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Slower German arms sales

November 20, 2013

More than a quarter of the revenue generated by German firms exporting military equipment in 2012 hailed from one country, Saudi Arabia. Despite an overall decline, the annual arms export report has courted criticism.

A 'Leopard 2' type tank in full flight Veröffentlichung nur mit Angabe der Copyright: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann)+++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Krauss-Maffei Wegmann

Slower German arms sales

The German Cabinet formally released its annual weapons export report for 2012 on Wednesday, showing that the value of total arms exports approved by the German government dropped by 13 percent. In 2012, exports of weapons and military equipment worth 4.7 billion euros ($6.36 billion) was approved, compared to 5.4 billion in 2011.

The value of actual exports was 4.17 billion euros in 2012.

Saudi Arabia alone spent 1.237 billion euros on German hardware, making it by the far the largest single customer. A major contract for EADS subsidiary Cassidian, receiving a reported 1.1 billion for help with a border security facility for Saudi Arabia, helps explain the country's position. Algeria was the third-biggest spender on German weaponry, ahead of the United Arab Emirates, with Iraq also high on the list.

Fifty-five percent of German weapons sold abroad were destined for non-EU and non-NATO countries.

Under German law, private companies' military exports must be approved by a high-ranking government panel before completion. Decisions on where to export weapons have come under opposition and media pressure in recent months, with critics pointing to human rights records in countries like Saudi Arabia. The sale of 270 "Leopard 2" tanks prompted public protests in Berlin last year. And in December 2012, weekly news magazine Spiegel ran a front cover depicting Chancellor Merkel in military uniform with the caption "German weapons for the world."

Policies under fire

Senior Social Democrat and former Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has pledged a more restrictive military export policy if his party completes its negotiations to form a coalition government with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats. Steinmeier said that, instead of trying to be "number 1 worldwide in weapons exports," a Grand Coalition government would "want to take the responsible decisions for the future."

The Left Party's Jan van Aken, one of the most consistent critics of government weapons export policy, said the 2012 report showed that "German weapons exports are completely out of control."

Amnesty International, meanwhile, suggested that Germany could do even more to make its military exports transparent.

"We don't just need a little transparency after the fact," Amnesty military expert Mathias John said of the government's annual report. "The German government must instead publicly declare what role human rights play when deciding whether to approve [the exports]."

The report also confirmed earlier reports that Germany sold so-called small arms - weapons that need only one person to carry and operate them, including pistols, assault rifles and hand grenades - at a vastly increased pace. Germany exported 17.9 million euros of small arms sales in 2011, compared to 37.1 million last year. India was Germany's largest customer for small arms.

msh/se (AFP, dpa)