliamentarian Katja Keul. She said it sets a particularly bad example when Germany sells weapons to both Pakistan and India, who have fought three wars against each other.
"Detente looks different than that," she said.
Autorin: Nina Werkhäuser / db, slk
Editor: Nancy Isenson