German arms exports down 17 percent for first half of 2021

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Weapons showcased in the museum of weapons manufacturer Heckler Koch MARIJAN MURAT/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Weapons showcased in the museum of weapons manufacturer Heckler Koch MARIJAN MURAT/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

German arms exports were down 17 per cent in the first half of 2021 compared to the same time frame last year, according to a report prepared by the Economics Ministry in Berlin ahead of a Wednesday Cabinet meeting.

From January to June, the government approved exports of weapons and other military equipment from Germany totalling 2.3 billion euros (2.6 billion dollars), according to the report which the federal Cabinet is due to approve at Wednesday’s meeting.

The share of controversial exports to countries outside the European Union and NATO fell particularly sharply.

For these so-called third countries, export licenses with a total value of 499 million euros were issued – less than a third of the 1.74 billion recorded for the first half of 2020.

Arms exports from Germany to these countries are controversial due to the human rights situation or due to ongoing conflicts in some of the countries involved.

Arms exports fell continuously between 2016 and 2018, but then jumped to a record value of more than 8 billion euros in 2019.

In 2020, exports fell again by more than a quarter, to 5.82 billion euros. This trend continued in the first half of 2021.

Key arms export numbers were already released in July. Wednesday’s report goes into greater detail.

The German government has been issuing regular reports on its approval of arms exports since 2014.

Arms exports are a major issue in the current negotiations to form a new coalition following the September elections, with the Social Democrats (SPD), who came out ahead in the elections, and the Greens backing a law primarily to restrict exports to third countries.

“We aim to ensure with a law that export permits are not always so erratic and unpredictable, but rather that the government acts on the basis of clear and binding criteria,” Greens spokesperson Katja Keul told dpa.

The aim was that exports to third countries should be the exception, in particular with respect to weapons of war, she added.

The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the third party in the coalition talks, backs regulation of the arms trade at the level of the European Union, noting that there are widely different rules across the bloc.

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