German ministers agreed on Wednesday, June 26 to further restrict weapons exports, banning sales of small arms to countries outside the European Union and NATO apart from in “exceptional” cases.
The update to rules originally laid out in 2000 is also an attempt to bury a source of months-long tensions between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU and their junior coalition partners the Social Democrats.
“Export of small arms to third countries will in principle no longer be permitted,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.
The measure is largely symbolic, as the value of such shipments amounted to just €400,000 ($454,000) in 2018.
“At the same time, in well-founded one-off cases there can be exceptions, it’s not a total ban,” Seibert added.
In general, permits will not be granted to export arms “if there are sufficient grounds to suspect that these would be abused for internal repression or other persistent and systematic infringements of human rights,” the regulation posted on the economy ministry website read.
But the government also highlighted “the significance of the security and defence industry” in a country home to companies like Heckler and Koch (small arms), Rheinmetall (tanks and military vehicles) and Thyssenkrupp (ships and submarines).
Germany’s ruling coalition has repeatedly clashed over weapons exports, notably to states involved in the conflict in Yemen.
Following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Berlin agreed in October last year to halt deliveries to Riyadh, extending the ban for a further six months in March.
Wednesday’s decision also included tougher rules on transferring defense technology outside Germany.
The economy ministry said “political support for armaments cooperation at the European level is emphasized” in the new rules.
France and the United Kingdom have in recent months pressured Germany over exports of jointly-developed weapons systems, with tougher rules from Berlin potentially endangering the deals.
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With reporting from AFP