Germany looks to relax arms export ban
Berlin is working to loosen its arms export rules to make it easier to continue with joint weapons projects with France, according to a leaked document printed by Der Spiegel.
“It’s true that Germany and France are in talks on the question of arms exports,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
The paper, called “German-French industry co-operation in the defence area — common understanding and principles about sales”, said: “Both states will develop a common approach to arms exports with joint projects.
“The parties will not obstruct a transfer or an export to third countries,” the paper added.
Der Spiegel said the paper was a “secret” addition to the bilateral Aachen treaty, signed last month, which pledged international cooperation on future projects.
France is one of the main suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia, while Germany has officially stopped all exports to the repressive regime in reaction to the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Germany’s refusal to allow defence exports also stopped France from selling equipment to the Saudis that was developed jointly or contained German parts.
France’s Naval Group and the Saudi Arabian state-owned arms company SAMI, which is led by a German, signed an agreement at the weekend to build frigates and submarines together.
At the weekend it was also reported that the German export ban was preventing the UK defence firm BAE Systems from supplying spare parts for Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighters.
Spokesman Seibert said France and Germany had previously agreed to co-operate on a joint combat tank and fighter jet. “If you do that, it is obvious that such development projects can only be started in a sensible way if you have a common line on the issue of possible exports,” Seibert said. “That requires compromise from all sides, also from ours.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pointed to compromise on the arms trade during her weekend speech at the Munich Security Conference, when she said a common European defence policy would need a shared arms export policy.
“We have because of our history very good reasons to have very strict arms export guidelines, but we have just as good reasons in our defence community to stand together in a joint defence policy,” Merkel said. “And if we want … to develop joint fighter planes, joint tanks, then there’s no other way but to move step-by-step towards common export controls guidelines.”
Merkel’s apparent policy shift could lead to conflict with her coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which opposes exports to war zones.
The Eurofighter. Picture credit: Wikimedia