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Germany's Baerbock vows new curbs on weapons exports

Nik Martin
December 26, 2021

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said new weapons export control legislation is in the works. During its last few days in power, Angela Merkel's administration approved almost €5 billion in arms sales.

A military submarine built by Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine System
Germany's last government approved exports deals for new warships, submarines and missile defence systems as it prepared to hand over powerImage: Joerg Waterstraat/SULUPRESS.DE/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the new coalition government would introduce a law that tightens curbs on weapons exports. 

The Green party politician made the comments days after it was revealed that then-Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration approved export deals worth nearly €5 billion with Egypt and Singapore as it prepared to hand over power.

What did Baerbock say?

"As a coalition, we have made it clear that we are reviewing the arms export policy of the past few years," Baerbock told the German dpa news agency on Sunday.

"We are working on an arms export control law that will make clearer the criteria by which arms exports are approved."

The new coalition government  — made up of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the neoliberal FDP — vowed in their alliance agreement to tighten arms exports to so-called third countries outside the European Union and NATO.

That would include Egypt, which has been one of Germany's key export destinations for arms.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
German Foreign Minister Annalena BaerbockImage: Michael Sohn/AP Photo/picture alliance

Huge deals approved at last minute

The previous government approved the sale of three warships and 16 air defense systems from Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Diehl Defense to the North African country.

The approval came during Merkel's last nine days in power and despite criticism over Egypt's human rights record and involvement in conflicts in Yemen and Libya. 

A deal to deliver a military submarine to Singapore was also signed off.

On Saturday, figures from the Economy Ministry, requested from a politician from the socialist Left party, revealed that those last-minute deals were worth nearly €5 billion ($5.6 billion).

German weapons exports hit new record

The deals made Germany's weapons exports hit a new record in 2021of €9.04 billion.

The previous record high for German arms exports was €8.02 billion in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together with the United States, Russia, and France, Germany is one of the world's biggest arms exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The country was responsible for 5.5% of global arms exports from 2016 to 2020.

If not Germany, then who?

The foreign policy expert for the conservative bloc, Roderich Kiesewetter, defended the deals by the outgoing government, saying they were made "within the valid legal framework."

He told dpa that the criticism from leftist parties was "nothing more than crocodile tears."

Kiesewetter said it was vital to protect Germany's security interests in the upcoming reform of arms export controls.

"It is in Germany's interest if Middle East countries continue to be supported in their armaments policy by EU states. It cannot be in our interest if, in future, these states obtain their supplies from China or Russia," he warned.

With material from dpa news agency.

Edited by: Farah Bahgat