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A German Leopard tank
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Steffen

German export policies 'threaten European defense projects'

Jenipher Camino Gonzalez
March 26, 2019

Franco-German ventures to make tanks, drones and jets could be at risk due to Berlin's approach to arms exports, the French ambassador warns. As a consequence, ever more companies were developing "German-free" weapons.


France's ambassador to Germany, Anne-Marie Descotes, warned on Monday that German arms export policies and licensing rules threatened future Franco-German defense projects.

The remarks come as the two European nations are seeking to form closer defense cooperation and deepen ties between their parliaments

In an essay published by the German military's Federal Academy for Security Policy, she said Germany had a tendency to see arms exports as a domestic political issue, but that its policies still "have serious consequences for our bilateral cooperation in the defense sector and the strengthening of European sovereignty."

An 'untenable' situation

Germany's unpredictable arms export policies and long waiting times for export licenses are a particular problem, Descotes said. This has an impact on major Franco-German projects to develop new tanks, combat jets and drones.

"This situation is untenable," she wrote.

"Realistic export possibilities on the basis of clear and predictable rules are an essential prerequisite for the survival of our European defense industry."

Read more: Opinion: We must strengthen European defense together

More exports needed

Descotes pointed out that there are no standard procedures for the purchase of military equipment in Europe, something that France supports but that Germany has so far rejected. This has pushed EU member states to purchase arms outside of the continent and is fragmenting the European market.

She went further to say that exports were needed to add sales volume and lower arms prices. If not, European countries would need to boost military spending to as much as 4 percent of economic output.

Read more: Changing Europe revives interest in an EU military

War – a horror that can be very lucrative

Arms to Saudi Arabia

The German government recently extended a temporary freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the end of the month. It was imposed after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudi arms ban angered European partners, who fear it has jeopardized billions of euros of military orders, including a GBP 10 billion ($13.18 billion; €11.65 billion) deal to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Riyadh that would be led by Britain's BAE Systems. German firms build about a third of the plane's components.

Read more: German government clashes over defense spending

A Franco-German accord possible

Descotes said it was unacceptable that Germany could veto and endanger exports of weapons systems by other countries simply because they contained minor components that were built in Germany.

The ambassador suggested that France and Germany continue to work in the coming weeks on completing a bilateral accord to only allow each country to ban each other's arms exports in exceptional cases that affected that country's direct interests or national security.

The agreement, she said, would also prevent Germany or France from blocking  each other's exports on the basis that the components were manufactured domestically.

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