German arms exports hit a record high in 2019

German arms exports hit a record high in 2019

Germany approved over 8 billion euros worth of arms exports in 2019, almost two times as many as in 2018. The newly-appointed leaders of the SPD are pushing for exports to be reduced.

Germany’s federal government approves record arms exports

In 2019 the German government approved 8,015 billion euros worth of arms exports. This record-breaking figure is almost double the value of export permits in 2018, which was valued at 4,824 billion. These figures, which have been provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, are only provisional, but they tend not to change significantly.

Germany had already surpassed its previous record total - 7,859 billion euros, which was set in 2015 - by mid-December last year. 32 percent of this year’s permits were for weapons of war and the rest was for other military equipment. 

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier (CDU), explained that, after the continual decline of exports between 2016 and 2018, the unprecedented increase in 2019 is due to an application backlog, created by the formation of the government in 2017 / 2018.

Value of arms permits to third countries rose by one billion euros

The value of German arms exports to so-called “third countries”, those outside the EU and NATO, rose by almost one billion euros, despite the fact that the total share of these exports fell from 52,8 percent to 44,1 percent of all exports. Until mid-December, Algeria, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar and Indonesia were among the 10 most important countries that were beneficiaries of the German arms industry.

Arms exports to third countries are controversial due to the fact that many of these countries are involved in regional conflicts and have furthermore been accused of human rights violations. Germany's CDU / CSU union and the SPD agreed in March 2018 that they would not allow exports to states directly participating in the Yemen war. There were some exceptions, however, since the government only banned exports to Saudi Arabia after the murder of the Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

SDP wants less German arms exports

The SDP is becoming more cautious about Germany’s export permits. Their new leader, Norbert Walter-Borjans, said that the frequency with which German weapons appear in crisis regions and dictatorships “is absolutely unacceptable”. Co-leader Saskia Esken added that, according to the SDP’s basic principles, Germany should export fewer weapons.

Deputy Chairmen of the SDP, Sören Bartol, has stated that German weapons should only be sold to close parties and never to parties that wage war themselves. “Conflicts in the Middle East at the moment should not be fuelled with German weapons,” he added.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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