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Arms trade

New EU laws for exporting arms

by Jonas Wollenhaupt
The foreign ministers of the EU member nations have agreed on legally binding rules for weapons exports. Church-based activists demand that these rules be made German law fast, as German practice, so far, does not conform to the new principles.

In mid-December, legal norms were defined for exporting arms from EU countries, as the governments of the EU members agreed on a set of common criteria. The new guidelines are binding, but have to be made national law of the member states first. The new framework spells out that weapons and arms may only be exported to countries that respect human rights and international law. Regional stability and domestic security of the importing countries must be taken into account. EU members have been put under an obligation to regularly report on arms exports. However, no EU agency is controlling whether and to what extent the new rules are obeyed.

The new rules go beyond what was already included in a EU code of conduct on the matter, according to the GKKE, the conference on church and development that includes Catholics and Protestants in Germany. The GKKE stated that the code of conduct, which had been agreed on ten years ago, had been useful, though it was never binding.

At the same time, the GKKE bemoaned the increase in German arms exports. These exports rose by 13 % in 2007, amounting to € 8.72 billion. In terms of exporting military technology, Germany now ranks third internationally, behind the USA and Russia. The GKKE is especially concerned about increasing exports to areas of crisis and conflict. German companies exported a total of € 910 million worth of arms to developing countries, among which Afghanistan alone accounted for € 180 million. Deliveries to developing countries make up 24 % of all export permits. Of 16,500 special permits requested, the government only turned down 110, according to the GKKE.

Global spending on arms has risen, and NGOs reckon that approximately 20 % of that expenditure takes the form of bribes. European countries are not considered exceptions.

Germany subsidised it’s arms trade indirectly through guarantees on exports of € 1.7 billion, according to the GKKE. A € 1 billion guarantee for a submarine deal with Pakistan is still being discussed. The church-based organisation argues that such decisions may serve German industry, but are certainly inconsistent with EU principles. The GKKE therefore demands that the new EU rules be made German law fast. On a positive note, the GKKE welcomes the ban on cluster bombs, which was signed in Oslo in early December.

Jonas Wollenhaupt