German arms exports continue to fall amid changing attitudes

AFP/The Local
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German arms exports continue to fall amid changing attitudes

Weapons exports from German factories have decreased for the third consecutive year. Behind the continued trend has been a shift in the attitude of the German government.


Results from the first quarter of 2019 show that German arms exports are continuing to decrease. Permit applications for weapons reached €1.12 billion from January 1st to March 31st this year, a decrease of €100 million on the same period from 2018. 

However, the trend is not new. After a peak of €7.86 billion in 2015, the value of exports has decreased year on year. In 2018, €4.82 billion worth of weapons export permits were granted. 

Stricter guidelines amid a groundswell of public sentiment

The downward trend is by no means an indication that global demand for weapons is falling. Instead, it represents a shift in the policy of the German government on the back of widespread public opposition to arms exports. 

Read: History weighs heavy as Germany mulls arms exports

Report: Germany world's 'fourth largest' arms exporter

The governing coalition has sought to restrict arms exports to states outside of the EU or NATO. Bans have also been put in place in relation to specific events, with partial restrictions imposed on those involved in the war in Yemen.  

Exports to Saudi Arabia were also banned after the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, although this ban was partially relaxed in March 2019. 

A protest against weapons exports in Frankfurt. Image: DPA

US and UK Germany’s biggest customers

The main customer for German arms in the first quarter of 2019 was the United States, with purchases valued at €169.1 million. The United Kingdom was second on the list, with purchases of €156.9 million. 

Australia (€87.8 million), Morocco (€56.1 million) and Austria (€54.6 million) rounded out the top five. 

Turkey – which has previously sided with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict – is in 19th place with €15.3 million in purchases. Other countries which receive German weapons also have some degree of indirect involvement in the conflict, including the United States, France and Morocco.

As reported by DPA, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a backlog of weapons requests worth several billions of euros. 

Read: Five things to know about guns in Germany

A shift in policy or the status quo? 

The figures were released as a result of a question from Greens MP Omid Nouripour. 

While the governing coalition has indicated a desire to restrict weapons exports to dictators and oppressive regimes, there are also concerns that restrictions may harm German foreign policy. 

The ban on weapons exports to combatants in the Yemen war has drawn criticism from both Great Britain and France, while it also contradicts European community efforts.

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