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Germany slashes small arms export permits

September 10, 2015

Germany's small weapons trade has been decreasing steadily, falling by 42 percent compared to last year. But with ammunition sales growing, it is unclear what exactly the trend may represent.

Symbol image for machine guns
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The German government made an announcement on Thursday, saying that it had given a considerably lower number of small arms exports authorizations in the first half of the year than in previous years.

The German Ministry of Economic Affairs declared that compared to numbers published at the same time last year, the revenue gathered by small weapons export permits given was reduced by 42 percent, down to a total of 12.4 million euros ($13.9 million). The trend was portrayed as the biggest decrease in the German arms trade in 15 years.

Three years ago, that total was more than three times higher, amounting to nearly 40 million euros; last year, small weapons exports were still almost twice as lucrative as they are now.

The ministry said that the weapons in question included pistols, rifles, machine guns and hand grenades.

Ammunition exports on the rise

As a counter-development, ammunition exports saw an increase of 50 percent during the same time period, totaling almost 27 million euros despite recent changes in law aimed at curbing such exports. Minister of Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said that he expected a downward trend under these new guidelines in the future, adding that the use of small weapons caused far more civilian harm in war zones than the deployment of heavy arms.

Gabriel also pointed out that the majority of small weapons sold went to EU and NATO partners, including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and the US. He added that these developed countries were followed by Iraq in fifth place, where Germany was trying to provide assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who have been fighting the self-declared "Islamic State" ("IS").

But despite the downward trend in official numbers, the illegal arms trade continues to thrive, affecting Germany as well.

ss/kms (Reuters, dpa)